It should have mattered whether she was alive or not. It should have, but I didn’t see it that way. All I saw and all I felt was grateful, pleased, ecstatic; I was finally witnessing something that people only wrote about. I only wrote about. 

Then came the ideas, flooding into my head, little bursts of the blood spilling down her chin, and hand, pale and crooked. I was happy, and I was desperate to get out of the woods and back to my cabin before I forgot all of these beautiful scenes. 

I began to mutter to myself the little words I knew I’d forget, unaware of where I should’ve stumbled, walking left and right, trying to get past her body.

Maybe she grabs onto my ankle, maybe I shout and flounder about, arms waving, screaming bloody murder--or maybe she’ll roll, crick her neck, and sit up, dead as the night, but moving towards me. The thoughts were splendid in my mind, wicked and terrifying. A best-seller, I could smell it. 

There my cabin sat, quiet and peaceful, smelling of gingerbread; dear Diana must have been baking. The mutterings never left my breath, the scent of blood never leaving my head. Was it in my mind that I was leaving dark, wet footprints in my wake? Anyhow, the forest smelled so rich during this time. I wondered if I walked off of the gravel path and back into the woods, could I come up with even more brilliant thoughts? If I just kept muttering them to myself, I wouldn’t forget. How good it would feel to write these all down! 

A best-seller! I could smell it! 

I walked back over her body, I could swear it twitched in response. Her rich, hazel hair splayed over the gravel just a bit, so I pursed my lips and pushed it back into the bend of the dirt. What happens in the woods should stay in the woods. 

Just as I suspected, my thoughts were correct. The scent of green grass and the breeze of fresh air brought that tingle to my spine. Oh, the scenes were flooding in now. For my latest novel, she’d be a pale white woman with rich, hazel hair. The grass would be bright and green. 

Then out of nowhere, I had a sudden lurking feeling. I was grateful immensely! Pleased, ecstatic! This was the feeling I’d only written about. Someone was following me. Was it the dead woman from the bend? Was it Diana? 

I grinned, lips curling, the harsh hairs of my moustache were tickling my lip. Then, out of the woods, a large man came through, his bright, unyielding flashlight marking my face and blinding my eyes. “Goodness me,” I huffed, shutting my eyes. “What’s all this about?” And I couldn’t help but smile, still in that feeling of inspiration.

“You’re under arrest.” The man said, and then there was more rustling in the woods. His friends, out to get me. 

I gasped, eyes wide, only to be met by that blinding light once more. “But for what, dear me!” 

“You are under arrest, for the murders of--”

“Murder? Do you know who I am? How absurd it would be for you to even think such a thing?” I splayed a crooked hand against my old chest, a battered shield from my youth, and shook my thin face, staggering backward. 

“Is that...Percy Edwards?” One of the officers murmured. 

“Why yes! It’s me!” 

“The crime novelist? How ironic.” He said. 

I started to run. I ran right away from them, wondering how strange it would be for a man of my age to run from the cops. How startling it would seem to someone looking in, a little old man, frail and confused, mind full of thoughts. Then that smell returned. 

Suddenly, before I could even think of where it was coming from, I found myself stumbling, left, right, then right over a big lump in the woods. I fell on my face, too hard, too dangerous. My head started to spin. The log I fell over started to look like another body. 

Then my chest started to freeze. I was dying! I’d been killed! A world-famous murder mystery writer found dead in the woods. That would be a best-seller! How ironic! It’s me! 

I turned my crooked old head to the side as the beatings of my heart came and left too slowly. The thumps of the officers chasing me with their hounding flashlights and their heavy breathing and their scent-tracking dogs came closer and closer. These were my woods, they were in. 

I wondered about Diana, and how she would feel when she found another body in the woods the next morning. At least this time Diana would not panic when she read about that same body in my manuscript the next week. Dear, sweet Diana. She is in every book, and the readers always suspect her. 

Still, those eager feelings enveloped me as I waited for the scent of my new book to calm, as I listened to the panting of the police as they tried to find me. My typewriter sounded like rain when I really got into it. I could imagine it now, the rain pounding down as I wrote away. Her hand, crooked, pale, in the dust of the morning it was startling, out of nature, and yet, so much of the opposite as well. Yes, yes! The dirt under my face smelled thick and sweet. The soil of a new body, a new story waiting to be written.

Who will be the culprit, this time? My excitement couldn’t be contained. I began to mutter and mutter, worried if I stayed here, waiting too long for death, that the moment would disappear, that the lightbulb would evaporate, that the scent wouldn’t linger.

Then I saw, in the distance, an old shoe I thought I’d lost so many years ago. 

Yes, I think it was during an old walk I took in these woods, probably ten years ago, when I was thinking of ideas for my first novel. How funny it is that we are reunited now, during my time of death. I continued to mutter, reading aloud the lines in my head. I was desperate not to lose such a best-selling thought. As I reached out for the shoe, in the light of the moon, I saw the old dried stains of blood still there. Even from so many years ago, they remained. Beautiful!

The thrills of inspiration really came at any moment! They came from nowhere! 

Now that the night had really fallen, I tilted my chin, keeping the blood from my head from trickling into my eyes, and I looked at the moon, so bright and whimsical and mysterious still. With bodies lying in the dirt. Crooked. Pale. In the morning, my scene would come to life. I looked down at the person that I’d fallen over. His face was tilted up, eyes sunken in. If he was real, he had been dead for days. What a crooked old mind this old man had! Thinking logs were people, thinking people were stories. 

If he was real though, it would be quite interesting. To be killed by a dead person. Although, it seems that would be the most fitting way for me to go. Then I heard shouts coming from behind me. 

I squeezed my eyes shut and dropped my head. The people out there sounded terrifying, like they were fighting. Whoever was out there would probably have mercy on a tired old man like me!

Still it was the perfect scene. I reminded myself to be grateful of the chance. After years of writing fiction, I finally got to witness something of it myself. I’d never felt anything like this before! 

Ah, who knew the scent of best-sellers was always blood? 

Maybe Dear Sweet Diana would find me here. The police wouldn’t be able to, I knew this much. After all, what happened in the woods had always stayed in the woods. 

In the morning, my head was pounding with pain, the foggy remnants of a lost night drifting in the air. Suddenly, like a loud bell, inspiration struck! A woman with rich, hazel hair, laying in the bend of an old forest, dead. I saw her there lying, in my head, saw her as if she were real! Inspiration comes from nowhere. It’s quite a fascinating thing.

I walked back to my cabin, stepping over the big log I must have tripped on last night. It was quite large. I’m surprised to be alive, an old man like me, suffering a fall like that. There must have been something that cushioned the blow. As I walked, I noticed a flashlight in the dirt, still shining brightly. I left it there, kindly, worried someone else had lost it and would come back searching. Then I saw a shiny, gold badge sparkling in the sunlight. 

But just as I reached the bend of the woods, I saw something startling, especially in the dust of the morning, something so out of nature, something I'd never seen before. There was an arm sticking out of the dirt, bent at the wrist, blood dried down. With a panic, I turned down the path, startled. Though part of me did feel a little amused, grateful even, to have witnessed something so terrifying for once in my life! How fitting for a murder mystery writer like me!

Finally out of the woods, I reached my cabin with a smile. Dear Diana was sitting in the library, I saw her through the window. She looked out at me with a tired smile, eyes crooked and bright. 

When I came in through the door, I just had to tell her. “My dear, I’ve done it again!” I exclaimed. “I’ve come up with another best-seller. I just know this one will be fantastic.” 

Diana smiled at me, sipping her tea. “They always are, Percy.” She chuckled in her old, warbling voice.

“Oh, and heavens, I saw something shocking in the bend of the forest this morning! I woke up there, must have hit my head…” I said, crossing my arms. 

Diana sighed. “Kind Percy, you must be hallucinating again.” She said in her sweet, sweet voice. “I put your pills on the table. Be sure to take them.” She grinned.

“Of course, you’re right.” Just like that, Dear Diana always knew how to make me feel better. She set down her cup and showed me what she was reading. My last book in her leathery hands, The Murder Of Trent Clarence. It was a best-seller! Behind her, in our library, there were just hundreds more of my books. They all did splendidly, it was why we could afford to come to this cabin every year.

“There’s something about this place, Diana.” I told her. “Every year, I always find another story.” 

Diana’s eyes were warm. “You should take me more places then, Percy.” She said, lifting up her cup once more, smiling behind the rim. “Maybe then, all your stories wouldn't be in the same forest.”

June 18, 2020 21:14

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