Category Archives: horror

Did You Lock The Door?


Where does writing come from?

by Thadd Presley

(there’s a story below, but first)

Where do stories come from? Where does the voice of each character come from? Where do they intend to lead us? Is this gift/curse of writing a manifestation of split personalities or just an over active imagination? Could it be a deeper understanding of humanity trying to make it’s way to the surface and into the world.

It could be all of these things and none of them. I know that I hear a dialog and see these people living their lives so clearly I must write it down. It’s not always something I want others to read. For many reasons, it’s just not for anyone who doesn’t know me. They would think I was unstable.

Writing is a way I can release this mounting dialog constantly welling up in my head. There is a torrent of constant voices, people and places making connections in my head. Murder is not the point, even in a murder mystery, and neither is the mystery. It all begins with a voice, a person asking a question. Something as simple as this:

“Did You Lock The Door”

1200 words

“Steve, did you lock the door before you came to bed?” She asked him every night if he locked it.  “Did you double check it?” And she would remind him, “someone could just walk in off the street and do anything they want to us.”

The memory of her warnings rang in his head. Steve had heard Rebeca go through her script nearly fifty times since they moved from Avalon Avenue to Mill Street. He’d heard it so many times that he automatically locked the front door even when just coming in from checking the mail.  And, by God, he knew he locked it after coming home last night. There was no mistake. He knew he’d locked it.

He remembered distinctly locking the door because even before removing his boots, he reached back and did it. It was only a flick of the wrist. He had ample reason to know the door was locked because he rechecked it after his shower before going to the bedroom where Rebeca was already asleep. Then, while getting comfortable next to Rebeca and soaking in her warmth, she stirred a little and asked him. “Did you lock the door?”

“Yes, Becca, the door is locked. Twice checked.”

“OK. I love you.” She pulled his arm around her and they settled into their new comfortable bed.

Everything was new. At most a month old. They’d bought all new furniture for the move.

Suddenly, right before drifting off, the door came to his mind again and he laughed to himself. More and more, his wife’s OCD had began to affect him. He tried to push it out of his mind, but he needed a drink of water.  So, forced to leave the warmth of the bed anyway, h could check anyway.

On his walk through the living room, he saw the door was locked. But, to be sure, he physically rechecked the door.

On the way back down the hallway with a glass of water, he looked in on his son. Even at five years old he knew the boy was going to have a snoring problem. It wasn’t loud, but he made a mental not to make an appointment with the doctor.

It was all so clear. There was no mistake. The door was locked. But, none of that mattered now. It was only memories. From the warmth of his wife to the sound of young Max snoring. It was all just memories.

It was six in the morning and there was absolutely nothing he could do that would change the terrible facts. It was too late. Replaying his every move in his mind  would not help him understand what happened while he slept. Nothing would bring his wife and son back. Rebecca’s worst fears had come true. Someone had walked in off the street and done something.

He knew nothing was going to change. Nothing would change anything now.  This was a concrete and unforgiving world. If life had suddenly become a game, he wouldn’t restart.  He wouldn’t want infinite lives. He would just turn the game off. He was tired of playing it.

When he woke, Rebeca was dead in his bed, stabbed just inches from where he slept, and his son had bruises around his neck. Someone had strangled his weak little body until it moved no more.

It was too much to take, too much to describe, and no way anyone would understand if he tried. Christmas mornings just weren’t supposed to start this way.  This entire week was meant to bring a new year where a brighter vision of the future filled everyone with excitement. But, instead he was faced with this nightmare. Alone in a world where he no longer wanted to live. Steve knew he couldn’t go on. It was the end for him.

He didn’t own a gun. He didn’t have enough of the right pills to kill himself. There was no poisons he could drink that would definitely do the job quick and right.

There was a forgotten box of razors in the medicine cabinet, left by the family who lived here before them. He had seen them probably a hundred times over the last month and never threw them out. Neither had Rebeca.

That family had troubles as well. He’d heard that the family was bullied into moving away. He didn’t know all the particulars, but nasty rumors about the family were all over the neighborhood and Rebeca had heard more than was good for her.

Yes, the razors were still there. He took one out and removed it from it’s brown paper sheaf. It was shiny and sharp.  He pushed it into his skin right above his wrist and in one quick motion jerked it toward his elbow. The pain was non-existent. He wouldn’t have cared anyway.

The second wrist was harder to cut because seeing his blood made his fingers unsteady, but he managed to put a deep gash halfway from his wrist halfway to his elbow. Pain had began to pulse in his right hand. Then he felt the first wave of panic hit him. The blood flowed faster as his heart sped up.

He felt dizzy immediately, but it was just the thought of dying that scared him. It was only a mild fear compared to living without his wife and child.

He looked at the bathroom floor and was surprised at how much red had pooled under his feet. Dark red footprints tracked his tiny movements back and forth in front of the sink. The mess would be terrible he thought and laughed a little. The sound spooked him and the world seemed brighter than it should, as if a spotlight was directly behind him.

He walked to the tub and almost slipped getting in. He turned the hot tap on full blast.  Then, reached out to turn the cold tap, but the phone rang.

He had no need to answer it and he didn’t care who it was. Slowly, he placed his wrist under the  faucet and watched the bath water turn from pink to red.

On the third ring the automated message answered in Rebeca’s voice. “You’ve reached the Mallory family. We’re not home at the moment. Leave a message and we’ll get back to you ASAP. Have a blessed day.”

“Steve, Rebeca,” an excited voice all but yelled. “Pick up will ya?” It was the landlady. “OK, look, I just remembered something. I forgot to change the locks before you moved in.”  “I’m coming over directly and do it. I’m sorry, but I can’t put it off. It’s very important we do it today.” There was a pause. “I’ve received word that Harold was seen in your neighborhood. He’s the son of the family who used lived in your home. He could be dangerous, so call my cell. I’m leaving now to meet the locksmith and change your locks.”

Steve did not hear the entire message. He had passed out while crying. As the warm darkness came over him, he wondered if he locked the door. Rebeca would surely ask him first thing.

The End

So where do stories come from? It is our own fears trying to warn us or is it just random thoughts and we string them into stories assigning voices and sentences and places in an attempt to make sense of them?

I don’t know.

Rubbish Day (part 1)

Rubbish Day

(part 1)

by Thadd Presley

He watched the Honda in his rear view mirror as it pushed it’s way through traffic and cut it way in front of cars. Every time another car was forced t brake or had to weave into another lane, the two young men inside the offending car laughed. Once, he thought they’d taken it too far when they dove right in front of an old woman and caused her to put her brakes on too hard. The car behind her was too late on the brakes and had to swerve onto the shoulder trying not to hit her. It was all to close for comfort.

When the two men got behind Jerold he was ready for them. He wasn’t a Sunday driver. He loved to drive and he knew how to do it. Cars were one of his life’s passions. Along with his daughter, numbers and maths, cars made his world complete. He especially loved the car he was driving. It wasn’t his only car. It wasn’t even close to his most expensive car, but it was his the one he always dreamed of owning.

Presently, Jerold’s car collection stood at eighteen. Most of them were custom built just for him. But this car was in it’s original condition. It was his cherry and he meant for it to stay that way.

He could have driven any of his cars, but he chose the Porsche because he was on an important mission and the Porsche made him feel like he was in charge.

When the Honda suddenly made it’s move to pass Jerold cut it off. “You shall not pass,” he said to no one and laughed.

The Honda sped up and tried to stay right on his bumper, but it was easy for Jerold to pull away from them.

The games were played back and forth. The Honda would try to pass and Jerold would not let it. They would sped up as if he ram him and then either slow at the last minute or Jerold would leave them in a cloud of black smoke.

Then came a move too close to call and the Honda spun out.

That was enough for Jerold. He slowed to normal speed and put his mind back on the task at hand. He was going to visit his daughter in Crossville and it was going to require a bit of decisive action.

Tears blurred his vision as the anger welled up in him.

Suddenly, the Honda shot around him and it sounded terrible. Jerold looked over to see the passenger holding up both middle fingers. Anger flooded his veins and fire filled his head.

“Fucking punks,” he yelled. “God damn fucking punks.”

The Honda’s driver saw his reaction and laughed.

There was not many cars on highway 27, as Jerold reached over and opened the console between the seats. The cold metal cooled him down a bit. He wasn’t going to let a pair of punks cut him off and get away with it. Not today he wasn’t.

He gunned the Porsche and passed the Honda, flipping them the bird just as they’d done to him. Perhaps they would get cocky and follow him. Fuckers didn’t know what they were in for, though, not today they didn’t. Today they were going to get their fucking reward.

They did exactly as he’d hoped. The Honda quickly caught up and began to follow along, hoping to intimidate him.

After all, why wouldn’t it be intimidating. They were young and he was a middle aged, balding man who probably couldn’t fight worth a piss because his belly was beginning to stand out a bit too far. Also, they out numbered him. But, Jerold McCleary wasn’t afraid. He was not going to be scared of anything anymore. He’d been Mr. Nice Guy for far too long.

Assholes, especially assholes like these two punks were used to pushing people around and expected everyone to cower in fear because that’s what people usually did, had to be taken out. The world had forgotten how to be strong and now it needed someone to step into place and do what everyone else was afraid to do.

Jerold had been thinking of the world and the state it was in for a few days and he was prepared to do what was needed. It was obvious to him that the world needed someone with guts. The world was in desperate need of a pair of balls. There was just no other choice, he had to do what was required and he was more than happy to do it.

It was the only way to make the world a better place. Currently, the world was over run with assholes who were used to getting their own way, creating a life of hell for the average person. Jerold was going to fix his part of the world and kill the stupid bastards that he found. He looked into his rear view mirror.

He didn’t want to become a murderer, but what choice did he have?

By standing up and carrying out this one simple act of charity, the world would quickly become a nice place to live. Just by eliminating the two assholes behind him, everyone would be better off and there would be less trash on the corner of people’s lives.

Jerold was sure the Honda was going following him, so he slowed to a crawling thirty-five miles an hour. Then he put his blinker on and slowly turned into the Outback Steakhouse parking lot.

At 9:00 AM he knew the restaurant parking lot would be deserted.

He slowly pulled around the building, as if he were lost. He didn’t want the punks to think he was leading them to a trap or to tip them to the fact that he was going to stand up for himself.

He pulled to the back of the lot where a big blue garbage dumpster sat next to a smaller black container used for old cooking oil. He began to back up, but the Honda pulled close behind the Porsche, so to block him in, but Jerold knew there would be room to pull out when he finished cleaning up the world.

The two punks didn’t lose any time getting out of there car and Jerold realized they were both men and not teenagers like he’d first thought. The driver stepped out of the car and started toward him.

Jerold also got out of his car and stood to face the man coming toward him. “What’s your fucking problem fat boy,” the driver yelled and looked back to check on his passenger. Sure enough, his buddy was just getting out of the car.

“Two on one?” Jerold asked and pulled the 38 Special out before he could respond. “Alright, we can do that.”

The first bullet entered the driver’s chest, and the passenger ducked.

Jerold watched as he turned to run. Jerold smiled and shot him in the back. He approached the driver to see if he was dead. When the man looked up at Jerold, another round turned his brains into jelly. Jerold finished the whimpering passenger the same way.

He figured there would be cameras trained on the parking lot, but who cared? More important was the fact that two assholes were killed and their earthly stupidity was brought to an end. Why wouldn’t he be thank him and the surveillance footage be used as a training video for people who were tired of living in a world of assholes.

Both the world and everyone in it owed him big time.

Back in his car, he calmed himself by breathing in the smell of leather.

After a moment, he started the car. The perfect purr of the engine reminded him of the reason he left the house. The car reminded him of much more once he thought about it. It reminded him of home, of being safety planted and free of worry, of the power every man should have over his own life. It reminded him of security and freedom all at the same time and it was a great reminder. It brought everything into focus. Where his energy and thought had been diverted onto the two assholes, it was now back on the reason he woke up and got out of bed.

He wasn’t just going for a morning drive. No. Jerold was on a mission. He had left his house nearly two hours earlier and began his journey to Crossville where to he would find his daughter and once and for all make sure she was safe. He’d made this trip before with the same intentions, but that was all in the past when he was trying to be Mr. Nice Guy. Well, this time he was not going to saving her for a day, he was not going to threaten to call the cops. He had only one option now, which would remove the threat from her life permanently.

He gunned the engine and smiled. Then he wiped a tear from his eye and popping the clutch, causing the wheels to squeal and then screech. Black smoke poured from the whirring tires, lifting the car. As if riding on air, it moved around the parked Honda in a perfect, sweeping arc.

The Porsche’s tires then grabbed onto the tarmac, straightening the car so fast it rocked sided to side as it moved forward.

Jerold smiled.

It was a relief to be out of Wartzburg, it was a relief to be rid of two assholes, it was a relief to be on his way to see his daughter.


My Daughter Dearest.

I’m on my way.

Count ’em Out

Count’em Out

by Thad Presley

“Get up,” the drill Sergeant ordered, cocking his head at the man on the ground. When he didn’t move, he turned his attention to the platoon. “We have a dead man laying here and all you can do is stand there. You,” he pointed to the Private on the first line, “what did you see?”

“I don’t know Sergeant.” Then, “Nothing Sergeant.”

“You don’t know?”  Like a bolt of lightening, it happened. The drill sergeant hit private Gerard in the stomach with the butt of his M16-A2 service rifle. “Now, what do you know about that?”

The recruit fell to his knees out of breath and looked up at The Ape from the ground and shook his head, “Nothing Sergeant. I didn’t see a thing.”

“And you,” The Ape shouted, looking at the other recruits. “Did any of you see how this forgetful puke lost his weapon and then got killed?”

A thunderclap of voices lifted into the air, “No, Sergeant.”

“And what about Private Gerardo, here? Does anyone know what killed him?”

Again the voices thundered, “No, Sergeant.”

Sergeant Perry was called “The Great Eight Ape” because of rumors he’d received a Section Eight and then got it over ruled by some big wigs way high up in command. The next yer, he returned as an instructor a Ft. Lost in the Woods. Rumors going around said he’d been found eating an Iraqi soldier during the First Iraq War.

Everyone hoped it wasn’t true, but the rumors persisted. All the recruits called him The Ape and although he was an extremely hard instructor many of the men were honored to be under his guidance. It made for great war stories if nothing else.

It was the fifth week of Basic and the platoon was in the middle of Bivouac training where they were learning how to live without luxuries and to keep a camp in working order.

Missouri was known for it’s great expanse of woods, hence the name. The day before was spent on the “old firing range,” which was not supposed to be used but The Ape didn’t care. He usually just trained the men how he saw fit.

During the evening of the night before, the platoon displayed their weapon cleaning skills and made small bets, which involved betting their rations and duties to see who was the fastest. Pvt. Ensign bragged that he could clean his weapon blindfolded and was taken upon the bet by Pvt Greene.

Greene bet Ensign that he couldn’t disassemble, clean, and reassemble his M16 blindfolded. Of course, Ensign took the challenge and bet if he did it blindfolded, then Greene would have to take his Fire Watch for the next week. They both agreed and shook hands.

Everyone watched as Ensign began.

The evenings had become the most exciting time for the men. The drill instructors were starting to lighten up on the recruits. With the dropouts already sent home, the mood was serious but laid back. Ten minutes later, Ensign took off his blindfold and held his clean M16 out to Greene to be inspected. Just as he’d said, he’d taken apart every piece, just as he’d learned the second week in training, and cleaned it.

The day had been fun for everyone and all was well until the next morning when Pvt. Ensign realized his weapon was missing.

The Ape had not taken kindly to the missing rifle and out of frustration began to punish the recruit with exercise. Little did the sergeant know, it was all just a gag orchestrated to make Pvt. Ensign look bad.

After his performance the night before, the platoon got together for a little fun and retribution. No one thought it was a big deal. Practical jokes were played all the time by the men. Two recruits devised a plan to steal Pvt. Ensigns M16 and hide it near the latrine.

It was Corporal Smith and PFC Greene who snagged the weapon. It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone, they just wanted to get back at Ensign for showing off, but things escalated faster than they anticipated and before anyone could say anything. The Ape had swung on Pvt. Ensign.

When Ensign ducked the punch and then a few guys in the platoon laughed, the Ape started to walk away, but turned abruptly and hit him in the stomach with the butt of his rifle. He then quickly brought it up catching him square under the chin. Pvt Ensign fell to the ground and didn’t move.

Everyone knew two other sergeants would show up within the hour to take over the platoon, but that seemed like a million years away.

As Pvt. Ensign laid on the ground, The Ape began to tear into Pvt Gerardo who stood beside him in line.

Growing irritated by the concern on Gerardo’s face, and at Ensign for daring to challenge his authority in front of his men, The Ape raised his weapon and placed the cold steel of the barrel in the center of Gerardo’s forehead. “Do you have a God, son?”

At first, Gerardo couldn’t speak and once he gathered his courage in the face of death, he opened his mouth and the words were interrupted by a stream of puke that erupted from his throat. “Holy mother of Crow, look at this dumb fuck puke on my boots.”

He grabbed the private by the collar and pulled him close.

The private instinctively pulled away from the Sergeant. “You know what you have to do now, don’t you. You’ve got maggot detail.”

Private Gerard knew exactly what the sergeant was going to make him to do and he would have done anything to get the sergeant off his back. But, licking puke off his boots was too far. He couldn’t do it.

“You’re a chicken shit, no brain, puke-eater and it’s time you do something for my Army.”

A wave of anger filled him.

Why won’t anyone help me? One of him and sixty of us, he thought.

No one moved.

Ensign was knocked out. And they did nothing. Reality set in. He wasn’t going to lick the Sergeant’s books.

I’m going to be killed, he thought.

“Do it, puke-eater.”

Gerardo once again gathered his courage. “I have a God, Sergeant.”

“You do? Great. So do I.”

“But,” Gerard was shaking so bad he felt his chin quivering. He had to focus to keep his teeth from clashing together. “I try to do what my God desires of me.”

“Oh, for Crow’s sake, don’t give me that crazy religious nut shit. I can just see it now: Private Jesus Freak sent home on a medical discharge. You trying to act crazy with me, Private? You want to clean my Army up and make us PC and lovely?”

“No, sergeant.”

“I think you do. I think you have a big plan on how you can make my Army a better place. Well, I’ll give you a chance to show me what your worth. You want a nice, pretty, clean Army? Well, you can start by licking Uncle Sam’s boots clean.” The sergeant looked at the other soldiers. “What do you think men?” No one moved a muscle. They didn’t want the man in their face. “If he cleans up the mess he deposited on Uncle Sam’s beautiful pair of boots, maybe we can let him live.”

The private looked down at the boots.

“That’s right maggot. Get to work and you can live to fuck up another day.”

“You won’t shoot me.”

The Ape’s voice lowered to a grumble. “What’s wrong with your ears, Private. Let me tell you in another way. Do it now!”

Private Gerardo held back tears. He fought desperately to hold a straight face. But, it wasn’t going to last long. His emotions were under too much stress. The only way to get this over with was to do it. Just lick the puke up. After all, it was his own. He could do this. He was a soldier. Slowly, he got down on his knees and started to bend over the right boot.

Then, The Ape kicked him in the chest, rattling his head. It hurt so bad that Gerardo thought it broke his sternum. “Do whatever you got to do, private, but get to licking, right now. Them boots better be in parade condition by my count to ten.” He looked at the platoon, “Count ’em Out.”

Slowly the dry tongue of private Gerardo came out of his mouth and stretched toward the black, polished shoe of his sergeant. “One…” The men began in unison,  anticipating the first lick. The Ape, held up his hand and stopped them.

“Come on puke-for-brains, get in there. I want to see you licking that boot the way Jody’s licking your girlfriend’s twat. Clean that Crow-loving boot.”

Then, in a desperate attempt to get out of the situation, he started licking the boot.

“One,” the men counted.

Gerardo just did it, fast, not thinking.

“Two, Three…”

The cooling puke entered his mouth and he swallowed it.

Luckily it was mostly tasteless with a bitter after taste that only barely burned. “You disgust me.” The sergeant yelled, taking a step back and look down on the private as if he was seeing an alien slug for the first time.

“Get on your puke eating feet.” The sergeant was just getting on a good roll. “We have a real, honest to God, puke-eater here. Not in all my time, not in all the holy time of the immaculate Army have we ever had a puke eater in these hallowed ranks.”

The sergeant walked back and forth in front of the men who were still lined up at parade rest. They had been formed up for nearly an hour now and they were all looking for the jeep that would herald the arrival of the two relief sergeants.

“As you all know, we don’t have much time and I need to know what is happening to this world. Terrorists, sympathizers, sleeper-cells, God knows what all. I could say a lot more, but I do not use derogatory names. Because most people are good people. Most people are not puke eating, shit for brains.”

The platoon of sixty men waited to see what the sergeant would do next.

“Let me ask you this. Do you men want a puke-eater watching your back when the chips are down? Do you want him walking the perimeter when you know all he thinks about it slurping puke?”

The men give a sloppy, “No sergeant.”

“You know that this maggot, first thing, is going to run to CO and rat on us. Rat on you!!” The Sergeant let this sink into the heads of the men. “That’s right, he’s not going to tell on me. No, cause he can’t hurt me. He’s going to say ‘THEY let him do it. They made me eat puke.’ Well, lt me ask you this. Can anyone make YOU eat puke?”

There was another, “No, Sergeant,” and this time it had grown in strength.

“Hell, no, they can’t. There ain’t a man in this world that could make ME eat puke. I’d rather die than be a puke eating maggot. But, you were witness to this. You watched as this maggot licked puke and swallowed it. I tell you now, he’ll say to Captain Barrett. Through his sobs, he’ll tell them and swear that YOU let it happen. Both of these numb skulls aren’t worth the time it’s going to take to bury them and yet here we stand wasting the whole day on them. Private Dumbass Number One got himself killed by threatening and then attacking a killing machine known on this base and around the world as Section Eight. That’s right, I know all about my little nickname. But, Private Puke Eater here didn’t learn anything from his battle buddy’s stupid mistakes. He wanted to dance in the mine field. He will now be dealt with in an expedited manner.” The sergeant wait a beat and began again, this time addressing the men eye to eye, one at a time. “But, it’s not ME who will suffer. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind a vacation. It’s YOUR asses that are on the line. Do you want a puke eater lying to the powers that be about your character? Do you want im protecting your six out there when the shit hits the fan?”

“No, sergeant.”

“Then, who wants to do something about it?”


“Are you all puke eaters?”

“I’ll do it.” Corporal Hicks, from Knoxville, who the Sergeant called Hicksville, stepped backwards, looked left then right, and ran to the end of his rank and around to the Ape.

“At least we got one set of balls between the fifty-eight recruits standing here.”

“About to be fifty-seven, sergeant,” Hicks said.

A smile formed on The Ape’s face. “Then, get to it, soldier.”

Hick’s wasted no time in attending to his duty. “Turn around, Gerardo.”

“No, shoot him in the gut Private. I want to hear him call for his mommy.”

“Sergeant, this puke eater does not deserve to be shot in the front. He is a coward and should be killed as one.”

“God Damn it, Hicksville, I do the thinking around here. Now do it the way I want you or step back in line.”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

Corporal Hicks shouldered his M16-A2. Then, he lowered the weapon. “I can’t do it, not with him looking at me.”

“Then get back in rank, maggot lover.”

The Corporal Hicks turned and started back into line, but he had a change of heart. “Sergeant, I want to do it. I have to do it.”

“Well, get here and do it this time. We’ve got a day to build and it’s getting late.”

At that moment, a shot rang out and Section Eight the Great Ape dropped to his knees.

The platoon looked at Hicksville as he lowered his weapon. Blood bubbled from The Ape’s mouth, but he still spoke a few last words. “This Army is going to maggots and puke eaters and…” then he slumped and died.

A hush went over the men. It was like the flame in their souls went out. Gerardo dropped to his knees and put his head on the ground. He couldn’t believe he was alive.

Hick’s took the lead. “Everyone get ready and pack up the gear. Gerardo stay with me.”

At this, the men, gave a weak, “Huaa!!”

Hicks called a medic and then put in a call to the MPs so they could come out and process the scene. He spoke to Gerardo after he hung up. “I want you to tell them exactly what happened here.” Gerardo started to talk, but Hicks held up his hand. “Don’t worry about me. I have a God too. I spend most of my time in this Army ignoring my morals, but I couldn’t ignore them today.”

“Thank you.”


Minutes later, the two relief sergeant’s pulled up in a jeep along with the driver. They unloaded and began asking questions.

Lies We Tell So Well

The Lies We Tell

by Thadd Presley

It was the best company party in the history of PhyllisCorps; possibly the best party of any computer company in the last decade, on par with the likes of Microsoft and Google. The richest of the tech world came to celebrate with the geniuses in our ranks. It was the annual Employee Appreciation Party and it was bigger than it had ever been. We’d done our jobs to the best of our ability and the company was letting us blow off some steam and some money. We had finally put PhyllisCorps on the map and the world had begun to take notice. We were acknowledging profits we’d never knew existed.
The company was doing so well, that they flew us from Phoenix to Knoxville and rented luxury cars for us to explore the city. The entire weekend was paid for and we deserved it.
Words can’t express how wonderful the weekend turned out and all the amazing places Knoxville had to visit. It was so well planned that we all felt like celebrities.
As I drove up the mountain, toward North Carolina, I couldn’t believe the scenery. I had seen pictures of our chalets and the cabins were going to be amazing. We’d heard rumors about the party that was going to take place, but as I caught my first glimpses of Gatlinburg and The Smokey Mountains I couldn’t believe my eyes. The unbelievable beauty of Tennessee took my breath even as I was on the plane, but I caught a second wind of unexpected amazement on the road. There’s something about the air here, I thought — I could breathe better, see farther, even my skin felt softer — but it was much more than that; the view, the altitude, and even the local folks were great.
I stopped at an overlook and spending 20 minutes talking to other travelers as they stood and wondered at the spectacular beauty of the land before us. It took fifteen minutes more of standing alone just breathing the sweet fragrant air before I could get back in the car and drive away. As I looked toward the horizon and watched the millions and millions of trees sway in the breeze, I wondered why I ever lived in the desert. Why didn’t I move here permanently? The world was mesmerizing from that point of view; even to a logically-thinking computer-geek like myself, intelligent design made more sense from Tennessee and I realized how hostile and ugly the desert happened to be.
I told my wife, Adrian, when we got back into the car that we were coming back as soon as we could. She nodded and mumbled something about the cabin in Gatlinburg and how close it was to Harrah’s Casino.
I didn’t bother to tell her that this place was too serene for gambling, that gambling was for people in the desert where there was nothing else to do, that gambling away money in a place like this would be idiotic when there was so many things to see and so much here that money couldn’t buy.
It dawned on me, as I made my way up and through the switchback curves, that my wife didn’t understand this place at all and I would be moving back alone. There was just no way to open her eyes. She had grown accustomed to brown and dead, when I was just learning about flowing water and green mountains filled with life.
We finally arrived and the mansion sat atop a peak right in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A huge banner in the yard read, “Congrats on a A Great Year.” I could see the feeling of optimism on the faces of everyone standing out front.

* * * * *

When the announcement was first made, I didn’t want to go to Tennessee. I had some work on a freelance job I’d been working nights trying to finish. I thought Adrian would enjoy a vacation instead of going to another stuffy company party. But, after talking to her about it, she talked me into going. And for once, she was right.
If we would have stayed home, I would have never met the most incredible woman. She was a pleasure to talk with, to walk with, and to look at; her ways invaded my life and made me a believer in love at first sight.
I miss her very much and often wonder why I didn’t leave with her that night. I became attached to her quickly and have thought of her everyday since the night of the party.
My wife wakes me at night and swears I say her name in my sleep. She says it bothers her and claims I was unfaithful. But, her accusation is simply not true. I never even kissed Helen or held her hand. But, I didn’t have to kiss her to fall in love with her. She emitted love like the sun does light.
She was pure.
Two nights ago, my wife woke me for the umpteenth time, and I did something I rarely do: I got angry. She began accusing me of having an affair. She screamed at me, saying that my work had suffered, our relationship was ending, and it was all because of Helen and that party. I was fully awake by the time she accused me of loving her, and part of what she said was true. My work was suffering and our relationship was ending, but it wasn’t because of Helen. Adrian blamed my actions for everything happening to us, but the truth wasn’t as simple as that. My wife was ruining our relationship by holding onto feelings she had over a dead woman, and all because I occasionally spoke her name in my sleep.
So, I did what any reasonable man would do when faced with a no-win situation. I got out of bed and walked to the bedroom door. It was my intention to walk away and let her go back to sleep. I would finish the night in the spare bedroom so I would not disturb her sleep.
“Who did she think she was anyway?” She asked as I opened the bedroom door. Lately her voice had scraped my very soul raw and I didn’t know how much more I could take before walking out forever. Her voice used to make me smile and feel good, but lately it had become very irritating and every word had me imagining the freedom in signing divorce papers. But I knew a divorce was never going to happen. I loved her and we were just having a rough patch. I loved her too much to simply leave her alone to the world. If I didn’t love her, I would have never came home from Tennessee.
I suppose she had a reason to be upset at me because I went to Helen’s funeral when I told her I wasn’t going. But, there was just no way I could not go. She was the most amazing woman I’d ever met and she deserved to be mourned by everyone who had known her.
I tried to tell myself that my mourning had everything to do with respect and nothing to do with infatuation, but that was a lie. I went to the funeral because I wished that I would have gotten the chance to love Helen and really get to know her. I would have stayed in Tennessee and gotten a divorce if I’d known her life was going to be so short.
“I know you had more to do with her than your telling me,” Adrian yelled. “I know you better than you think.”
I was standing in the hallway, turning the corner toward the stairs when she said it. I’d started toward the kitchen to start coffee and it hit me that she was right. I knew that she had to know how I felt toward her. A wife knows her husband better than he knows himself.
Sleep was finished for the night, I knew that as well.
“Admit it,” she screamed from directly behind me, startling me, her voice grating every nerve in my body. I could feel the hate shooting out from her body into mine and it made me go sour inside.
I wanted to scream back at her. I wanted to tell her that she was just being mean. But what could I really say to make her understand the way I felt? I’d tried to come up with something to say to her until everything sounded empty even to myself. So I took a breath and I gave her back the hate she was giving me.
“For God’s sake, can you shut the fuck up?”
She watched me as I seethed and I saw that she’d been wanting me to get mad. She wanted this the whole time. She wanted to fight. I didn’t understand why, but I had finally given her what she wanted. “No I can’t. Not when you won’t tell me the truth.”
“I am telling you the…”
“I’ll never shut up. I’ll never forgive you.” Her eyes were full of tears now and it shocked me. “How can we begin to make this better when you won’t help me.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“Just tell me what you two did. Tell me why you’re so smitten by her. What does she have that I don’t?”
“If you don’t tell me that you two had something going on, even long distance, I’ll go insane. Do you know that?”
So, I took a chance. I lied to her. I figured if the truth wasn’t going to get us through this than maybe a lie is exactly what we needed.
“OK. We did. I mean, I did. Who cares now anyway?” Tears were in my eyes, hot tears that burned with the knowledge of time lost of tarnishing her memory. “She’s dead now and I’m stuck with you…” I was going to say more, but she slapped me.
She had never slapped me. In twenty years, we’d never touched each other in anger. “I knew you did. You didn’t even have to tell me. I knew it all along.”
“You don’t know anything.”
“I knew that, damn you. I knew it and you know I knew it. Finally, you have spoken the truth about that whore.”
But it wasn’t the truth and I regretted saying it. It would bother me for my entire life. If Helen haunted me now, I could only imagine what dreams might come of the lie.
In my frustration, my words had ruined Helen’s reputation. There was no going back now, no winning and no way out.
Adrian was in front of me now. I was now following her as she leading me toward the kitchen. She was in control. Her sobs were louder than they should have been, I knew how she cried . It infuriated me to know that I would never be able to take those words back and she would use them against me until the day I died. She would call Helen names and I’d have to hold my tongue because I was the one who damned her. I hated myself already for lying.
I regretted the entire day, the company party, my marriage — I regretted my entire life –and I’d only been awake for eighteen minutes.
Adrian was going toward the child-proofed drawer, not that we had ever had children; she was going for the pistol hidden in the back of the drawer.
I never thought to stop her
— didn’t want to stop her –
She was out of control and I wanted nothing more than to just let her go; let her kill me if she wanted to.
Then at that moment, I thought she might kill herself and I didn’t care if she did. I’d kill myself afterward, if she didn’t have the decency to shoot me first.
I started to open my mouth, to tell her that I was ready to die, but it was at this moment she brought the pistol out of the drawer and I was suddenly afraid.
“I know more than you think, you bastard. I knew the two of you had something going on and I know you were planning to move to Tennessee so you two could be closer. I knew you were going to leave me.” Tears rolled down her face and I suddenly had a vision of how crazy this could get.
“Now, don’t do anything you’ll regret. You don’t know what you’re talking about…”
She smiled. “I won’t regret shooting you. I killed your sweetheart, didn’t I? I don’t regret that.”
The short silence that followed brought what she’d said into blinding clarity.
“That’s right,” she taunted. “I caused her brakes to go out and that’s why she crashed.”
“Why would you say that? She had an accident.”
“No, no. She had no brakes, that’s true, but it wasn’t an accident.”
I didn’t believe what Adrian was saying. I knew there was no way she could have done it. She didn’t know anything about cars. She was just using Helen’s accident to hurt me. She would say anything at this point to hurt me, but that didn’t stop me from hated her for saying it. “You’re a hateful bitch you know that?”
“Maybe, but I’m not lying.” She smiled. “You stopped loving me the moment you met her.” Her tears had stopped. A smile still showed on her lips. “I saw it in your eyes that first night you saw her. I heard it in your voice when you spoke about her. A woman knows these things.”
I couldn’t speak.
“That’s right. I knew it and I put a stop to it.”
“Stop saying that. You couldn’t have…”
The smile grew wider and it made her look ten years younger. “I killed her.” The gun came up. “And now I’m going to kill you.” Her lips were red and full of blood, her entire face was flush with anger. “You hit me and chased me and I had to kill you…” The gun pointed at my chest.
“No, Adrian, you don’t understand…”
“Stop saying that.” She was raising her voice. She would be screaming soon. “Never say that to me again. You’re the one who doesn’ t understand. You’re the one who doesn’t know anything.” She lowered the gun an inch. “But, I’m not going to kill you before I explain it to you. It wouldn’t be right to let you die not knowing how much I love you.” The gun jerked toward the living room. “Go sit down.” Another jerk of the gun. “Go sit in your favorite chair and I’ll tell you everything.” She was smiling still, but I could see the hurt in her face. “You’ll want to hear this. You might even be proud of me for taking an interest in your work.”
“Adrian, you…” I stopped myself. I almost said “you don’t understand” again. “We didn’t do anything.”
“I will fucking shoot you in the chest when this is over. But, you will hear me out first. You’re the one who’s a liar and doesn’t understand what love is.”
“Don’t understand what? What do you want me to understand?”
“I want you to know how I killed Helen and how you helped me do it. Why I killed her isn’t the point anymore because you know why.”
I sat down slowly, no longer thinking of myself but what Adrian had in her mind and why she thought she killed Helen.
“It was Barnaby Jack who gave me the idea.” Adrian began. “When we were in Las Vegas and you sent me to record his conference. Remember?”
I thought of trying again to tell Adrian I lied, that Susan and I never did anything. But, the name Barnaby Jack brought me back. It was three months after the company party. I knew then that she had done something and I knew how she’d done it.
Our eyes connected for the first time in over two years. “Yes,” Adrian said. “you see now don’t you?”
I nodded my head, although I didn’t know exactly.
“Tell me, so I know you know.”

 * * * * *

It was the Spring after the employee party. I was sent to cover Barnaby Jack’s Hacker convention, but I drank too much and couldn’t go. I wanted to meet the man and many of the other guests, but I would have puked on them. So, I gave Adrian my pass and sent her to record his talk.
At the conference, he detailed and performed how to hack a car with a cell phone. With a simple code anyone could disable the cars alarm system, jack with the fuel/oxygen ratio, and many other things. With a couple numbers anyone could disable the brakes of a luxury car. It was a simple, just the facts, demonstration of a wireless hack, something anyone with cell phone abilities could do. Adrian had learned more than she needed to know from it.
It was the next year, at the Employee Party, that Susan left early and had an accident on her way home. It was written up as an accident, no one thought otherwise. But, I now knew she was murdered by my wife.
“So, now what?” I asked. “You going to kill me? You have to, you know that right? If you don’t kill me, I’ll turn you in.”
Then she started crying. “I did it because I love you. I didn’t want you to leave me.”
“I wasn’t going to leave you. You should have trusted me.”
“Trusted you,” she screamed, asked, and accused at the same time.
The pistol came up and I had only two regrets. I wished that I hadn’t come back from Tennessee to this barren wasteland called Phoenix, and I wished I hadn’t lied and tarnished Helen’s good name.

Easter, Bloody Easter

Easter, Bloody Easter

by Thadd Presley

“That’s exactly what she told me,” Anita said as she handed the sheriff her ID. “I don’t know what else to do. She said she would kill me if I so much as came down here. And we both know she will. You have to help me.”
“She told you not to come and you came anyway?” The sheriff was surprised.
Anita shook her head and then, realizing that she was saying no, she nodded. “Yes, I had to. She has my brother in the basement.”
“But, she said she would kill you.”
“I know. Please help me.”
“OK, OK. Just sit right there. I have to make a phone call and get this straightened out.” The sheriff rose from the chair and walked towards her from behind his desk. “Just to be sure. You’re mother has your brother locked in the basement and she is going to kill you because you came down here and told the police?”
“God, yes. What is wrong with you?” Anita was starting to get frustrated. She had already spent thirty minutes explaining to the police that her mother had gone crazy and was torturing her brother.
“Nothing is wrong with me, Anita. I have to get the facts straight. Don’t you see that it’s hard for me to believe a story like this. You’re mother is one of our town leaders and my boss’ wife.”
“Yes, call my dad. Please! I know he’s out of town, but he will tell you that she has been acting funny lately.”
“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
The sheriff was almost out of the door when Anita screamed.
He turned around and saw blood pouring from her eye. “Dear God,” he exclaimed and ran to her. “What did you do?”
Anita couldn’t answer him, although she tried. Her mouth just wouldn’t say the words.
“Sheriff Coffee,” a deputy called, then he saw the blood. “What’s happening to her?”
“God only knows, Stephen. Get in here and hold her head.”
Stephen couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The young girl was sitting in the expensive leather chair with her head lolling from left to right. A thin spurt of blood shot from the side of her eyeball with every heart beat.
“What is she trying to say,” the sheriff asked. It was obvious to both men that her mouth was moving and words were slowly being formed.
“Here.” Stephen pushed a blank piece of paper on the sheriff’s desk.
“Try to write on this, Anita.”
There was no time to think. The sheriff barely had his hand out of the way when Anita’s bloody finger began to draw words onto the paper. It moved back and forth and up and down, lubricated by the blood on her hand.
“What is that?” the Sheriff asked. “Good Lord. It’s not one of those pentagram things is it?”
Stephen looked at the dark red scribble and put his hand on the desk, trying to settled his spinning head. But it did no good. He was suddenly overwhelmed by dizziness and puke rushed up his throat and sprayed out of his mouth and nose. The sheriff didn’t have time to flinch before the hot, grey, half digested oatmeal landed on his shirt and fell, stinking, on his trousers.
“Damn it, Stephen, pay attention.” But it was too late. The deputy had passed out and was sliding slowly across the desk, into the floor.
“Anita, please, look at me.” The Sheriff straightened her up as he said it, wanting to get the situation under control. But as Anita continued to draw on the paper with her own blood, the sheriff realized that she had drawn a stick figure. What was she trying to tell him. He was running out of time. “Someone get in here.”
“If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you,” a voice said.
He whirled around in search of the woman who spoke,but there was no one there. The sound was in his head. Suddenly, a pain shot through his temple and his right hand instinctively went to his head.   “Who’s there?”
“No mom,” Anita said. “He won’t tell.”
“Who’s doing this?” The sheriff demanded.
“If you tell, I’ll kill you.” The voice was louder. “I have you all right here with me.”
The pain in the sheriff’s temple grew and warmth flowed from his nose. He reached for his gun and saw that his shirt sleeve was red. He realized then that his nose wasn’t running. It was bleeding. As he lost consciousness, he suddenly realized what it was she was trying to draw. He almost laughed. What could he have done to help her anyway. The police are no match for a voodoo doll.