Running, fast and far. I don’t have a destination in mind yet. Just run, its after me. Lightning. I see some distance ahead as the light breaks through the thick storm, but not enough. More trees, more mud, lightning. I look back but I don’t see it behind me, its there I know its there. No stopping, just run, fueled by adrenaline to overcome how tired I am. Thunder. No, gun shot? The ground shook under the weight of the sound, the entire forest seemed to have been rattled. I couldn’t fall, I wouldn’t, I have to keep running, around trees and over shrubs, tugging myself across the soaked mud. Again, thunder, closer this time, I felt it to my chest. Thunder? Something whistled past my arm, I felt it through the air. Insect? No, bullet. It nearly grazed my body. A few inches to the left and I would have been injured. A few feet to the left and I could have died.
No denying it now, gunshot! Bark of the tree in front of me broke off into splinters.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Found me? How? Bullets are being fired closer to me now, narrowly missing. I can’t stay on this track. I jumped off towards the right and fell into a sort of ditch, covered by bushes. I crawl off under this cover, drenched up to my skin with muck. Wasn’t paying attention, too scared looking over my shoulder and I slid off an incline a few meters down and into another ditch, splashing into a slurry of mud and foliage. It’s absolutely sailing down now and I struggled to gain decent footing. Winds howling against me aggressively, turning the rain into mist, obscuring my vision, making me indecisive. Scared, tired, cold and desperate, I have to hide, I have to run out of here. Gunshots in the distance, masked by whirling winds and thunder. Thunder. Everything seems to stop as the thunder booms across the woods.
Its my cue to run, sip a breath, utter a prayer and run, again, to no end. The storm did me one good, it kept the animals at bay. I knew nothing would pounce at me as I run through the shrubs. Then I see it, rising above the canopy not too far off but maybe just a bit lower- smoke. A home? Cottage? No, my refuge. There could be people inside, they could help me. Prayers work fast, I speed off towards the smoke. It’s easier to see the dense black cloud rising amongst the background of white mist. The cloud gets thicker as I descend down a slope towards it, the storm picking up its pace now, rain drops pelting me like pebbles. So, I cover my face with my hands and continue running towards the smoke, towards the house. No, its too big to be a house, but its wooden and stretched out, maybe a private cabin. As I run in closer it looks even bigger, probably just ground leveled, but sufficiently long and quite wide. The chimney was thick, heavy looking and long, looming over the rest of the cabin, receiving the full force of the storm. The front door was small, just a single door of thick wood and it was jammed.
Dammit, no no no!!
It can’t be sealed, I have to get inside. I started banging the door hard with both my hands and feet but it didn’t budge. “LET ME IN!! LET ME IN!!” I holler repeatedly.
“PLEASE!! OPEN THIS DOOR!! LET ME IN!! PLEASE!! LET ME IN!!!”
Thunder. It has to be the thunder, pacifying my screams so that no one could hear me. Is this a joke? A cruel fickle joke. I prayed, I prayed and for this? A joke?
The door moved, as if someone had removed a weight from the other side. It opens up a bit and I see an eye below me, a child’s eye staring at me worriedly. The child didn’t ask me anything, it just looked at me and then closed the door again. I punch the door, yelling as I do.
“PLEASE LET ME IN!!!”
Another budge and the door half opens, the child standing by it, keeping it from opening further. But its dark inside, I see a candle light far off in a corner and a voice from the inside directed at me, “Get in for God’s sake!!”
The storm offered me no choice and I stumbled into the cabin as the child slammed the door behind me and barricaded it with planks and chairs. I sigh in relief, nothing can come in now. Who’s already in? I stand up and look around. It takes me a while to see properly in the dim light and I see an old man, sitting in a corner at a table. There are lines of rounded tables and a few chairs to my right and a long wooden counter lined with straw stools to my left. A few bottles everywhere, and a lady mopping up a place near the old man where water was dripping in through the roof. The walls are lined with animal trophies. Fox skins, antlers, rabbit feet, even stuffed squirrels.
The child had run off somewhere now, I couldn’t find it. I could still hear the storm striking against the roof and the side of the cabin. I look at the old man, realizing what a terrible wreck I probably look like right now. I mean to talk to him to introduce myself but am cut short by a strong, persistent knocking on the door.
”GOD DAMMIT OPEN THIS DOOR, NOW!!”
A deep, authoritative order a man yelled from outside. I turned from the old man to the door which the child was now beginning to open.
No, no, no!!
”Don’t open it!!” I scream at the child and it stops, scared and peeks at me over its shoulder.
“Nonsense” the old man declares from behind, “Let the other guy in!”
I turn back to the old man, “No, you don’t know…”
The door behind me flies open and the child begins collecting the fallen chairs and planks.
I look up at the door and see a big, muscular, dark haired, thickly bearded man standing there, soaked to the fiber, holding something in his hands. Its too dark to tell what. Its long, solid and the man walks in towards me.
“Its about time” he says as if amused.
Its too dim for me to figure out what he’s holding.
“Took me a while to find this place”
I try to focus on what’s in his hands, but I can’t. He’s a few feet away from me now. Then lightning strikes and glistens the entire backdrop, illuminating even the inside. I immediately look at the big man’s hands and gasp.
In his hands, I see a rifle, with his finger on the trigger…
He walks straight up to my face, looks down at me and smiles, “What have we here?”
Ellie is frantically trying to shove the door shut against the rush of wind but it keeps pushing back at her. All the planks she had collected were all scattered on the wet floor again. Just behind her stood this huge man poking at a smaller man with the end of his rifle. The small man looks like he’s about to faint. The larger man seems to enjoy this and keeps making grunting noises as he pokes the other man. Papa screams at both of them.
”Cut this crap and close the damn door!”
The big man looks up at him, grinning.
“Oh c’mon pops,” he says, “you know I’m just playing with him.”
What a vile thing to say. The little mans is bleached to a ghastly white as he stares fearfully into the other man’s eyes.
The wind howls inside again and Ellie once more falls away from the door.
”Elsie go shut the damn thing!,” papa orders me and I put the mop aside on a table and jog off towards the door, but am blocked by the larger man, who is now standing in front of me. My candlelight shadow cast upon him.
”Hold it lady,” his deep voice went, “I got this.”
He stomps off towards the door, kicks Ellie aside and grasps the door with one hand and slams it shut with a hard smack.
“Look? See pops? Why you cribbing? I got it,” he boasts, but that only makes father angrier who threatens to kick him outside into the storm.
The brute doesn’t seem to be ashamed of his behavior and is instead shaking a finger and saying , “Tsk tsk tsk pops. I paid for the whole day here in the morning. Don’t you be trying to con me now. ‘Cause…”
He gestures at his rifle and then grins and walks away from the door, asking for me to bring him a bottle. A cold bottle.
Ellie is scampering to get the planks back into place to keep the door shut and I am walking back towards the kitchen but stop as I reach papa and stoop down to whisper in his ear.
”I don’t like this guy papa, he talks all buff.”
Papa nods at me gently and whispers back in an even lower voice, “Keep her with you till he goes up.”
So I turn back at Ellie and motion at her to come to me, which she does and then we both enter the kitchen. Our small little kitchen, just one table, a stove and a fridge, from which I look for a bottle of beer.
I walk back into the lobby and the candlelight is cast on the brute sitting on a chair, his muddy shoes up on the table and the little man still petrified on the ground.
”You!” I yell at him and he turned to me timidly.
”Get off from there! Get a room or get to a corner. Lord knows you can’t be getting out now.”
He nervously looks around at all the faces around him and whimpers out “W-what? W-wh-why not?”
I think this man is a sort of a moronic wimp. I walk up to the brute and set the bottle on his table and then reply to the wimp, “’Cause there’s a damn hurricane outside you dolt.”
The little man starts to get up and walks over to the counter, breathing heavily.
Suddenly, the brute grabs hold of my arm and tugs me close, grinning and grunts in a raspy tone, “That’s no way to talk to customers.”
My arm starts sweating as I look back at this brute through the dim candlelight, who had seized me, during this unnerving pause, after which he adds-on, “Lady.”
I try to pull free but his grip is sturdy and his eyes, measured.
”Hey! You leave mommy alone!” Ellie cries out from the kitchen.
”Get the hell lost, you brat,” the brute yelled at my daughter, at which I slapped his face and jerked myself free. I left a cut beneath his eyes by my nails. He looks up at me with bloodshot eyes, swearing as he does and gets up huffing.
“WHY YOU FILTHY..”
“That’s enough!” ordered Papa from the top floor overlooking the one on the bottom. “You so much as say a damn word from your rotten mouth and I’ll kick you straight outta my cabin without giving it a damn thought.”
The brute eyes down papa with a criminal gleam and scoffs.
He then turns back and leans over for his rifle.
”DON’T YOU DARE!”, yells papa from the top, as he draws a small deer gun towards the brute, who stops dead in his motion.
Ellie is cowering behind the kitchen table now, I’m slowly walking back from the maniac and look to the side to see the small man frozen on his chair at the counter. He looks at papa and the brute, back and forth, back and forth. Back and forth. His mouth dangling open at the sight of the unexpected face-off. Deaf tension lays a hush over the hall and all that I can hear is the pattering of rain and the whirling of wind over and around the cabin.
Knocking. Hard and loud knocking on the door. Followed by shouting. More than one person is outside, screaming at us to open the door. But no one moves. Then father tells me to go open the door, so I walk over to the door, reserved in my walk, and slowly start removing the planks we used to jam it shut. It’s hard to do in such lighting.
The men outside thrust it open and I fall over on the wet ground, as three soaked men rush in. I see three people in open clothes, hairy men, one with a neck-long beard and another with equally long hair. The last one was wearing a red bandanna and all had little deer guns in their hands.
”Ooo look Kevin, looks like we pushed this little lady down,” says the bearded man as he leans over to help me get up.
”You so much as touch her and I’ll put a hole in your arm son,” threatens papa from above.
The three men step back but take time to notice papa standing up there under the now dying candlelight.
”Whoa, take it easy man,” the man in the bandanna speaks to papa. “We just looking for a room for the time, okay? There’s a helluva blow out there.”
I get up and look at papa, who tells me and Ellie to go up to our room. So I go get Ellie from the kitchen and then back to the lobby from where we take the stairs at the corner to the upper area. Papa is now walking downstairs to register a room for the three men. The brute is sipping beer in the dark, his gun on his lap and a round on the table. One of the three people mentions how lucky they are to find this hunter’s cabin and I hear the little man repeating the words ‘hunter’s cabin,’ to himself and sighing, as if he was relieved as to the nature of the cabin.
Ellie and I go to our room at the right most, down the hall from the six rooms that we had on top. I tuck her in and lie down with her, turned over to the door, staring at the faint candlelight I see beneath the door. Fainting…fainting…fainting….
I wake up. There’s no light. The candle in my room is out. The storm has picked up, pelting itself onto the sides of our cabin, the wind reinforcing the hits. I slip out from my sheets, careful not to wake Ellie and tip-toe out the creaking door, which I slowly closed. I lean over the railing to see the candle at the bottom. Still burning, but almost out, in the final stages of its flicker. No one is down there, or awake, because I see that all three room doors are closed. I check the clock we have in the sitting area and it says that its about 3 A.M.
I take another candlestick out from a drawer nearby and silently descend the spiraling stairs and approach the dying candle. I mean to let it burn on as I light up the new one and then snuff it out. I put the new stick besides the dying one and try to find my lighter in my pockets. Then…
Someone tackles me from behind. The candles fall over. Dark. My hands are held tight to my back. Heart…pulsing. I mean to scream but a cloth is thrust into my mouth and forced back into my throat. My screams muffled by fabric and storm. Kicking my feet, but I can’t hit anything. Eyes…tearing. I’m choking. I struggle with my shoulders but the person wraps his arms around me tight. I feel him with my ankle and try to kick. But he squeezes my arms back.
My arm…broken. I scream. I think I scream. I did. But I can’t hear it. Anyone? HEAR ME SCREAM. PLEASE!! I cry, I know I cry. PLEASE!!
A cold touch is pressed on my pulsing neck. I can’t see anything. I’m choking. My arm. Please…let me go.
A face draws close to my ear. The faintest whisper. I hear it in the silence of my own screams.
He whips the knife and slits my throat.
I try to scream.
I…try to move…I..try……
The beds are just too damn hard, I dunno how Jared and Denis managed to snore through most of the night, over all that persistent thunder and annoying pattering against the walls. It’s still dark and windy outside and from all I can tell from the sound is that it’s getting worse. Swell, just swell. Just hope this storm blows off sooner than later, it feels like it’s been at it for days now and I ain’t paying this old crook for another night. I sit up on my bed, if I can call it that, thing feels like its stuffed with damn straws, but I doubt this crook could even afford those. No one probably ever rents a room into this depth of the hunting grounds, poor sods who do gotta pay up some high greens for crap services.
No electricity either, peachy, damn crook couldn’t afford to invest in something to withstand the storm, having his own customers crawling and tapping around his floors to find the matchsticks to his old candles. I’m bored, tired and fed up now, so I get up and look over at the two guys sleeping, all cuddled up in the chill of the night, turning over in their little hen nest of a bed, and I grin. These morons look so stupid when they are sleeping. Dunno if they sleep walk or something ‘cause Denis is on the wrong bed and Jared is half on the floor and one of those morons decided to move the damn candle next to his nightstand, casting a shadow over the rest of the room.
I get down and tap around the floor lightly, hoping to find the match box that I’m sure one of ‘em had kicked over, but it’s pretty hard to see in this lighting and I consider for a moment to kick Jared off onto the floor completely, till he finds it for me. As the idea came, lightning struck in the lonely window behind me, in the room, and lit it up for a good few seconds, giving me a fair idea of the match box next to Denis’s bed’s leg. I now get up and walk towards it, as the lighting dies out in the room, and light a match to get me to the wardrobe where they told us they’d have put a few spare candles for the night. Crooks probably knew that they couldn’t afford electricity in such weather. We should’ve listened to Jared, the guy told us he’d been here last season and the crook kicked him and his folks out for telling him to get his act together and giving ‘em their money back. I swear if Jared had some lead with him then, he would’ve given the crook a reconsideration and gotten a proper refund back.
I open the wardrobe, badly carved, wrinkled in the poor light and heavy wooden door for both halves. I bring the candle in there to see better, but it’s just some filthy towels and a back scratcher that I almost set aflame, but blow out fast, almost taking the match with it. I poke around this shelved section for a while but it’s just got old books and china. Honestly, this service is crap. The guys and me got our little hunting stuff with us, maybe we ought to set this crook straight about how to treat his customers. This section is useless, so I close the door and open the other half. I mean, we all got rubber bullets, except for my gun just in case, but these suckers don’t know that, and that’ll get our stuff done. There’s some thick jackets and coats in this half, totally lining it, but I notice that there is a little shelf above ‘em in the back. Yeah sure there’s the other two guys here too, but the way we been treated, I’m sure they’d join us, I know the big guy would and maybe we could even score a few extras outta the little scaredy-cat. I raise the match up and notice three open sticks up there and immediately light one of ‘em up as the flame starts to burn my fingertip. I step on the wardrobe to get a better reach to pull the candle down and then I see it, halfway as I’m bringing it down, in the back of the dark wardrobe, draped in shadows, but plain features standing out, of a face.
I jump back from the wardrobe, swearing loudly, and drop the candle inside, immediately setting the clothes alight. Denis and Jared wake up in a flurry of gasps and “What the hell Tom?” scamper in their sheets and fall off onto the floor, hastily getting up, tripping, and running towards me.
“What the hell did you do Tom?” Denis yells at me, but I’m too shocked to look at him and keep my eyes on the wardrobe, as the wood starts to catch fire and the coats begin to smolder, and open up like curtains, to the figure hanging behind them. I point at it and yell wildly “There’s something in there!”
The two guys look up and stare at it as well in horror, till eventually the floor starts to blacken and Jared yells at Denis “Put it out! Put it out!” and they both lunge at the now rising flames with their blankets and start suffocating the flames on the floor, moving up to the wardrobe, where they look up, past the burning fabric, at the figure, which I could tell now to be dangling in a shirt that was hung up to the backboard. Jared grabbed at it, I’m sure burning his hands to some extent and yanked it out, along with some burning jackets, onto the floor. Now I got up, and pulled down the blankets from my own bed and pounced onto the figure on fire and started punching the blanket to snuff out the flames under it. In a short moment, those damn flames were out and Jared and Denis managed to make the coats fall onto themselves and burn themselves out.
They both got some burns on their arms and hands, their blankets burned into black holes, but their attention, like mine, was on the figure beneath my bed sheet. They crawl in towards me and I wait for them to get close as I slowly start peeling the cover off the face. Suddenly, our room’s door flies open, and I see the big guy standing there, with the old man standing next to him and the little guy peeking over their shoulders.
“The hell are you doing to my cabin?” the old man yelled at us, as the smoke from the ash started to thicken as it ventilated out. For a second I was scared of him, but then I realized, this was his doing.
“Oh, Oh you tell me pops!” Jared hollers back at ‘em. Yeah, what was he hiding in that damn wardrobe of his.
“Yeah ya crook, what the hell is this crap?” Denis attacks em, pointing at the figure beneath me.
We had the old crook in a corner now, now he’s gonna learn what it’s like to mess with us, we’re gonna use this thing he was hiding from us to tear him apart.
“What in the blazes is that?” the big guy grunts at me and I start to uncover the face, slightly burnt. I look up to see the old crook nudging something behind his back and a little girl running away in the background. I didn’t know there was a kid in this cabin. The big guy gasps and the little one looks like he’s about to faint. I look down at the face and realize why. It’s a woman’s face. No, no, it’s her face, the young girl who opened the door for us. Isn’t she the old guy’s daughter? What’s she doing in a wardrobe?
As I throw the sheet away, eyes are drawn towards her neck, a small but just conspicuous enough cut on her throat, sticky with thick lumps off blood, but not oozing because it probably got a bit cauterized by the fire.
What? What the hell is this? I look up and see that the old man is gone, the little guy is knelt on the entrance of our door, sobbing but unable to look away and the big guy glaring at the guys and me. His eyes seem blood soaked.
“What’d you do?” he grumbled and we all look away from the body and at him now.
“WHAT’D YOU DO?!!” he yelled as he lunged at Denis and pushed him all the way to the wall, choking his neck, lifting him up and intensely glaring him down as he tried to mumble something.
“Get off him!” I scream as I pounce at the brute and pull him back from the shoulders in a neck lock to set Denis free. The big man is stronger than me, than all of us and gets down on one knee and jerks me over his shoulder and on to his front side, where he starts to pummel my face, each hit of his heavy fists hitting my cheeks like a sharp rock. I try to push him off but he’s too strong, until Denis strangles him from behind and they both fall onto the ashes of the wardrobe. I kneel over, almost vomiting, but throwing up blood from my mouth, feeling my cheek bones vibrate as my head starts to spin, keeping me from getting up.
I look over my shoulder to see Denis, his right arm being forced over his neck by the brute and hear a shout from the other side of the room, “STOP!”
Jared is standing there on a bed with a rifle pointed at the big guy, who starts to pull Denis in front of him. I try to look at the rifle which Jared is holding.
“Let him go,” Jared ordered.
“Why? He killed ‘er”, the man grunted over Denis’s shoulder, whose face was now red and getting worse.
“Why you think he did it, huh?” Jared went at ‘em, as I try to focus on the rifle, as my vision starts getting steady. “You were the one getting at her, for all we know, you killed her. You!”
“Liar! Your room, your closet, you did it, one of you!”
“She wasn’t there before, you put her there, only you could’ve hung her!”
Jared, what is he saying? We never opened the wardrobe before in the night. Wait…Did he? The candle, the match box, Jared definitely got up sometime in the night. Jared, that’s not your rifle.
“Jared don’t!” I yell at him, but he fires.
My eyes fly straight to the brute, who lays on the floor, still tightly grasping Denis in front of him, whose own struggle seems to have lessened.
The brute lets go of Denis, and his arm falls straight on to his own face, slapping it hard, but he doesn’t say a thing…He can’t.
“AAARRGHH!!” I scream in misery, “DENIS!!”
My eyes, probably red now with fear, tiredness, and anger, turn to Jared. “You…You murderer.”
“Tom,” he speaks back, the nerve of him, “stop, don’t make me.”
I get up and take a step towards him.
The bloke waving the rifle is on the floor now, grasping his bullet wounded leg and winching in pain, biting his lips to keep from crying. I may be old, but my aim is steady through experience, accurate through practice and precise through emotion, and I’m overflowing with it right now. I turn my sight towards the big fella now, and he’s still lying there on the floor, not even trying to get up, as he bloody well shouldn’t, blood seeping onto his chest from the deceased fella atop of him, shot straight in the neck, occasionally squirting some out onto the floor. The fella with the bruised face is now crouching in front of the window, and the little wuss is sitting to the right of my feet, next to the burnt closet, shivering and trying to cover his face and his ears, sobbing something to himself.
But I have no time for these monsters. One way or the other, they all are responsible for my daughter’s death. I’m trying to maintain myself, to keep my hands from quivering with regret and loss and my eyes from flooding, but I cannot. There’s too much rain out there, too much blow, and I cannot call anyone at this hour, no police, no rangers, no help. Yet, I will not let that stop me, my daughter will be avenged. I accidentally glance at her burnt remains and turn quickly towards the bloke with the bleeding leg. What have you done to my child? Wasn’t her mother enough? Wasn’t her life enough? Her own child? Wasn’t my weight on her enough? You… One of you took her from me. That chance to let her be more than what she got. By all that’s in my might, there shall be repercussions, she shall be avenged.
“Listen, Pops…”, the brute tries to talk but I turn to him and shoot.
A straight warning shot, a few feet over his head. No, you don’t get you speak, you monster. You touched her, no, no, no, you tried to hit her, didn’t you, in front of me, I saw you. She was an innocent child, my innocent child, and you raised your hand against her. You raised it against me. You animal.
“You,” I speak to him, but for all, “you all, can’t speak.” My voice is buried is despair, under a heavy tone of sorrow, coming out restrained, raspy and echoing in the room.
“None of you,” I go on. “Stay… and quiet.”
My daughter, what shall I do now, with your child?
“Listen,” the broken faced man tried to speak but I shoot at the ground at his feet.
“NOO!!” I holler.
I’ve sent her downstairs, to the kitchen. There are many places there for her to hide. She’ll be safe. I’ll keep her safe. Oh my sweet daughter…
Something is dripping down my cheek now, sliding through my lips, and it tastes saline, foul. My hands are starting to tremble.
Oh my sweet daughter…
I back away from the entrance, keeping my aim in the room, my stare fixed at the brute and the man clasping his leg, but my feet feel lighter now. I don’t get the same weight in all my steps. I need to wait, wait for the storm to clear, then I’ll call help. They will stay in the room till then, all of them. If they try otherwise, I’ll shoot ‘em, to keep them till the officers arrive. Or maybe, maybe I could just do that right now? Yeah. I could just shoot ‘em all right now, just injure, to get them to confess. They could tell me just like that. They could, they’re scared, they could do that. And when I find out who it was, I can just shoot ‘em dead. I have four more bullets in the gun and another pack in my pocket. I could do it, I can do it… I WILL.
I jump back into the room and aim at the injured man in the corner, now resting by the bed, using a sheet to tie a cover around his leg. I glare at him and he takes notice. Lightning glistens half of his face as he stares, wide eyed, horrified, into my colorless eyes. I speak to him, in a low voice, I can’t control a louder voice right now, but he can hear me just fine.
“Why did you?”
His face is drenched in sweat and soot, and he’s panting, his lips quivering and he starts to reply.
“You, crook… I-I did…”
A loud shattering sound, sharply goes through my ears and I turn to see the window broken and the man with the broken face is gone. That… That…NO!
I run towards the window, a strong gust of wind blows inside and glass is still hanging on the pane, but mostly crumbled and falling, and I lean out, see the man on the ground, struggling to get up, bracing his knees and trying to crawl through the long, muddy terrain. But he won’t be so fast. He won’t go so far. I take aim at him, just as he looks up, my finger pulls back on the trigger and there’s a flash of red.
I turn back inside and there is darkness. The candle has gone out. I stand there, frozen, struck by pelting raindrops from the back and pushed inside by the strong wind. I can see a tiny glimmer outside the door, everyone could see it, there’s only one light out there, down stairs. The kitchen…the child.
“NOO!!” I yell as I charge towards the door, and someone pounces at me, but I can’t see who, it’s on my right, my gun hand and I smash his face with the solid gun butt and shake him off to exit the room alone.
“No! Get away!” a voice shrieks from inside.
There’s a noise of tussle from within the darkness, then a quick flash and a loud band, I see an explosion of blood fly upwards. Out of nowhere a dark figure lunges at me from inside and tackles me to the ground, breathing down my neck, but I punch him off and he falls to the ground next to me, pulling my wrist with him and snapping it.
“ARRRGHH!!” I grunt as I kick him off, and he hastily tries to get up and run towards the stairs. My Other hand goes for my noble rifle and I point it in his direction and fire, fire, fire.
I miss all three times and it’s empty, the man is now running down the stairs, almost tripping. I reach for my pocket, but the bullets are gone, I’ve dropped the barrel. I- I-I can’t use my left hand. I struggle to get up, I’m too old, too weak, too tired, too scared. I’m scared, I-I can’t lose more, I can’t, I can’t lose…Ellie.
I run towards the stairs and a rush of moist wind flies at my face, I look down to see the figure forcing the door open.
“STOP!!” I yell at him.
I can’t let my daughter’s killer get away.
There’s a flash of lightning as he runs outside, casting a long shadow of him across my hall, revealing the traces of blood that he’s left in his path. I run down the stairs and towards the door, barely making out a figure trying to run into the dense woods. I can chase him, I can reload and I can go after him, I can do it, I can end him. No. Ellie.
The kitchen is behind me, and the killer in front.
“DAMN YOU!” I yell into the dark night.
I’m sobbing now, as I turn around and run towards the kitchen to find my granddaughter.
I walk inside and utter her name and she creeps out from behind a box of beer we had in the corner. I bend down and she hugs me tightly, taking the pain away from me, crying into my tears. Oh innocent child, I’m so sorry. She pulls herself away from me a bit and whispers
“Who’s?”, she repeats, looking over my shoulder, towards the kitchen entrance.
I slowly turn my head towards the door to reveal the shadow hidden outline of a man standing there.
“Well…. Isn’t this just…sweet.”
How did I get here? It’s all happening too fast, too loud. I need some silence. I need to recollect. I’m here now, I know that, but I wasn’t always. No, I wasn’t, I remember being outside, in the rain, pouring down an ocean on me. They were after me back then, they didn’t get me. Now I’m here. I came here for the quiet, but it’s not. It’s too loud, too many people, and not any good people. No, wait, there was one.
She was nice. Not very nice, but she was nicer than the rest. She behaved and looked nice, and she talked nice too. Told me to stay for the night because it was bad weather outside. She was smart. But, I think she didn’t like me. Now I’m standing where she stood earlier in the night, at the door of the kitchen, trying to gather myself. So much has happened. So many guns, so many bullets. I can’t, I just can’t hear those sounds anymore, they’re driving my head wild, pulsating it with pain, pressing down on my eyes, hurting me even more. I’m tired from all the running and I’m scared, I just want to be safe.
I look back into the kitchen, readjusting my sight from within my own thoughts to look in at her father, on the floor, hugging her daughter. It was truly precious and I even told them that. He didn’t seem to like the compliment, probably thinking of me as some kind of freeloader, just wasting away his inn at such a night. Well, he’s wrong, I didn’t sleep in any room, I didn’t eat any food nor drink anything, I just sat quietly in the dark, by the counter where the huge scary man threatened me, then laughed it off as if it was nothing. I brought the candle and match box with me from upstairs, though unlit, because the flame in the kitchen was too dim, on the dying candle a few feet to the right of the old man, on top of his humble table.
“Well,” I spoke again, “it’s just us now.”
It was, the rest were gone, either temporarily or permanently from this inn. He still didn’t reply to me. This bothers me. Why is he acting so held back? I’m scared. I focus closer on his serious, wet face and across his back and my sight falls straight on to his rifle, clutched in his left hand, squeezing it tighter.
“Hey,” I spoke cautiously, taking a few steps inside, something was wrong with him. “What are you doing with that?”
He was whispering something into the child’s ear now. I couldn’t hear due to the pattering outside. It was less than it was before, but still in the background. If it stops now, will they find this place sooner? Do they already know? I look back at the old man’s face and speak again, “What are you…”
I couldn’t finish, he pushes the child away and leans to the right and blows the candle out. Pitch dark, again. Some brief scurrying sound, and then dead silence. My hands tremble as I light the match and ignite the candle I held in my hand and hold it out into the room, trying desperately to make out my surroundings.
He materializes suddenly in front of the refrigerator, his wet face staring into mine and his trembling hands holding up his pointed rifle at me. I put the candle onto the table to my right.
“Wait,” I hold my hands up to him and beg, “what are you doing? Why?”
Footstep behind me, but I don’t turn.
“Who are you boy?”, he grumbles.
I wish I knew. Then I would be safe, I could ask people I knew for help. But, I don’t.
Before I could decide what to say, he bellowed another question at me.
“What are you doing here?”
“I…I came to get away from the outside. It-it’s bad outside,” I manage to blurt out.
“You didn’t get a room, why did your damn self stay the night at my inn and not do that?”
“I-I-I had no money…sir,” I reply quivering, trying to calm him down. This isn’t good, his finger is pressing on the trigger, he needs a better reason. “Sh-she told me to sit in a corner.”
He loosens his finger.
“Yes sir, sh-she told me, so that’s what I did.”
His expression is changing from mad to confused now, and that scares me more.
“She said that when?”
“When they all came in sir. She told me that.”
“So, you don’t know those fellas?”
“No sir, I don’t and I didn’t sleep anywhere or take anything. She made sure.”
His eyes seem to shine, as if he just latched on to something.
“Yes, sir, sh-she checked up on me, to make sure.”
His finger presses back on the trigger.
“SHE CAME TO YOU? WHAT DID YOU DO?!”
I fall to my knees, but his aim is set on me and I cry out, “Nothing, for goodness sake, I did nothing to her, I like her, I like her!”
I look to see him looking even more confused, then yelling at me again “What did you do?”
“We just spoke sir, at least, only I did.”
His eyes seem to be watery, I hear another tap behind me, but decide not to look away from the gun pointed at my face, yielded by an unstable madman.
“Did you…,” he started to speak but then broke off, almost crying, then tried again, in an angrier fashion.
“Did you kill her?”
“I talked to her,” I repeated myself.
I could see the old man trying to collect himself, as every wrinkle on his forehead flinched and twitched and his lips fluttered emptily, until he finally spoke again.
“Did you hang her in the closet?”
His face changed again, the color shifting to a bright white, his skin tightening around his cheeks, edging the features of his jaws.
“Why?” he spoke, almost to himself.
“To keep her warm,” I replied honestly but the man lost it and pulled the trigger as I raise my hands up to save my face.
I hear an empty ‘click’ and nothing. Am I dead already? I lower my hands and am hit on the face with the gun and fall backwards, hearing another tap sound from a step. As soon as I open my eyes I see her, the child. Standing about five feet from me, holding a butcher knife.
I look back at the old man. You? Her? What?
He didn’t have any rounds in his rifle, I know that now, but he can still use it like a club and bludgeon me, while the child can stab me from behind. He’s a madman.
“You did this?!” I yell at him. “You’re doing this, you’re making her do it with you! F-for you!”
He’s surprised by what I’ve said and takes a step back, but then revitalizes his madness and lunges at me again, hitting me on the shoulder and I kick him off. Just in time, as I look back over my head to see the child up to my face with her knife and brings it down on me. I seize her hands and lift my head from underneath the blade and push her aside with my shoulder and she falls over at some distance. A child? He’s using a child to kill me? Kill us? Kill her?
I now have the blade in my hand. It feels sturdy there, secure, I feel safer. The old man is leaning over the fridge, obviously in pain, holding his chest, panting. I walk towards him.
“You coward,” I say to him, “You monster.”
He swings the gun at me, but I block it with my shoulder and yank it out of his hand, hitting his knee with it and having him collapse to the ground instantly. I pull his head up by the hair and bring the knife closer to his neck.
“Why?” I question him, almost crying myself. The child is somewhere in the room, does she have more knives?
“Why?” I repeat, the blade touching his skin now.
His dead eyes look up at me, not filled with remorse or grief, but with confusion and redness.
“Why?” He repeats, maybe mimicking me, mocking me, like all the rest. “Why? You’re the one who did it.”
I push the knife into his throat as a reflex, his blood squirts out onto me and on the floor and table. He…He lies to me, straight to me, to my face. Me? He did it. Me? No. He did it. Him.
I hear a loud and alarmed knocking on the door. I look back into the kitchen and the child is nowhere to be seen, gone. I walk out, his blood still soaking into my already wet clothes, thinking over what he’d just said. Me?
I walk straight towards the door and reach out for the handle.
It wasn’t me.
I grab it.
It couldn’t be me.
I pull the handle.
I’ve been framed.
The door opens up and I hear a series of loud ‘BANG’ sounds.
I stand by the officers as they almost empty their rounds onto the skinny man, assisted by another officer to stay standing, as my bullet-injured leg is now having its toll on me and keeping me from running any further, or even standing without assistance. The skinny man falls to the floor, onto a puddle of his own blood.
He has enough of that to worry about as the officers move in to the cabin to inspect the damage. I was fortunate enough to run into them. They showed me their I.D and arrest details for an escapee from the mental asylum, who escaped during the previous day. They said they were close to him, but the storm helped him hide and they couldn’t make out his tracks, didn’t know where he went. The picture they showed me was no doubt his own.
The ten officers eventually walk out from the cabin, radioing for back and ambulances, talking about the dead bodies inside. My own friends…
This man, Willis Stryker, they said he was very scared and very scary. Easily intimidated, but easily triggered. They say he butchered the female members of his own family, letting his little boys live, who called the police on him. He went on to kill three more women over the week, thinking whatever he thought.
The last two officers walk out with the little girl covered in a blanket, and she’s obviously crying.
He didn’t kill the men. He only killed the women.
So why did he let her live?