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Mystery Thriller Suspense

I assumed it was a typo.

But then I’m paid not to make assumptions, so I shelved that badly educated guess of mine and fiddled with something that might resemble an open mind, rereading the note that had been written in headache-inducing handwriting that was not at all helped by the gaudy red ink. The ink was from a fountain pen, smudged here and there just in case I wasn’t finding the spiderlike scrawl difficult enough to decipher as it was.

We need you to find the owner of this dairy.

That was what the note said.

Then it gave an address of what was very likely to be a farm. The top line of the address said Green Farm, which led me to believe that I was likely to find a farm if I were to visit this address. Sometimes, parts of my job were easy. Those parts made me feel uneasy, just so I didn’t fall into a false sense of security.

I was caught between the literal meaning of the note and the obvious and more likely alternative. Caught, because although I have to employ an open mind in order to successfully ply my trade, the prospect of reuniting a diary with its owner filled me with something approaching nothing, but it was greyer and far more boring than nothing.

A dairy however? 

The last time I’d ventured out of town, my nose had bled, and for once, this was not as a result of a fist or improvised weapon connecting with it in a way that I ceased to appreciate a long time ago. For me, the countryside was a concept that belonged in frames on other people’s walls.

There were five thousand reasons why I would take up the challenge and reunite dairy or diary with its owner. I counted them a second time. There was something persuasive about the feel of the notes as I stroked each and every one, making sure there weren’t any sticking to their buddy in an attempt to hide from my grubby mitts. Even with five thousand of them, the prospect of an extra twenty was too alluring for me to slack with the meticulous audit of my new found funds.

I dropped most of the notes back in the envelope they had been kipping in, but not before checking the inside and out of the envelope for anything else that might make my life easier. Or harder. Most of my discoveries are laced with pain and confusion, or at least that’s what I experience with each and every new discovery. My existence is a Lego strewn barefoot journey.

The envelope was blank and non-descript. If it had a secret, then it was good at keeping it. As I opened the safe my left hand was reluctant to let go of all that money. I didn’t blame it. We could do a lot of good with that money. Charity begins at home, but with a wad of dosh like this, I could take her out on the tiles too. Charity would be amenable to a great many things if I flashed this sort of cash in her direction.

Part of the envelope gave up its day job as I threw it into my empty safe. The cash was pushing outwards, but it was the gum that had let go. The envelope was old, but not so old to have liver spots. I eyed the contents of the safe and then I removed a few more notes. I’d have to restock that safe with three bottles of malt. Three was the magic number. Two spares to cover all contingencies.

Next stop was a shop.

I had money and I wanted to reacquaint myself with how to use it. Also, I happened to know that in the extensive kit stowed in the boot of my conspicuously anonymous car, there were no wellington boots. I glanced down at my battered shoes. Wallpapering them with cow dung would be a marked improvement. All the same, I bought some wellies and I threw them in the boot of my car before clambering in and negotiating with the ignition switch several times before it did its job, grudgingly.

As I drove out of town, I forgot about my wellies, just as I knew I would. The boot of my car was a cave of treasure that I added to from time to time, but withdrawals were rare. Were this motor of mine to give up the ghost, I would not decant its contents to an equally battered and decrepit car. Instead I would abandon it as was and begin again, stowing items within. I tried not to look at the footwell. Somewhere at the bottom of the sea of litter were wrappers and boxes of a vintage that would evoke memories of forty somethings’ first forays into obesity. The footwell stared at me with reproach and malevolence. It was lonely and I hadn’t even said hello.

We travelled in an uneasy silence, the footwell and I. There was nothing to fill the silence. The stereo had eaten one of my favourite CDs and the radio wasn’t playing ball either. Possibly due my removing the aerial two years back when I was in need of something to point with. I pointed out the error of a scrote’s ways and eventually he got the point and ran off. The aerial now sat in the boot, with the wellies and an assortment of handy items that would never again see my hand.

Green Farm was a farm. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. Then I asked myself what the hell I was doing bringing feelings into the game? I knew why, but I wasn’t telling, not beyond the unease I felt at being in an isolated location that smelt of manure with an undertow of cheese. I mean, I know cheese comes from cows, but why they have to advertise this fact via the aroma of their shit is both a mystery and an annoyance to me.

I stepped gingerly out of the car. Then I got over myself and stepped just the same as I do in town. The ground may have been a little more uneven and slightly more dirty in places, but it did the same job. I had to quit messing around and focus.

So, I focused on the open door. The door was open and although it was at the front of the house, it was the poorer cousin of the door at the other end of this aspect of the farmhouse, so it was a back door and it was a back door that had seen better times. The green pain that had stuck around wasn’t going to do so for much longer, it was peeling away and abandoning the wood underneath to the elements.

The door opened onto a farmhouse kitchen. That was to say the kitchen was old and tired and devoid of anything that could be referred to as a modern appliance. There were no crumbs on the roughly hewn table. I thought that was slack. Whoever had dressed this room had missed a trick.

What was on the table in place of the obligatory knife, chopping board and crumbs, was a book and upon the book was a black rose. 

Open door.

Black rose.

The game was afoot, but there wasn’t a Doctor Watson in the house. I could sense that sort of thing. The place was as quiet as a church. If anyone was here, there’d been given an open burial. Or not, as the case may be.

I lifted the black rose, careful to avoid the thorns. I greeted them as I held the flower in the dust filled air and turned it this way, but not that. One thorn to another, I half expected them to give me a pointer, but they weren’t talking.

I don’t know why, maybe it was because no one had given me flowers before, but I found a white enamelled jug, filled it with water and placed the jug in the middle of the table. The rose looked completely out of place in that jug. 

I knew exactly how it felt.

I dragged a chair back from the table, the sound of the legs of the chair scraping the floor was a violation. It was done now and I had no way of taking it back. Sitting on the chair and finding it to be sturdier and steadier than it looked, I picked up the book.

I’d known it for what it was as soon as I’d seen it. 

This was the diary, and it was sitting in the midst of the dairy. I made the deductive leap that were I to find the owner of the diary, then I would most likely find the owner of the dairy. Better still, I’d not have to take that extra, dairy step, and my shoes might just avoid a new coating of patent cow manure.

Something made me place my palm on the front cover of the diary. That something was the cover itself. I’d seen leather bound books before, but this wasn’t like anything I’d seen. This was old and had evidently darkened over time. The colour was now approaching a mahogany, as though it had been varnished a number of times over the years. Seeing my hand juxtaposed with the cover I intuitively knew that the original colour was not dissimilar to the flesh of my hand.

Flesh.

I removed my hand from the cover, half expecting to reveal a nipple or even an eye. I wanted to be wrong. I wanted this to be a macabre facsimile constructed with pig skin. A goth’s Summer project, made in a black painted bedroom and with a looping soundtrack of The Smiths polluting the air.

I knew my wish was blowing away, in the cool draft coming through the open back door, as I glanced over at that black rose. I’d have been greeted with a bunch of daffodils if Morrisey had had anything to do with it.

Opening the book was a foregone conclusion, only, I didn’t remember doing the deed. Once open, what caught my eye was the familiar red ink. The writing was not the same. This writing was careful and deliberate and some would have thought it beautiful. There were no smudges here and every character was legible. I just wish I’d paid attention in the Latin classes I never attended.

Being as thorough as ever, I went from page to page. Each was filled with the same, neat writing and always in that red ink. Page after page of detailed entries that may have covered any expanse of time. I had no clue what any of it meant, other than they were words in a diary that was wrapped in the flesh of a someone who was probably in need of that skin right up to the point at which they were parted with it.

There were a lot of pages and each successive turn of the page came later and later. There was something about the patterns of the page that drew my eyes and then began working on what lay behind them. 

I turned more pages than that diary had any right containing and somewhere along the way I grew tired. My eyes were heavy and even as I fought it, my body resigned itself to the forthcoming sleep. I rallied and almost broke the slumber filled spell, but something grabbed me in that potential moment of transition and pulled me backwards. 

I saw her face.

I had never seen her before, but something about her spoke to a part of me that had forever lain dormant and would have forever continued in its dormancy if she had not awoken it. I saw her face and when I did, the only thing I could do was close my eyes and recapture the image of her.

When eventually I did open my eyes, it was dark and I was stiff with a cold that was not present in the room. I knew I had dreamed and there was an all too familiar feeling of arousal. I had dreamt of her, but beyond that there was only one thought.

I wanted her.

Disoriented, I looked about me for a referent point that I could grab a hold of so I could pull myself out of the chaos of my current state. The dark rose lay before me on the table and next to it was a solitary drop of blood. Then I remembered the diary, but of it there was no sign.

I grasped the edge of the table to aid my stiff and uncooperative legs as I found my feet.

“Ouch!” I gasped. That woke me up some. Who the hell says ouch? Not me, that’s for certain.

I inspected the pad of my forefinger. There was a deep cut and it was leaking beads of blood. One of them joined its sister on the table next to the rose. I must have picked that rose up in my sleep. There I was making assumptions again.

Leaving the farmhouse as I had found it, neglecting to close the ajar back door, I climbed into my derelict car and drove back down the bumpy farm track and away from that place. Only as I reached the main road did I realise I’d driven with no lights on. I switched them on then twisted the heat right up on the car’s wheezy blowers. I felt the fetid blast of air and smelt the disrepair of the engine beyond them, but the warmth did not penetrate my body. I was shivering as I entered my home. 

The usual thoughts that accompanied a return home were exiled. I kicked my shoes off and padded up the stairs to my bedroom. As I sat on the edge of the bed and pulled my clothes off, I could not remember visiting the bathroom. My mouth was numb, but I was unsure whether this was from the unwarranted attack of toothpaste. I fell back on the bed, not caring either way.

I was exhausted, but sleep did not come, and for good reason.

I closed my eyes and conjured the image of her. I did not sleep. I could not sleep. I yearned for this woman. I needed her. 

When I opened my eyes again, the room was no longer mine. The air had transformed and brought with it a presence that filled me with dread. I wanted to sit up, but I could not. It were as though an invisible demon sat upon my chest and weighed me down. I could barely breath. 

Something compelled me to turn my head to my bedside table. As I did, I fully extended my arm and stretched my hand out until it lay upon the pages of an object I’d begun to think was only imagined. As soon as my torn fingertip made contact with the blank, open page, it was enveloped and I experienced a strange sucking sensation. I could not see the page, but all the same, I knew what was happening. Suddenly the red ink made sense as I bled onto the page and the next entry in the diary was made.

I was that entry.

A shadow fell upon me and the owner of the shadow formed before my very eyes. 

“You summoned me,” she spoke in a stilted and mechanical manner, this was not her mother tongue and she had also become unaccustomed to speaking. 

“I did,” I had meant to voice a question, but I knew I had willed her here and once my finger had met the page of that flesh encased tome, the contract had been signed.

“You are mine,” her lips curled towards an approximation of a smile that became a hunger filled sneer.

I nodded. I nodded my acceptance and my understanding. 

She leaned forward and for a thrilling moment, I thought she would fulfil my dreams and my wildest fantasies. I smiled a welcome, but that smile wilted as she reached out and slipped her fingers along my forearm.

Those fingers were colder than ice. They burnt. I went rigid with the pain as she wrapped her fingers around my wrist and lifted my hand. Then there was blessed relief as she released me and the burning ceased, leaving only a beating pulse of pain where she had marked me.

Now she held that diary of hers reverentially before her, and she read. She read the most recent entry. She read the entry written in my blood and as she neared the end of page she lowered the diary.

That was when I began to scream.

*

“And when you awoke, you had a rectangle of flesh missing from your chest?”

I nodded and pointed to the dressing on the spot over my heart.

“But why?” asked Vincent.

“Why do you think?” I replied.

He shook his head and I knew he didn’t believe me. Did I need him to? I didn’t know the answer to that. All I knew was that I had to get that diary, the one that was covered in my flesh, into the hands of someone else. I needed to do it quickly. I needed to do it before she came back and took a lot more than a patch of my skin. She’d exposed my heart and she’d be back for that heart of mine in a matter of days, unless I could get someone else to write the next entry in that diary of hers.

Even then, I wasn’t sure whether she would leave me be.

Worse still, I didn’t know whether I wanted her to leave me be.

All the same, I wrote the note, and my hand trembled as I wrote it in my own blood.

May 22, 2023 09:59

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22 comments

Marty B
04:35 Jun 01, 2023

Great descriptions and I liked the pace, the slow build up and finding the diary at the dairy. This was a great fit for the prompt. The woman of his dreams turned into a nightmare. Congrats on being on Recommended list-

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Jed Cope
09:01 Jun 01, 2023

Thanks for your feedback - glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks also for letting me know I was on the recommended list - I didn't know that!

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Graham Kinross
00:03 May 31, 2023

"My existence is a Lego strewn barefoot journey,” is a brilliant line, so visual and resonating with anyone who has ever felt the bite of plastic bricks. Your story is told brilliantly, the end was difficult to interpret, but as a fan of Donnie Darko I’m used to things like that.

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Jed Cope
08:04 May 31, 2023

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, even if it risked inducing flashbacks of painful foot injuries! Endings are interesting, I seem to go against the grain in not wanting everything to be conveniently wrapped up, unless of course all the characters are wiped out unexpectedly...!

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Graham Kinross
10:01 May 31, 2023

John Dies at the End?

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Jed Cope
10:32 May 31, 2023

We all die. My stock answer to "how does it end?" is that they all die. This may mean I am a terrible person...

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Graham Kinross
10:49 May 31, 2023

Or a realist. Reminds me of the answer given in a video I saw of a man who’s been running a DnD game for 40 years. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ-ehbVQYxI&feature=youtu.be

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Jed Cope
13:59 May 31, 2023

Wow! Now there's some commitment. I liked one of the comments that included an assumption that were you to die in the game then your life in the real world ends too!

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Mary Bendickson
14:31 May 22, 2023

Your writing had me hooked. The twist had me floundering.

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Jed Cope
15:20 May 22, 2023

Floundering in a confused and yet delighted manner though...?

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Mary Bendickson
16:22 May 22, 2023

😜😁 Sometimes I get lost so foundering may be needed.🤔

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Jed Cope
16:36 May 22, 2023

Don't think I've ever got some one floundering with a twist before. Not even hit foundering!

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Tommy Goround
04:32 May 30, 2023

Yes. Voice was awesome. I just got the plot. Duh me.

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R W Mack
20:09 May 29, 2023

"My existence is a Lego strewn barefoot journey." I like seeing interesting analogies and metaphors in stories I judge and this is a nice example I hadn't expected. I like surprises. Since this story is as solid as any I've seen this round, and I swore to comment on every submission I judge, I gotta nitpick. I'll give the opening bits some love. It made me want to read more and it's where most submissions flounder. Recovering after a bad opening is hard, presuming readers stick with it, so I enjoyed a good one. To nitpick, what stuck o...

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Jed Cope
20:18 May 29, 2023

Thank you so much. That was wonderful to read and that includes the points you make where I can improve. I need to look at those contractions, they come naturally more often than not, but the the voice in my head I follow as I write sometimes goes for the long form and I pass them by on the way back passed too... I'm so glad that you enjoyed it and once again, thanks for the extensive and bob on feedback!

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Tommy Goround
04:29 May 30, 2023

Hold on... I 1) loved the voice hated the plot 2) disagree with Mac on his contraction hate. If the voice is formal, snark, few contractions. Hill billy/informal = Contraction. We were all taught to use contractions to shorten the English language in type. Suppose you want the English language to sound like it was written in voice? Now the outlet to all this: do not use the contraction when you want emphasis. Italics? Underscore? It's like using the middle name of an adult male so that the wife can dominate him. Mack always forgets the no...

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Jed Cope
08:13 May 30, 2023

Thanks for this. I think this gives me artistic licence and the wriggle room to find what works for me... Or something akin to that. Glad you loved the voice. Gutted that you hated the plot. I'm all about the plot. But then, I'm never going to please all of the people all of the time. Unless I sell my soul or something equally unpalatable. Thank you for the feedback, you've given me plenty to think about. You have...!

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R W Mack
14:27 May 30, 2023

Don't bother pleasing everyone. No one likes everyone anyways, so fuck 'em. Just write a story that pleases someone and odds are there's a niche. And I'm not from Boston, just adjacent enough to justifiably hate it. However, I do hate a lack of contractions because, in the overall, it's often less a tell of dominance than just getting words out in the weekly mad dash to get something from ephemeral headspace into tangible media, which is fucking alchemy if I ever heard it if we really consider it. I prefer contractions for two functional...

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Jed Cope
14:43 May 30, 2023

All of this has got me thinking. I can think of exceptions to the can't rule - I know people who will say that they really cannot abide the lack of contractions and they will focus and emphasise cannot in the sentence. There will naturally be regional differences and I'm a Brit, so the way we use the language differs in ways that can sometimes wrong foot us all...

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