The Ramada Plaza Hotel of north Columbus, closed in 2015

I’d heard the rumors. Some of the guys on the force think it’s funny to try to scare the female officers. But, I would say, after seventeen years of experience, women police are far more difficult to rattle than male.

We probably have more fears than our male counterparts, but we simply cannot show them.

Dan was trying to bait me, no doubt. Our afternoon assignment was to clear out the squatters in the abandoned Ramada Plaza hotel. The property owners had security, but once a month, they’d ask for a sweep. And we drew the short straw that day.

“Patterson, code 4.”

The hotel was supposed to be on a low-use power setting, operating hallway lights, exit signs and the fire system 24/7. But even this seemed to be faulty, as I exited the 2nd floor and jogged down the steps in the dark, my feet spotlighted by my Maglite.

“Please answer me.”

My ears rang with the bang of the door behind me as I exited the stairwell and jogged over the matted, thick carpet between peeling wallpaper and doors marked with large, gold plated numbers in the one hundreds. My whispered pleas where only met by the squelching of the carpet beneath my shoes.

“Officer Patterson, please respond.”

The crackle from the two way echoed through the first floor hallway. No power on this floor either. I stopped and started to close my eyes. But the silence around me begged for my full attention.

He’d said we should stick together, but I wanted to get in and out and had felt the vile, moldy stench infecting my uniform before we were even inside. No one in their right mind would sleep here, breathing normally was impossible.

I thought we’d be out in fifteen, so I’d decided to split up.

But as I had kicked around crack pipes and used condoms in my twentieth empty room, there was a laugh through the two way, a gasp and a sigh. Then, complete silence.

Half an hour later, I wished I’d listened to his sorry, lazy ass.

“Dan, please. If this is a prank, it’s over. I’m calling for back up.”

I stood at the front of the damp, putrid lobby, praying for his laugh to bark through the speaker at my shoulder.

But the only sound I heard was my own breath. And the pop of electricity as the lobby, too, went black.

Reeling into the daylight felt like being born. The front door swung open so easily, I half expected to find Dan standing by the cruiser, eating one of those God awful protein bars his vegan wife makes for him.

But the car was empty.

I fought back tears as I sat in the drivers seat. Pressing insubstantial buttons on the laptop screen, stomach acid rising in my throat and my skin itching with some combination of the late summer heat and the layer of mold spores that must be invading every pore. I could not give myself the opportunity to second guess. It had been nearly an hour.

“Better not be fucking with me.”

I cleared my throat and took a deep breath, closing my eyes to the setting sun glaring across the windshield.

“Tango Echo, officer needs assistance at 4900 Sinclair.”

I waited, an odd light grabbing my attention from behind the glass inside. Green and hollow, like a hot air balloon, but as it grows brighter, I’m fascinated by it. I stand and move toward the door, the dispatcher’s voice chirping over the call, asking me to repeat. The sun seems to be setting too fast.

Stopped, halfway to the door, I felt the ground beneath my feet shudder. The vibration was electric in it’s intensity, invading my skin, penetrating my tissues right through to my veins and nerves.

My vision swam, the light changed, became all I could see.

It is twenty three steps to the door.

I know this because I fought my own feet for 22 of them.

I heard the sirens blaring up the highway that zoomed across the back of the hotel. My puppeteer maneuvered my body as though I truly was held up by strings. I couldn’t stop staring at the light. I wanted to be in it. Under it.

I needed to.

When I found him, in the center of the basement, the light pouring from his pores, I understood why.

But by then, it was too late.




Fourteen Years – a drabble, 100 words

Bloody Knife by WhiteEyedFrog
Bloody Knife by WhiteEyedFrog via DeviantArt

It took more force than I’d expected. The blade was sharp, but even with my full strength behind it, I barely got four inches in.

That was enough. As he fought against it, it sliced deeper, and vibrated with each sinewy centimeter. He scratched and clawed at my arms, my neck, but I clung to the wooden handle, slick with the warm, wet life oozing out of him.

The air was thick and acrid, so I held my breath.

There was very little life left within me anyway.

I had died a little every day for the last fourteen years.


My feet swung idly beneath the kitchen table as he made my favorite sandwich. His fingers separating the slices of seven grain bread she loved but never eats. He unscrewed the lid and pried off the inner cap of a giant jar of her homemade peanut butter, which she also never eats. The air filled with that unmistakable aroma, which made me sit up and sniff the air. My lecture about how peanuts aren’t really nuts made him chuckle before aiming his gentle, comforting gaze at me.

“Do you know what they are then, miss-know-it-all?”

He always pointed out that I didn’t know it all. But for a six year old, I knew an awful lot. I just couldn’t always remember everything I knew. He told me they are called ‘lay-gooms’ as he drizzled honey from Mr. Montgomery’s farm over both pieces of the bread. Then chuckled again when I asked if they were beans, then.

He continued the preparation, making one for me and one for her, which she wouldn’t eat and I’d have to go bury in the compost later. It didn’t matter how often she refused to eat, he always made a sandwich for her, too. Every few days, she’d surprise us by eating a lot. He said her body knew when it needed something, even if her mind didn’t.

She scrubbed at a spot on the counter that had been there forever. She was up, which was better than not. And she was calm, which was a lot better than not.

She never talked when I was around, but I knew she could, because I’d heard her through the register vent in my room. I slept on top of it some nights, when it was really cold. Or when I was full of wishes.

I heard her the night before. Crying. I heard Papa too. Begging her to let him hold her.

I once asked her why she didn’t act like a real mama, but she hit me. And he told me I was never to speak to her again unless she asked me a question. I didn’t tell him that I’d tried to hold her hand. That was the real reason she smacked me.

Watching her try to get rid of that silly orange spot on the Formica, I started to giggle because her skirt was tucked into her panties. Papa slid my plate in front of me with a glass of milk and three apple slices in the little red apple bowl he said Mama had made for me before I was born. Back when she was normal.

He pressed his finger to my lips and shook his head.

“It’s not nice to laugh at others, little pickle.”

I frowned, looking up into his giant brown eyes. He was gentle to a fault, only raising his voice as a last resort. He was only a bear when he needed to be.

My lips smirked without my intention, but I looked away, realizing he’d have to fix her. Which meant touching her.

I braced myself to hear the worst.

But it didn’t come. He whispered, but all I could here was pickle. As I looked back, his expression made my nose wrinkle. My little heart beat against my lungs.

He sat the plastic plate and cup beside her, same as me, with three apple slices in the little Winnie the Pooh bowl that used to be mine. I remember him feeding me corn out of it once, and her throwing her china plate at the ceiling above our heads, raining tiny, white shards all over me. And into my little bowl.

His face suddenly had a big red line from his forehead, down his cheek where a big piece had fallen and sliced right into his skin. I’d never seen blood before.

You can still see part of the scar, if you look really close.

It was an awful memory, I shook my head to dislodge it and focused on the shiny, red porcelain bowl that held my apples. On the bottom, there was a hand-painted message to me. Her Destiny. She’d had my name picked out for years, crocheted a blanket with flowers on it the week she’d found out she was pregnant.

She’d known. For years, she’d said she’d known.

I looked back up at Papa who sat down across from me and bit into his own sandwich. Biting into mine, I giggled when papa smiled at me with peanut butter in his teeth.

Mama glanced over, abandoned the stain, and carried her plate and cup to the end of the table. Dr Henry calls it ‘ingrained behavior’. I like Dr Henry because he teaches me big words and always sneaks me MaryJane’s from his suit pocket.

“It’s nice to all sit down and eat as a family.”

His eyes didn’t match his tone as he stared at Mama. I imagine he spent most of his life willing her to come back. Pleading with God to let her suddenly wake up normal. Negotiating his soul. If only something, anything could give him back the woman he loved.

They’d bought this giant farmhouse with plans for a brood of ten. From all recollections, she’d been the most amazing woman on earth. And no one had to tell me, I figured out on my own that I was the reason she was now simply a shell of her former self.

I had killed her without taking her life.

Dr Henry came that afternoon. We talked for half an hour about what Mama had been doing during the last week. No outbursts, no hitting, no breaking things. Then he squeezed a candy into my palm, and told me to go look up the word ‘gravity’ in the big purple dictionary.

It was the same, every week. He would come, bribe me from the room with sweets and a task, then he and Papa would tie Mama down so he could examine her and give her medicine.

Papa closed the door behind me.

I tried to occupy myself. Summer was easier because I could run around outside. But it was cold and raining, and I left my doll upstairs in my room. I pulled the huge book from the shelf and opened it on the floor, thumbing through the G’s and underlining the word with my Strawberry Shortcake pencil.

Gravity: a very serious quality or condition : the condition of being grave or serious

I didn’t get to read the rest.

Her screaming and cursing was muffled, but startled me just the same. There was a thud, and grunting. She screamed again and I heard a soft crack, like a thin tree branch breaking under the weight of a man. Papa bellowed words I’ve never heard him use before, choking and coughing.


I wasn’t supposed to know how to unlock that door, but I did.

I shouldn’t have been able to reach the knife drawer in the kitchen, but I could.

I couldn’t possibly have been strong enough to defend him, everyone said so for months to follow.

Papa didn’t wake up for hours. I laid there beside him, staring into her eyes, something I’d never been able to do before. My arm and collarbone were broken, but the pain started to feel just hot after a while. I thought maybe it had gone away, but he squeezed me hard enough to bring it back when he woke.

Dr Henry and Mama never did.

Six years, three months and twenty three days after I killed her, I finally finished the job.

That’s the really shitty thing about Destiny.



You wouldn’t have paid any attention to them. A mouse and her quiet keeper.

She was short and plain. Long denim skirts with pale, button-down blouses. Her sandy hair, braided, then rolled into a bun, and tan ballet flats peaking from beneath the frayed hems of her skirts. If you stepped close, you’d smell the Thieves oil she used in place of hand sanitizer, and perhaps the faint odor of cinnamon and cider vinegar in her hair.

But Claire wasn’t likely to let you come that close.

Her counterpart, the male version of invisible, was much the same in jeans and plain, v-neck tees, except that he wore gray Cowboy boots. Cory’s gleaming smile was inviting, if you noticed him. But you wouldn’t. Until he wanted you to.

Or until she wanted you to.

Selling them Tic Tacs and bottled water, every evening, with the occasional can of dip, I contemplated what they were like in private.

Standing behind a cash register for ten hours a day will turn you into a daydreamer, voyeur, or the best combination of the two. And I found them to be good fantasy fodder, driving away in their shiny yellow SUV that didn’t seem to match up with their rusty pickup truck attire.

Pretty, in the way young church girls are, I sometimes wondered about her bras and panties. Perhaps she didn’t wear any. Maybe she wore the expected white cotton. But my money was on lace and silk. The diamond necklace and earrings she wore eluded to a femininity that was simply kept comfortable beneath the soft, lived in fabric draped loosely over her frame. She hid beneath those clothes, so that only Cory could enjoy her shape.

She stood in front of me late one Sunday evening as he strutted to the cooler to grab four bottles of water. Two more than he usually bought. Her shirt was opened three buttons, and her fingers ran over the teardrop pendant on her necklace, drawing my eye to her collarbone and the scent of her wafted over me through the humid, unconditioned air swirling lazily through the open glass doors.

“This heat is awful. You must be miserable without any AC…”

She’d never spoken to me before, and the lilting gentleness of her voice melted over me like syrup on a snow cone. My surprise must have been evident, because she blushed and brought her fingers up to hide her pert and very rare smile.

I felt Cory watching, but I didn’t want to waste a second glancing at him. Claire was leaning forward, looking at a display of lollipops on the counter, giving me a view of the coral pink bra hidden inside her taupe shirt.

The site of her, blossoming like springtime, was intoxicating. Men can be beautiful to look at too, but women will make your teeth ache. That woman, especially.

Cory strolled to the counter as her fingers lifted to turn the little acrylic lazy Susan packed with 1″ globes of flavored sugar on sticks. His fingers ran up her back and she shivered.

“You wanna sucker, sweetness?”

Her smile twisted into the kind of smirk reserved for private jokes and knowing glances. His hand cupped the back of her neck as he leaned forward and whispered in her ear.

“Watermelon or strawberry?”

She sighed, but her eyes found mine instead of his.

“Cherry. I bet Manda likes cherry.”

I swallowed and wondered if they could hear my heart pumping away inside my chest. I’m not the girl people flirt with. I’m probably more invisible than Cory, to be honest. Plain as a pancake, always wearing a smock or coveralls. Working two jobs to pay off my mom’s house as her brain turns to soup in the nursing home. My dream to actually make something of myself blew away with the smoke of my thirtieth birthday candles. Men didn’t notice me. And women in this town were more likely to become nuns than lesbians. But right then, both of these pretty people were looking at me like I was the lollipop.

“The cherry is good. But the blueberry is my favorite.”

The Tennessee was too thick in my voice, something I shouldn’t have hated but did. My cheeks burned as Cory pulled one cherry and two blueberry from the stand. I glanced up at him and he fixed me with a look that could’ve melted the trays of chocolate bars on the front of the counter.

“You close up in a few, dontcha Manda?”

Blindly scanning the barcode on his waters, I thought I must be hallucinating from the heat and the fact that I’d worked 16 hours straight. They couldn’t actually be flirting with me.

“Yeah, but I can’t lock up until the lot is empty.”

He grinned at me, and I glanced at Claire, whose fingers had abandoned the pendant and were now skimming the lace edge of her pretty bra. His hand around her neck had gone into her hair, and her face was an absolute knot of want and hope, with tiny threads of anxiety wrinkling her brow.

“What if the person in the lot was waiting for you?”

My eyes wouldn’t stay in one place, and neither would my mind. I pulled myself to look at the screen in front of me to find their total, but Cory’s fingers went around my wrist and the contact made me jump.

“Or maybe we could meet up at Jim’s for coffee in twenty?”

He unwrapped the suckers, slowly, one at a time. Lifting the cherry to Claire’s lips where her tongue swirled around it before she took it in her mouth. Then, one of the blue one’s went into his own with a slowness that made my knees week. And as he lifted the last to my own lips, everything south of my navel throbbed and clenched.

Staring at him, pacified by the cloying sweetness that coated my tongue and telling myself that I was foolish to believe that they were actually asking me to meet them, I nodded.

Yes, that’s all I did. Nod.

Cory slid a fifty onto the countertop then under my hand before his fingers traced goose pimples into the surface of my arm, then neck, then cheek. Claire’s hand slid down my other side. I thought my eyes might jump right out of their sockets as she rose on tiptoes, over the counter, and her breath came hot and wet against my ear.

“I hope you really will come.”

I was shaking as they walked away, arms wrapped around each other, whispering until they were on the other side of the building. I popped the candy from my lips and found that, somehow, during all of that, Cory had wrapped a slip of paper around the stick of the sucker.

If you do, I’ll make sure you do.
Over, and over, and over.

It took me a second, too.

You get used to seeing things happen to other people and when they happen to you, you either deny it, stay safely ashore, basking in mediocrity, or you sprint into the ocean, thinking only about how good the change in temperature feels and never about the sharks in the water.

Especially when they look like waves.

I rushed through a fifteen minute closing routine in five and a half, stripped in the bathroom to shave my legs and pits with a disposable razor and gave myself the world’s fastest whore bath, thanking God I worked at a convenience store that carried decent soap. My short hair looked pretty good, considering the humidity, and my freshly washed face would just have to suffice. Girl’s like me don’t carry makeup in our purses. I don’t even own a purse. Not that I’m butch. You know. Just lazy and cheap. A wallet and chapstick fit conveniently into the pocket of my smock.

But I had a new t-shirt in my car. And when I got to the diner, I snuck into it and sprayed myself down with a bottle of essential oil air freshener my mom made me several years before her brain completely gave way to the Alzheimer’s. It smelled of lemongrass and basil. I was surprised it was any good.

The shirt was blue, with the Blueberry Fall’s logo on the left breast. The irony was cute.

The diner was empty except for Claire and Cory. He stood when I walked in, and her smile was enough to make me say, “Let’s just go to your place”.

But, I didn’t.

We talked and drank coffee for two hours. I thought I’d blown it when Claire laid her head on Cory’s shoulder and whispered that she wanted to go. But as we walked out to the parking lot, her fingers intertwined with mine.

At my car, Cory wrapped his arms around Clair from behind and stared at me as her fingers lifted to my cheek. She wanted to kiss me, but his lips were distracting. He took a step forward, pressing her against me, grabbing the back of my neck.

“You want us both or just her. No wrong answers here.”

I couldn’t bring any words to my lips, so I shifted, and showed him my answer. My right hand fisted in his shirt, I pressed my mouth to his and slipped my tongue to meet his. Claire’s nose rubbed along the curve of my neck as she whispered how good I smelled. But as her fingers slipped beneath my top, Cory pulled back.

“Follow us. We’re a mile east of Bogden on Westmill.”

I watched them climb into their SUV, sagging against the driver’s side door of my Honda and thinking this was too good to be true.

You know what they say about that.

I followed them, drunk on the possibilities, assuming it would be a one time thing, but hoping it might be more. I had a whole new fantasy before I even hit Westmill Road. A whole new life plan.

He had told the truth on that little note. But the price I paid for those orgasms probably wasn’t worth it.

It was like a dream, that first night. A human pretzel, writhing beneath decadent, satin sheets, tasting and touching until we were all too exhausted to move. Even the next morning, as Claire revived me, her fingers bringing both Cory and I around. He pulled her between us, then threw us on our backs, making a meal of both of us and then emptying himself across our skin.

I never noticed the knives and ropes. Perhaps they weren’t there.

Monday was my only day off. But it was a luxury to have the same day off every week. I guess they’d probably watched me long enough to know this. I had nowhere to be. And I didn’t want to leave.

Until she locked me in.

You would have never suspected them. And no one ever did.

I wasn’t the first. I won’t be the last.

Maybe, someday, one of us will escape. For now, I have to settle for my Sunday’s, because that’s the night we met. And so, it’s my night.

He always makes me come on Sunday, and I’m always his breakfast on Monday. But the rest of the week, I’m hers.

And I see plenty of those ropes and knives now.

But she’s always sweet enough to pacify me with one of those disgusting blueberry suckers.


those locks by woelkchen-chan via
those locks by woelkchen-chan via

A loud click awakened me, and I felt everything change.

A familiar scent filled the air, but I couldn’t place it. The sun warmed my skin.

I blinked, trying to adjust to the light. But it filled me with anxious energy.

“There you are.”
“What? Am I free?”
“I’ve unlocked you.”

My hands shook. Oxygen seemed scarce. His voice…

“Come. No more hiding.”

Stumbling forward, I thought I recognized freedom, almost forgetting the prison at my back.

“You unlocked me?”

I stared at my rescuer, smiling.

But as I looked around, I felt my face fall.

“Freedom isn’t so simple.”

The above piece is for a Chuck Wendig writing prompt at I’m very excited because it clocks in at exactly 100 words! Those who know me well know just how difficult that was! 😛


Fearless by x--Identical--x via
Fearless by x–Identical–x via

I wish we could swim in a pool of my words,
Warm and comforted by the heart of my creations,
And then you would drown in their meaning.

I wish we could dine on beautiful, expensive china,
Drinking our feelings like wine out of the finest crystal,
And then you would choke on the poison of my spirit.

I wish we could snuggle on the softest blankets,
Revelling in the exquisite grace of our connection,
And then you would suffocate under the weight of your dereliction.

I wish I could sit in your lap, and you could embrace me,
Inhaling the magic you so easily brought out of me,
And then you would choke on the staleness that you’ve left me with.

I wish I could kiss you, just one kiss,
Before slicing you open to bleed at my feet,
Then I could dip my fingers in your wickedness
And rub it into my deliciously, desperate skin.

I hate you.

I love to hate you.

It is a beautiful hate.

Because it makes me fearless.

Hasty’s 31 Days of Horror link up… because I just can’t get enough!

Screams of Eternity

In honor of Hasty’s 31 days of Horror and Halloween.


Strangled whimpers wafted through the tiny space, while his heavy breath puffed out into the chilled October air, a visible cloud of evil with each decisive movement. Each winding of his rope, each tie of a knot, each jerk of her body to position it perfectly… painfully, but perfectly.

As he completed the task, he admired his work. The tight bindings had her naked body twisted and secured in such a way that she looked as though something might break at any moment. The shape created by her stretched and twisted limbs was truly satisfying. His sadistic chuckle brought about another muffled whimper, as she couldn’t quite make any other sound.

Sorting through his tool bag, he glanced at her from time to time, soaking in the fear from her eyes. He turned toward her with a knife, a simple switch blade, but sharp and perfect for poking and prodding the other, lovely sounds of despair that he was desperate to enjoy, from his deliciously beautiful, new victim.

Her sweet eyes grew wide when she saw the blade, and her whimpers turned to attempts at muffled screams, strained by the belt around her neck. As he stepped against her, he pulled at her shoulder twisting her frame further to tighten the stranglehold, halting her pleas. Not that she could be understood anyway, through the old work rag he’d stuffed in her mouth while she was unconscious.

It was clear she would be a screamer, and his mind burned with anticipation. Hearing her cries when he captured her, was enough to set his body ablaze, and he almost hated silencing her when he knocked her out so he could strip and gag her without a fight. But the thought of her tormented shouts filling the small confines of his camper as he marked up her flawless body was nearly pure ecstasy.

However, the screams would have to wait until he tired of her aching whimpers. He contemplated cutting her free and letting her run, so he could capture her once again. Watching her run naked through the trees, scraping herself into a bloody mess would be awfully exciting. Chasing her down again and dragging her back to his torture chamber after that… Well, that would be exquisite.

As he pressed the blade against the sensitive skin above her collarbone, her tears began to fall, sliding over her cheeks and spilling onto her heaving chest where they collected into rivers that turned upside down as they dribbled from the points of her perfect nipples to the filthy floor below.

Wasted tears, he smirked. Beautiful wasted tears. And as he drew the blade across the ropes he’d just tied, the hope that sprung to her eyes was precious.  Yes, he would set her free to be captured once again, because the defeat in her expression later would be perfection.

As he sliced through the bondage, she began to fight again, and he loved her for it. Her will and her strength fed something deep within. His ability to overpower her had made him high and he wanted to feel it, again and again.

He almost told her to be still. He almost explained his intentions, but he knew that his silence would be far more frightening than anything else. As her arm was freed, she clawed and struck him, before pulling at the belt around her neck and grabbing the cloth from her pretty mouth. She gasped, deeply to fill her lungs with oxygen, but the stale air inside the camper provided little relief.

She got in a couple good hits and scratches before he slapped her across the face to settle her. She stared, stunned, as he continued to cut loose the ropes that had held her in such exquisite chaos. When he removed the last rope from her ankle, she kicked him and ran, tumbling over herself down the steps beyond the door and screaming wildly.

He laughed, watching her stagger back to her feet and attempt to run through the leaves and fallen branches that surrounded the RV. She tripped several times, and he realized she would not be difficult to track, so he took his time coiling his leftover rope, and donning his backpack of tools.

Setting out after her, he picked up her trail quickly, she had left plenty of evidence of her trajectory. He quickly gained on her and could hear her pained steps and broken breaths. When he realized she’d gone in a circle, he nearly couldn’t stop himself from shouting at her for making it too easy.

But then, just before the clearing that housed his camper, he lost her trail. He searched the tree line to see where she’d re-entered the woods, but found no trace at all. The sun was setting though, and he thought about his night vision camera and his knowledge of his beloved woods. So he relaxed, realizing she just might be easier to track at night.

As he made his way back up the clearing to the rusted and neglected old vehicle, he smiled smugly at himself. This hunt had been incredible. This girl had been even more exciting than the last. This would be a kill he would watch again and again, bringing himself to ecstasy.

And he laughed again as he climbed the steps, planning the hours of blissful torture ahead of him.

When he opened the door, he was startled by her standing there. Oh, she thought she was smart, seeking shelter in the place he shouldn’t have thought to look.

But then, her own smug smile eroded her beautiful face. And he saw it, just before she plunged a massive old kitchen knife deep into his chest.

He stared at it, and the blood that oozed from his shirt. He could taste it, in his mouth and smell the acrid stench of his life essence pouring out of him. Suddenly, the pain was excruciating. He’d never expected this, which made it hurt so much worse.

He looked up and her eyes were wild, there was no longer any fear, just hatred and venom. She pulled the knife out with some force causing the pain to surge, and he lunged for her. She thrust the knife into his abdomen this time, and he felt it tear into his organs and slice down as she held it firmly. He screamed and wretched and gazed, pleadingly at his would be prey turned skilled hunter.

As he fell to the floor, tears searing his eyes, he heard HER laughing. He writhed with the agony he’d wished to inflict on her and felt his life beginning to fade. He looked up at her again and she became quiet.

“You never anticipated that I’d be stronger than you.” Her voice was beautiful, which he hadn’t expected, and he wished he’d given her the chance to plead for her life earlier. Perhaps things would’ve ended differently.

“Who can say?” She whispered, as if reading his mind. As he stared up into the face of this damsel who he had misjudged, he suddenly became aware of the presence of others. Spirits of those who’d gone before her surrounded him as his life gurgled away, drowning in his own blood.

He realized what was about to happen. He clumsily reached out for her ankle, clinging to this little girl who had somehow ended him. “Help me…”

But all he heard in response were the screams of his own tortured soul as his victims enjoyed their just spoils.

Screams that can sometimes still be heard, in that clearing, deep in his beloved woods.

Screams that will last for all of eternity.