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The River's Secrets

Short story By: GraceBuchanan
Horror



Revenge against my ex-husband


Submitted:Dec 11, 2012    Reads: 48    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


The machine gun I'm holding blasts through the walls and windows of the house as I walk around it. I hear "hit hit hit" with each bullet, propelling my anger and hatred into the sacred target. Sacred because I built this house for a happy family that the occupant adults destroyed. Hit-hit-hit. I'm walking down the hill along side of the house, careful of my footing in the slippery morning dew. Hit-hit-hit. I understand that they are sleeping in the basement now, so I riddle the corner of the house where we planned to build our bedroom, smashing the picture window that I longed to look out of at the garden I was going to plant. I'm hoping to increase the chances of one of the bullets finding them even though they might have had a chance to retreat more deeply into the cellar where my bullets might not reach. I should have started down here so they had less of a chance to find protection. My legs wobble as I complete my walk around the house, doing my best to destroy Sal's dream the way he destroyed mine.

Someone must have called 9-1-1 by now, so I head down to The River. My poncho conceals my remarkable firearm. My dark color helps me blend into the daily life of the River Rats. I couldn't leave by car: road blocks were too likely. The River will harbor me as it harbored many criminals before me.

I take off my shoes and put them in a bag. Sherlock Holmes and Columbo typically traced criminals by the dirt on their shoes and the footprints they left behind. When I get out to deep water, I'll take them out of the bag and drop them and the gun in The River. The River keeps many secrets.

My dark nondescript silhouette pushes the boat off from the beach. Police will be looking for someone escaping quickly by motor boat. I quietly put the oars to work, joining the ranks of people who disappeared into The Thousand Islands. The quietness of the boat gives me the horrible advantage of hearing helicopters assumedly looking for me.

I continue, burning off my adrenaline rush as I row along crooked shorelines, between islands, close to marked shoals. I see no one and nothing except the path I'm on as I put as much distance as I can between me and the sound of motors that might be propelling people who are looking for me.

I stop at an island and duck into the boat house. It's not as quiet as I'd hoped. The light rain on the roof makes an unexpectedly thunderous sound. I want to be quiet, in tune with those who are seeking me, but immediate concealment seems more important now. They can't investigate every boat house, beach, cove, marsh or bramble patch. Hiding will be easy. I'm dark and non-descript like many River Rats. Brightly colored markings would make me more visible, which is what I normally want, to protect me from being hit. Now I want to stay in the shadows.

I tie my boat to a couple cleats on the deck in the boat house. This house usually accommodates a much larger boat, so I have to pull myself up to the deck. I remember the difficulty I had in grade school when we were tested for the President's Fitness Award. I couldn't do pull-ups. I tried at home on my brother's chin-up bar, and even tried on the shower curtain rod. My arms wouldn't pull me up to the deck, so I carefully put the toes of my shoes on the old rotting boards, grasped a cleat with my hands, and scramble up. Ahhhh! I'll be able to jump down to the boat, but I'm afraid to climb up out of it again…except I left my things in the boat.

A rope hangs on the wall. I tie a noose at one end and try to loop it around something in the boat. Then I see a fishing net on the wall. Just the thing! It works well, scooping up my things as I hang over the edge of the deck.

I realize that the rain is subsiding as I notice scurry sounds. I'm sharing this shelter with bats and mice. I haven't seen a rat yet. What's edible? Bats carry rabies. Does rabies infect their meat? I'd better not find out. Have I ever heard of anyone eating mouse meat? I buy seaweed. Is it much different from The River's seaweed? What are the mice eating? Can I raid their hoard? I understand that mouse urine transmits pathogens. What about their saliva? Do they pee on their food? I guess the mouse larder is safely theirs tonight.

I sense I'm being watched. I blend into the shadows and wait for my witness to appear. The rain has let up. The River laps the dock. I look out into the darkness. Quiet. I drift off to sleep.

Loud skittering wakes me. I open my eyes and see a squirrel running in and out, stopping to look quizzically at me, approaching me at times. I sit still, recalling walks with my kids at a park where the squirrels were tame enough to climb your leg and eat out of your hand. The squirrel is back, approaching me. Sal taught me to stay still when we went squirrel hunting. He said they get curious. I slowly hold out my cupped hand to beckon it. It sniffs at my hand and runs away a couple times. I slowly move my hand closer to my hip. It comes back, tickling my fingers with the tips of its whiskers. I raise my other hand in a fist and smash its skull. Breakfast will be squirrel legs and tenderloins. This one probably hasn't come from a sunflower seed feeder, so it probably won't be the best-tasting one I've eaten, but the kill was instant, so the meat shouldn't be full of adrenaline. I take out my knife, flip the squirrel on to its back, and press the blade into the warm flesh, imagining that this is the flesh of my ex-husband. I slice open the abdomen, recalling the days when taxidermy hardened me from being squeamish around animals and organs, to doing the cleaning swiftly. The ears were the worst part. Every animal had ears with cartilage to be removed. As I turned the ears inside-out, every ear looked human. I cut the head off this squirrel to get rid of the ears that haunt me. I toss the head into The River. The River is such a safe place to be. It keeps my secrets.

When Sal and I went backpacking, he brought a pot to parboil meat to shorten the grilling time. I didn't bring such a luxury item. I don't want to clean dishes. I venture out to find a propane grill or charcoal grill or at least a campfire ring. Many other people are rising this morning, expecting a normal day. Some will be seen as potential suspects, but I blend in so well, there are too many people and no clear path to where I am. Someone saw me go to the boat, of course, but it was too unremarkable to be memorable and report. Many people took boats out on the water yesterday.

In this feeling of anonymous security, I find a campfire ring with a rack. Some firewood was piled in the boat house, nice and dry. Some newspaper and matches are there too! The mice have shredded some of the old news for their nests, but they left plenty for starting a fire. As I take a sheet and crumple it into a ball, my rage flares up again and I take it out on the newspaper wads. I lay the tight balls on the ground and put small splintery sticks on them, then a couple pieces of larger wood. I light the newspaper. Smoke rises as the ground's wetness evaporates. The splinters catch fire and the flames rise. I have finished skinning the squirrel for old time's sake, and offer it to the fire as a symbol for my ex-husband. If I can't roast him, I can roast a memory that came from him. How ironic: memories of him sustain me as I escape from machine-gunning his property and hopefully taking his and/or his wife's lives, and maybe that of his step-son.

The flames die down as the large wood smolders. Now is the time to put the rack on and cook the meat. I watch the flesh change colors and shrink in the heat. I don't want it to cook so fast - it will be tough to chew, but the entertainment is irresistible. I push it around on the grill with a wet stick, and roll it over when the juices bubble up on the top surface. Another minute and then I remove the grate from the heat with two sticks, balancing it carefully and taking it back to the cover of the boat house. I suddenly feel too exposed outside.

The flesh is wonderfully crispy, like Thanksgiving turkey skin. This squirrel must have found some fatty food somewhere. I don't remember if it had any fat clumps as I was butchering it; I was too busy butchering my ex-husband in my mind to notice such a minor detail. Yes, this tastes like a well-fed squirrel. People like feeling them peanuts. That would have done the trick.

My reverie is interrupted by crunching sounds. I listen closely and wish I had a dog to investigate and protect me. I interpret the sound as human feet. My body stiffens. The sound is coming closer. I see a silhouette of a person in the doorway. It's Sal! My body turns into the iron muscle and steel that he had used against me when I had tried to fight him years ago. Even when we playfully wrestled, he restrained me with an unyielding grip. Now the tables had turned. Poor health had made him feeble, and anger made ma a Hulk. I stand up and lunge at him, pushing him on to the remainder of the campfire. His clothes catch fire; some melt on to his skin and give it a waxy appearance like a statue. The fire travels outside the campfire ring, down his pants…but he isn't wearing jeans. His pants are shiny satin pajama pants. Wait. Is this him? I gasp. It is a woman, too charred to bring back to life; too able to be a witness against me to rescue. I choke on the smoke of her burning flesh. I stumble back to the boat house and get 2 large logs to finish her cremation. I have to stay long enough to see that she turned completely to ash. Then I will move on.

Cremation is not so easy. I guess they use furnaces and very high temperatures. A human being has thick areas of flesh that take a long time to incinerate in a camp fire. I get impatient. When I am able to separate a body part, I take each piece to The River. The River keeps secrets.

As a good Girl Scout, I leave the campfire ring cleaner than I found it. I venture on, staying close to shore to keep out of the way of motor boats that can't see my darkness.

I join the ranks of people who disappear into the Thousand Islands.





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