Horror Mystery Creative Nonfiction

Tim Porter was a simple man. Quiet, kind, caring, and hardworking.  He lived in a modest cottage in the small mountain town of Manitou Springs, Colorado with his wife of nearly 34 years, Ciara Porter. While Tim was growing up in southern California with his parents who had recently emigrated from Venezuela, Ciara was being raised in an orphanage, learning about her Indigenous ancestors of the Sioux Tribe. Since Ciara was usually a well-behaved child, her older brother could visit her often to tell her about their parents who had been killed while protesting for Native American’s right to vote. Tim has always been fascinated by her family’s strong and courageous history and would often tell her she grew to become just as brave, as if it were embedded in her genes. Tim was a quiet child; the youngest of 7. His parents taught them all to keep their head down and not make trouble, a warning he kept in the back of his head his whole life. Tim never minded his quiet way of living. Ciara being a county prosecutor was plenty of excitement for him. Their friends have always known them to be the perfect couple, and while Ciara insisted there’s no such thing, that all healthy relationships romantic or otherwise are perfect in their own right, Tim always silently agreed with them. Ciara always found it strange that Tim woke up every morning thanking God aloud that he was fortunate enough to still be with the love of his life, but she never denied him his faith and would let him happily believe he married the absolute perfect human.

Every morning was exactly the same for him, and that Saturday was no different. Ciara had left for work for the day. Knowing it would be another long day for her, Tim decided to deep clean the house, starting with the attic. Tim never kept things in the attic. If there was an item they no longer used, he would donate it to the local thrift store as soon as he had the time. He hadn’t gone into the attic in years and never knew Ciara to go up there either. It must be extremely dusty, possibly filled with insects, he thought. After first cleaning the finished basement, living room, and kitchen, he ventured up the pull-down, foldable stairs.

“They aren’t as dusty as I thought they would be,” Tim remarked to himself as she stepped on the first step of the rickety wooden structure. Shrugging it off, he continued to the top and pulled the lightbulb’s dangling string. He let his eyes adjust to the light before he noticed something odd about the room. A lone picture frame next to a rectangular object covered with a once-white sheet with footprints leading up to them, placed deliberately underneath the one small window. Curiously eyeing the two items, he approached them following the footprints. Tim reached for the sheet, surprisingly clean, and whisked it away to reveal a large dark blue trunk, with gold metal accents. Fancy, he thought, but what is this for? He stared and pondered for a minute, coming to his conclusion that Ciara must be hiding something in here, specifically an anniversary gift. Their 34th was coming up in a few days, after all. Filled with excitement, Tim overeagerly reached out to open the trunk, but it wouldn’t budge. Locked tight, he thought. Thinking quickly, he went through all the possible areas Ciara could hide such a key. Before heading down to the spots he thought of, a ray of sunlight bounced off the picture frame. Looking closely at it for the first time, Tim realizes there’s a photo inside, one that shows him and Ciara many years ago in hiking clothes on a scenic mountain side, one of the shortest in the Rockies. Immediately remembering the events of that day 34 years ago, he pulled out his phone and texted Ciara.

“Hey sweetie, do you remember that day 34 years ago when we went on that hiking trip?”  Tim put his phone back in his pocket and proceeded to wander the house, checking every nook and cranny for the trunk key. Ciara responded to his text with the exact date of the trip. Tim looked at his phone puzzled, since she usually is terrible with remembering specific dates.

“How do you remember the date?”  Ciara left him on read.  He texted again, “Never mind, but do you remember what happened?”  Tim enjoyed the memory quite a bit, as it was one of the more romantic trips they took. At the time, they were 10 months into their relationship.

Tim started to remember as he moved from the basement to search the first floor. It was a fall day, with the most beautiful array of colorful trees encompassing the whole valley and hiking trails, while just the right temperature for plenty of people to be out on the mountain.  Tim rented one of the cabins towards the peak for them to spend the weekend at. The hiking trail they took was one of the easier ones that overlooked a large lake that the state maintained so well it still looked the same as it did back then in 1979. They passed by many people, and even a few dogs. Ciara was excited as they passed a group of high school students. They prompted her to reminisce of the days when she had gone on class hikes in the mountains. Tim recalled how she suddenly got worried for forgetting her water bottle a few minutes later. Tim didn’t mind, however. He wasn’t as athletically inclined as Ciara, so he opted to stay on one of the benches to watch the lake while she headed back to the car. There were a few joggers out on the trail, and even some mountain climbers. As they reached the cabin, Ciara informed Tim sheepishly how she didn’t know they would be staying the weekend, and reminded him that they had put their trash bags in the trunk, since the area was close by to the county garbage dump.

“Don’t worry, sweetie, you can go take those to the dump while I get the cabin ready,” Tim said while he removed her backpack and handed her the car keys. While she was gone, he prepared a romantic dinner for the two of them, complete with red wine, cheesecake dessert, and a little diamond ring. Tim was so happy when she returned and surprised him fancy watch, as she told him it was last-minute for the surprise weekend getaway.

After a few hours of determined searching, Tim found the key hidden, taped to the bottom of the nightstand on Ciara’s side of the bed. He thought of how clever she always was as he removed it. Thoroughly excited, he rushed back up to the attic to open the dark blue anomaly. Tim stuck the key in the metal lock and twisted until he heard a beautiful little click. He enthusiastically opened the trunk to find a bunch of odd trinkets, small boxes, and some coin purses.  He looked at them confused.  They didn’t seem like an anniversary gift, alone or together. Nor did they seem like memorabilia of Ciara’s. Tim had never seen any of these items before. 4 watches, 5 coin purses, 3 small boxes, 2 bracelets, 4 necklaces, a letterman jacket, 8 scrunchies, even a purple heart medal and a kid’s jump rope.  Tim felt uncomfortable as the room darkened, but he continued investigating the trunk’s contents. He found 7 rings in one of the boxes, 12 ID cards in another, and 9 sets of keys in the last box.  At the bottom of the trunk were newspaper clippings about the discovery of the bodies of 13 people. Tim’s heart sank. After reading the newspaper articles, he took the coin purses out and carefully opened one before yelling and dropping it back into the trunk. They all were filled with several sets of human teeth of varying sizes.

Tim looked back at the newspaper clippings and read the dates of each. Altogether, Tim realized they were about the deaths and discovery of 13 people: 6 women, 6 men, and a child.  A wave of horror flooded his body as he recognized the day of the hiking trip back in 1979 as the same day a high school couple and a female jogger went missing, and the discovery of a male’s body in the local dump, which was beaten beyond recognition.  Tim rapidly flashed back to that day again. Everything has changed now.  He picked out the high school couple from the group of students on a class hiking trip. After they passed, Ciara remembered she forgot her water bottle in the car.  She took over an hour to return, yet he never questioned her. He recalled a female jogger stopping at the cliff to tie her shoe while Tim left Ciara to go into the outhouse nearby for a few minutes.  Then they reached the cabin. And Ciara left to take what she called “trash” to the dump a few miles away while he stayed at the cabin and prepared a romantic dinner for the two of them, complete with red wine, a cheesecake dessert, and a little diamond ring.  Ciara came back with a gift for him.  A fancy watch without its original packaging.  Or any packaging.

Suddenly Tim heard the front door opened, and Ciara called out for him.  Tim panicked and threw everything haphazardly back into the trunk and locked it. Thinking fast, he rushed down to the upstairs bathroom, locked the door and turned the shower on. A few minutes later, Ciara knocked on the door.

“Hey, when you’re done in there let’s watch a movie and order Chinese.” In the absence of his response, Ciara turned to head downstairs.  Tim’s mind was racing with his options: leave her and never mention the trunk; call the police and report her as the infamous Rocky Mountain Serial Killer who has been inactive for 23 years; or pretend like nothing ever happened. Like those 13 people never existed. Tim didn’t know them, what difference would it make? I can’t, he thought, that’s wrong. He loved Ciara, even still after finding the trunk. He knew what he wanted to do.

           Tim briefly showered the dust off him and changed into clean clothes. As he walked to the top of the stairs, he saw Ciara at the bottom, standing at the island in the kitchen, looking down at a menu for the local Chinese restaurant. He jogged down the stairs and approached her, reaching out to give her a hug but stopped dead in his tracks as he saw the knife she was holding.

“You cleaned today,” Ciara said, smiling. “Thank you for doing that, you know I love when the house is clean.”

“I do.” Tim searched her face for any hint, any indication of what she was thinking. Then it hit him.

           He didn’t fold the stairs back up.

“But you missed a spot,” she said, turning to face him and slowly dropping her smile, “the attic.”

“Ciara, what’s in the attic is none of my business. Now, what do you want to order tonight?”

 “No, it is your business.” She started walking toward him. “You made it your business when you opened my trunk.”

“It’s not-”

“You won’t even let me explain, you just rather write it off like it’s nothing? Like I never did anything? Where are your morals?”

“Where are my morals?  You killed 13 people, Ciara. One of them was just a 9 year old kid. A damn child!”

“Yet you came down here like you were willing to pretend you never saw it? Like nothing ever happened?”

“Yes,” Tim almost whispered, starting to cry. Ciara stared at him, completely baffled.


“Because I love you.” In that moment, Ciara’s eyes began to change and her body started shaking. A wave of tears flowed from them both. Tim walked forward. Ciara started to break down.

“Don’t, I can’t-” Ciara’s words were stopped short as Tim let out a sharp gasp from the pain. “I don’t have control over it…” Tim lightly grabbed at her small wrist and looked down at their wedding rings. He knew he wouldn't be able to ask her why. He knew he would never get closure. Would the victims' families ever get closure? Or justice? Even as the blood dripped, one question still remained for Tim.  The question Ciara asked rang in repetition in his head as tears continued to stream down her terrified face.

“Do you still love me?”

“More than anything,” he said, hugging her and forcing the knife farther in.  “More than anything in the world.”

October 03, 2020 03:28

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