Well I thought I would offer a bit of short horror after the day of love. This little story won a Literary Award and was published in the Corn Creek Review. Thought some might like to see what happens when love goes wrong.
The figure was always a shadow, half hidden behind outdated drapery in the front window of the aged and weathered Victorian home on the end of the street. Children often ran by, laughing, as they pushed each other into the overgrown yard, challenging the other to ring the doorbell and run away. Everyone wanted to glimpse the object of many sordid tales and rumors of the town’s gossip chain, but the door never seemed to open for anyone, or anything. It was sometime before those in the neighborhood noticed that the strange figure which once stood at the window didn’t stand there anymore, and the demise of the lonely old woman who lived there went undiscovered, until the smell of putrid decay penetrated the dainty nose of the self appointed neighborhood watchdog, Adalay Thompson.
“Sheriff, you need to get up to the old Ledford home. I think Ms. Sarah finally kicked the bucket!” she demanded of Russell Garrett one afternoon.
“Adalay, what has gotten you up in a dander today?”
The sheriff’s voice suggested that he had already been down the road of Adalay’s nosiness before, and he didn’t want to be bothered with anything in the humid heat of the Georgia afternoon.
“There is a God awful smell coming from that old house, so you need to get up there and investigate!”
“Alright, alright. Keep your skirt on.”
Sheriff Garrett sighed lazily as he hung up the phone. Grabbing his cowboy hat off the rack by the door, Russell Garrett stepped into the sunlight. Squinting up to the sky before putting on the prerequisite shades most of the good old boys in Georgia wore, he shook his head in dismay as he climbed into the patrol car and headed up the road to the old Ledford house.
Adalay Thompson seemed to always stick her nose into other people’s business, he mused, and Ms. Sarah was just a kindly little old lady who never bothered much of nothing. He hated to go up there and knock at her door just to satisfy Adalay, who snooped more than anyone else he knew. He recalled the last time he visited Ms. Sarah. It was a few years back in his younger days, when there was some disturbance reported by an out-of-towner who claimed she was the sister of a Mr. Nathanial Clemens. This woman stated that Mr. Clemens was to wed Ms. Sarah and that he suddenly disappeared overnight, after breaking off his engagement with her. Mr. Clemens’ sister had the whole town in an uproar saying Ms. Sarah had killed her brother and disposed of the body. It was duty which made him call on her that day.
“Russell Garrett!” Ms. Sarah’s soft spoken manner always captured the attention of whoever she addressed. “I buried Mr. Ledford a long time ago and have been a widow for these long years. I don’t believe that I’m the marrying kind anymore.” She smiled slightly as she offered him a plate of cookies, from which he took three.
Biting into the soft chewy morsel, he replied nodding, “Yes Ma’am I know, but when someone makes any kind of accusation like that, you know its part of my job to follow up.”
“Yes, I understand. If I see this Mr. Clemens, I’ll be sure to let him know to contact you.”
With that Ms. Sarah ushered him out the door, and closed it firmly behind him. It was the last time he really saw anything of her. She became more and more of a recluse, keeping watch at the window during the day, and at night burning a small light from the upstairs window into the wee hours of the morning. He always wondered what she was doing up so late, behind her curtains.
Pulling into the circular drive of the old home, he saw Adalay already standing on the front porch holding her nose. As he exited the vehicle he too noticed a rather pungent odor.
“Either she’s dead or she got something that crawled up into the basement and died, because I’ve never smelled anything like this before,” Adalay commented as Sheriff Garrett climbed the old wooden stairs leading up to the front door.
“Now Adalay, I want you to be kind and stay out of the way when I go knocking. Do I make myself clear?”
“Whatever you say Sheriff,” she nodded taking a couple of steps back.
Sheriff Garrett tapped on the door with his knuckle, the sound soft so as not to disturb its occupant. After he waited for several seconds, he knocked again, but this time louder, calling out Ms. Sarah’s name. When no response came, he beat on the door with all his might. Walking to the front window, he cupped his hands on the pane and peered inside, past the dusty curtains.
“What the…?” The question came as a surprise, and intent on getting in quickly he suddenly rushed to the entrance and kicked the door down.
Adalay followed the Sheriff into the darkened home. The scene before them resembled something from a horror movie. Furniture lay strewn amidst the broken glass from pictures which had been knocked off the wall. The house was in shambles.
“What happened here?” Adalay inquired as she gazed around the small foyer into the adjoining room.
“Ms. Sarah?” Sheriff Garrett hollered, his voice echoing strangely in the quiet house.
“Look over there!” Adalay pointed towards the back of the house.
Squinting into the dim hallway, the sheriff noticed the basement door. The panel hung from its hinges, torn almost in two. Deep gashes ran vertically along the grain, the wood splinting in two.
“Looks like an axe beat that to pieces,” he murmured.
“Do you suppose they got in that way, through the basement?”
Sheriff Garrett touched the wood, feeling the splinters. “I don’t know. Adalay, you need to wait outside,” he whispered as he drew his gun.
Being the stubborn woman she was, Adalay clung to the sheriff’s back as he followed the axe marks in the floor across the living room and then up the staircase. The brutal slashes were seemingly cut into the wooden planks as the intruder chased someone through the house.
Carefully, and quietly, they made their way to the third story. Standing at the top stair, the sheriff paused at the sight of another mangled door at the end of the hallway.
“The smell is worse up here!” Adalay whined softly.
Sheriff Garrett furrowed his brow at her. “Don’t you know what ‘wait outside means’ Adalay?” he retorted under his breath as he shook his head.
The two tiptoed, making their way towards the sight of the torn wooden frame. When they reached the last room, the sheriff threw his back against the wall and with his gun held high, eased himself into the darkened hole.
“Oh my God!” Adalay exclaimed gagging, as she saw the scene in the dimness of the bedroom from over his shoulder.
Centered on the bed was the decomposing form of Ms. Sarah. Draped over her bloody body was what appeared to be a man’s remains, shriveled and mummified. The drab brown suit was covered in dirt and skeletal hands clutched an axe which had been deeply embedded in the chest of the old woman. Russell took out a handkerchief from his pocket and covered his nose.
Edging closer he pulled on the ragged material of the man’s jacket. The body came up, ripping lose from the boney arms and falling to the carpet. Adalay screamed as the decayed corpse fell at their feet.
“What in heavens?” she cried.
“It looks like a dead man, that’s been buried a long time,” the sheriff observed.
“Well who was he?”
Digging into the protruding back pocket of the fraying material of the trousers, Sheriff Garrett pulled out an aging black leather wallet. Carefully unfolding it, he rubbed at the dirt covering the driver’s license.
“I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” the Sheriff whispered with a weird chuckle.
“Russell Garrett, who was he?” Adalay demanded for a second time.