In the earliest moments of dark consciousness, I was sure of two things; that I was myself, and there was something by my feet. A flashlight.
As I lowered myself into the claw-footed tub, I took comfort in the fact that if I had failed her in every other way, I had never stopped loving her.
It was raining again, but I was glad for the occasional fork of lightning to banish the darkness.
For the third time I stopped and listened. I turned my flashlight's meager beam towards the trees, but I saw only the tiniest glimpse of a shadow.
The man didn't like to fool with his victims; those meat hooks were strictly for the deer he hunted.
6. Seeking Solace
Rachel slid the letter partially into the mouth of the small mailbox. The sky looked like rain, but she figured the water might hide the tears on the paper.
7. Knowing How
A feeling of familiarity washed over him; as the strange man crossed off another name from the list it was like he was meeting an old friend.
Sitting at the cold wood table, watching the sky lighten after a lifetime in the darkness, the gun in my mouth seemed as appropriate a breakfast as anything else could have been.
9. Breaking Away
I tried to explain that I'd picked up the bloody knife to defend myself, that I was confused and scared at the time, but then they brought out the handcuffs. I bolted.
Home, I thought when I woke up in the strange man's house. Get Home, I thought as I wandered the sewers and the woods. In the factory I found my old locker, and the booze. A darkness fell over me. Home, Home, Home...
He slept, afterwards, and dreamed of being a good husband. He dreamed of being productive, dreamed he patched up that wall in the basement.
I watched the struggle on the VHS tape and tried to think if there were any other redheads in town.
In my mind's eye I could see Norman crashing that truck into the sign, and I was glad I wasn't the only one with an alcohol problem.
I hadn't noticed buzzing until that light at the outhouse. Looking back, I didn't remember any on the bodies I'd found.
He'd shot or stabbed his other victims. It didn't really matter as long as they bled...
...but now he wrapped his hands around her throat and watched as her soul left her eyes, and decided this had been the right way to do it.
It's like blinking, is what they didn't realize. I'd closed his eyes for only a second, and then I wouldn't know where I was.
I remembered the color and freshness of the bodies at the campground and wondered how long Rachel had been down there.
19. Breathe Again
It took almost two minutes after the loud bang for her to exhale, but she'd finally gotten the courage to pull the trigger.
The solitude made me long for Rachel. Everything I looked at reminded me of her. I wondered why her memory made me feel so guilty.
He scrawled the words across the basement wall. Even a burned church should still have a sign.
Even as I turned away I could see that god damned box of clothes in my mind.
I stood and stared at the old dusty TV that I had never replaced, and something in the broken pieces of my mind was glad I finally had an answer.
For once he wasn't late as he clocked in, grabbed a flashlight from the rack, and went around the gate to his assigned post.
Each step I took from the moment I woke up felt like some awful countdown. "Zero," I thought as I swung the crowbar into the wall.
I was in a constant state of misery all the way to the auto parts factory, but I couldn't stop the smile when I saw that picture of Rachel ripped into tiny helpless pieces.
Pulling the tape and plastic away in the basement was the first time it was truly quiet that night.
The strange man watched the news reports begging for information on the missing women and felt at ease.
Rachel slid the credit card into a nook in the rocks. His wallet, drivers license, and finally this; it would give the authorities all the answers they needed.
The man was murdered in the hallway. The overwhelming stain in the study remained a quiet mystery.
She wanted to feel free as she purchased the train tickets, but she couldn't banish the thought of spitting in his face. They'd both be sorry once she was gone.
The wife's skeleton lingered in my mind. When the whispers came from behind the wall, I hissed to cover the noise, and marched on as quick as my injured leg could.
I rummaged through the box with shaking limbs, until my fingers found the familiar fabric. In a moment of fury I ripped the delicates to shreds, leaving the pieces on the floor of the attic.
The ice cream and other treats had partially melted into a swirl of color in Norman's store cooler. It was a bad night for power outages.
In a wave of sadness I tried to push some dirt over the mangled bodies. I wondered if I was getting into some morally grey area here.
I remembered telling her how she faded into the forest in that green coat. It stood out like a beacon in the warm colors of Norman's bedroom.
The rip in the knee of my jeans revealed some ugly-looking bruises.
I wished I could say the drinking came with that little pink slip, but after that lifting the bottle to my lips felt like coming home.
I always hated guns, and I still hated guns, but I picked up the pistol anyway.
A small realization came and I slid the handgun into its proper place on the rack, wondering nervously what kind of battles Norman had been fighting.
41. Mother Nature
The outhouse stood solitary in the dark woods, the only testament to mankind the bricks that made its walls and the graffiti that was painted over them.
Drowsiness began to consume me and I could feel a shift. Reality was changing. I desperately fought but I couldn't hold out against the monsters in my sleep.
I felt relived as the mouse scampered into its home. It was alright now, and something told me I'd be alright too.
As if to mock my foggy mind, the woods were unusually clear that night.
45. A Moment Like This
I woke up in the strange man's house, and had the feeling of a million possibilities before me.
46. Out of Time
The sewage worker could hear the frantic footsteps behind him, knew his pursuer could hear his too, and fumbled with the locks on the door.
I ran through the front door, my outlook about as bright as the flashlight in my hands.
That's what she got, I thought angrily to myself. That's what that bitch got for spending so much time with him.
49. Trouble Lurking
As I approached Norman's house I couldn't help but look over my shoulder.
A faint orange glow illuminated a whisp of smoke atop the water tower. Far below a figure with a flashlight emerged from the sewers.