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Horror Suspense Crime

This story contains sensitive content

[WARNING: Strong language and sensitive topic.]

"How might one endure the silent

and secluded nature of winter?

Be the bear, enter a deep cave, and

dream, dream, dream." – Jacqueline Suskin

I probably shouldn't be writing this, but oh-fucking-well.

When the most precious thing lodged in your heart is ripped out and crushed by an unthinking alcoholic asshole driving with a revoked license, you do things—unimaginable things.

And not just burying your beloved eight-year-old son, which was not on my Shitty Life Bingo Card, obvs.

But life wasn't shitty before.

The word should be capitalized: Before. No, better yet, The Before.

Because now, life was rent in two—forever separated by the gaping maw of rage.

The Before...and The After.

A fissure of overwhelming grief that quickly cracked, allowing the steaming, boiling lava to emerge from her core.

Oh, he would pay--that drunken dickhead.

His money won't protect him. Not from me.  

***

They gave her the codename Mama Bear, but he never imagined that she was holed up in a cave.

On a hunch, he came out to the Pennsylvania woods at night—alone. Common sense (and the FBI handbook) would label his actions reckless at best and suicidal at worst.

But he didn't fear for his safety.

Mama Bear targeted a certain type of prey. Except for being a male, he didn't fit her profile.

Funny—they were both profilers.

October snuck up behind him, picking up the crisp air, tossing it around. Playing offense, it switched tactics, threw it toward his face, temporarily snatching his breath.

He continued to climb, quiet crunching under his boots, allowing the patches of clearing, and the light of the frosted full moon, to guide his steps.

He'd reach the cave no matter what, so the easy way was the best way.

He put his hand in his front pocket; felt the crumpled page of a diary. The paper crinkled like the fallen leaves underfoot.

It was mailed to him at his office. This one—and the other entries.

He had the sense to turn in the others, but not this one.

Well, most of the others.

She vowed to herself that she would abstain from killing for a month—or so she wrote.

By his accounts, it was day 30.

He hoped her undated entry referred to October. At least he would have a day.

One day.

***

It was easier than I thought. I would say "too easy", but that motherfucker mowed down my baby like a shirtless, beer-bellied jagoff hurrying to cut the grass before the Buccos' game.

Maybe it shouldn't be hard.

Justice shouldn't be hard.

Not in the semblance of a fair world.

***

Leaves skittered and scurried around his legs, tumbling over each other like playing squirrels.

He stopped, inhaled deeply. He loved the smell of fall, that last exhale of trees mixing with ripe decomposition.

"I'm so glad I live in a world of Octobers". He smiled at the memory of his sister quoting Anne Shirley, not so long ago.

His smile fell. Not so long ago, yet forever ago.

Tragedy has a way of altering time, elongating some parts and compressing others.

He looked up through the lattice of bare limbs, a web of gnarled fingers, the indigo sky stitched with rhinestones.

Did the stars foretell it? It was the mutable signs of the zodiac—Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces. BTK. Dahmer. Bundy. The ones born at the end of a season, not in the middle.

Like the fixed signs. Like Scorpio. Like her.

***

You'd think one was enough, but it wasn't.

I realized AA (alcoholic asshole) was just one of many.

Sure, I settled MY score. But what of the other Moms?

So. Many. BLIGHTS.

Diseases walking the earth, infecting others with their cruelty, their carelessness, their capriciousness.

Someone had to bring order, just like Melvil Dewey did to book classification.

000-999.

***

He considered turning around to walk back down the hill. He turned but didn't move.

In the distance, the twinkling lights of downtown Pittsburgh weaved a terrestrial constellation of bridges, one-way traffic and sundry skyscrapers.

The Steel City. Just like its people: metal backbones, gritty guts and honest hearts.

He craved a sandwich from Primanti's. Any sandwich.

That was the last time he saw her. At Primanti's. The original one.

He wasn't one to second-guess himself. His Mom drummed it into their heads from the cradle: trust self first, last and only.

First. Last. Only.

***

Thanks to the internet and social media, it’s not hard to find someone. Or their misdeeds.

What was once relegated to a diary like this is now vomited onto Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for all to see.

Many lap it up, probably because it makes them feel less uncomfortable about their own stupid decisions and meaningless lives.

Hear, hear for the mindless braggart! Many blowhards make for less research when it comes to this side gig.

***

He cracked his neck. Onward and upward.

One foot in front of the other. Crunching leaves. Whipping wind. Snapping twigs.

Up, up, up he climbed.

He was getting close.

His hand reached towards his front pocket. Again. He read the page dozens of times, just like the rest.

He couldn't help it.

Just touching the deckle-edged diary page brought clarity. And understanding.

He had to find her first.

Could it be that easy?

***

I think this might be my last entry.

I knew it was a bad idea (no, make that Bad Idea) to write things down. But writers write.

Fish swim, birds fly, dogs bark, writers write.

And Mama Bears?

Well.

Unless you're bent from birth (looking at you, mutable signs!), no one sets out to be a killer. Or, as I like to differentiate, a REMOVER.

Scrooge (er, Dickens) had it partly right: decrease the surplus population. He just needed to add "of assholes".  

Decrease the surplus population of assholes. Dangerous, foul, hollow assholes.

***

He neared the ridge. He was getting close.  

He pulled out the wrinkled diary page. He couldn't help it.

The moon illuminated the page, but he couldn't make out the words. Strange glyphs, occultic squiggles—just like those found on the astrological charts she used to interpret.

Meaningless symbols to the untrained eye, but metaphysical gold to the mystic.

He didn't need to be able to read the entry. He had it memorized.

The cave. He could see the entrance. Dark, yawning.

An inky maw. Just like her rage.

He reached into the other pocket for his flashlight.

She beat him to it.

Her flashlight shone on the ground ahead so as not to blind him.

"Hey Sis".

"Hey Bro. What took you so long?"

January 18, 2024 11:50

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20 comments

Alexis Araneta
14:01 Jan 23, 2024

I loved it. Very clever story.

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Janet Boyer
22:25 Jan 23, 2024

Oh thank you so much! 🙏

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Ellen Neuborne
21:57 Jan 21, 2024

I enjoyed the tension in this story, as the two characters come closer and we can anticipate the meeting. Nice surprise at the end.

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Janet Boyer
00:13 Jan 22, 2024

Thank you, Ellen! 🙏

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Jaymi McClusky
16:47 Jan 21, 2024

Clever story and good take on the prompt. Love the end.

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Janet Boyer
00:12 Jan 22, 2024

Thank you, Jaymi! 🙏

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Nicki Nance
04:24 Jan 21, 2024

I liked the final twist to this one. I grew up in the steel city, so your fine imagery put me very close to the story. (My Pittsburgh story on Reedsy is "Going Over." We might be kindred spirits.) Thanks for a great story.

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Janet Boyer
07:21 Jan 21, 2024

Ohhhh I must look up your story, fellow Yinzer! (I live an hour south of Pgh). Thanks for your kind words about my story. 🙏

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Christy Morgan
01:56 Jan 19, 2024

A suspenseful read...one that had me on edge. My fave line: He looked up through the lattice of bare limbs, a web of gnarled fingers, the indigo sky stitched with rhinestones. I'm a Scorpio too...hmmmm....

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Janet Boyer
15:34 Jan 19, 2024

Oh thanks! (I'm a Scorpio, too. 🤭 So is my husband!)

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Christy Morgan
15:52 Jan 19, 2024

The best zodiac sign! :)

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Janet Boyer
16:01 Jan 19, 2024

Absolutely! 😄

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Mary Bendickson
15:27 Jan 18, 2024

Lots of suspense. Lots of imagery. An enlightened dark piece.

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Janet Boyer
21:39 Jan 18, 2024

Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment! 🙏

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Candace Augsten
22:41 Apr 30, 2024

Umm I need more. Is there more??

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Janet Boyer
16:57 May 01, 2024

Awww how kind! My stories are listed on my profile at https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/janet-boyer/ I'll try to write more (as I overcome my self-doubt! 😬) 🙏

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Terry Jaster
20:49 Feb 09, 2024

Wow. I never expected that ending. Very misleading but directly to the point at the end. Thank you for your story.

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Janet Boyer
23:58 Feb 09, 2024

Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment! I love writing curveball endings. 😁

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Helen A Smith
09:24 Jan 29, 2024

Really well written story.

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Janet Boyer
15:18 Jan 29, 2024

Thank you so much, Helen! 🙏

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