“Mommy, Daddy” a little girl called out gleefully as she bounded down the stairs. Her parents stood smiling in the kitchen as their daughter rushed towards them. “Hello kiddo,” her father said, ruffling her messy brown hair as she wrapped them in a hug.
He lifted his coffee to his lips taking a leisurely sip. “Anything on your mind?” he queried. The girl let out a little giggle. “I dunno,” she said in an innocent tone while leaning against a nearby chair.
The father let a little grin show. “Your mother and have been talking and we think going to that new amusement park a few cities over would be a sterling way to spend the day. Do you agree?”. “Uhuh,” the girl said, nodding her content.
“Can we get cake?” the little girl asked, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Now why would we get cake?” her father asked, his smile stretching further across his face. It’s all he can do not to laugh as the look of shock and mild hurt crossed his daughter’s face.
“Because” the girl pouted, placing her hands on her hips. “It’s today”. Keeping up his game the father asked; “What makes today warrant a cake?”. The girl glared daggers at him. “Because. It. Is. TODAY” she said tilting her head back and throwing her arms in the air in an overly dramatic motion.
The father, still trying to keep his game going responded with- “Yesterday was yesterday’s today, but you didn’t want a cake then. Why is that?”. His daughter just stood there staring at him as if contemplating if her father was actually a moron before waving him off. “Don’t be silly daddy,” she said. “I wanted cake then too, but I waited for today”. “Oh,” her father said. “Why is that?”.
The girl looked as if she were about to throw a hissy fit, with good reason too. The look on her face was too much. The father can’t help it. He burst out laughing. The girl was not amused. She stood in front of him impatiently tapping her foot against the tiled floor, her arms crossed and her face scrunched up in a scowl. She looked like he just ruined Christmas or better yet; her birthday.
“Honey,” the girl’s mother said in a scolding tone as her husband began to calm. “It’s about time that you stop messing with our daughter”. “Come on dear. You can’t tell me you didn’t find it at all humorous” the father said. The mother shook her head but was given away when the smirk that she had been trying to suppress came to light even if for only a few seconds. Even she had to admit, to herself at least, that her husband's little game was a little, emphasis on little, bit funny.
The mother then turned her attention back to her rather confused daughter. “What's funny?” she asked, looking more confused than a chameleon in a bag of skittles. “Just your father's joke, sweetheart” the mother replied running a hand through her hair. “And that is?” the girl questioned. The mother sighed, shaking her head, a slight smile held on her face. She reached for something hidden behind the table. Bringing her hand back into view she revealed a shiny cone-shaped object: a birthday hat. “Happy birthday sweetheart”.
The girl sat in the right passenger seat happily swinging her legs and humming along to a tune broadcast over the radio as the car sped along the freeway. She was excited, she was not gonna try to hide it. Anyone who saw her would have been able to tell by the glint in her eyes and the wide smile plastered across her face.
She was supposed to spend the weekend with her parents doing whatever she wanted. Why wouldn’t she be excited? It's a dream come true. Her parents were always so immersed in their work that she seldomly got to spend a substantial amount of time with either of them let alone both of them. Now to her utter elation, she would get to enjoy a full weekend with them.
This is going to be the best birthday yet. Or so she thought…
As the car slowed, having already exited the freeway, the girl turned her attention to the buildings and people around the streets. Each was unique having its or their own style. Tall or short, bright or dull, intricate or plain, none were quite the same. The girl smiled to herself. She had always liked looking upon the many different forms of self-expression that could be found in the area. Even when some people are a bit...strange ...about it she thought as she noticed a person who seemed to be attempting to blend into the shadows of the ally in which he stood.
The figure seemed to be tall though it was hard to tell from the way they were leaning. The figure wore a large black trench coat that concealed his frame and a fedora of the same color obscured their face.
The girl found their behavior peculiar, but didn't mention it, after all; people are free to express themselves however they please as long as it brings no harm to those around them.
Oh, how she’d regret that conclusion... Oh, how she’d regret it….
The girl hopped out of the car with so much vigor that she nearly hit her head on the door frame. “Easy there kiddo,” her father said, closing the door behind her. “Don’t want to hurt that pretty little head of yours now do you?”. “I know” the girl replied. “I’m just excited”. “I’m glad,” the father said. “But don’t you think you should save your excitement for the resort?”. “Why? Don’t you want me to be excited, daddy?”. “Hey, now kiddo. Of course, I want you to be excited, but I also want you to be conscious when we get there”. “What do you mean by conscious?'' the girl asked. “I mean not unconscious” her father replied.
The girl’s eyes started to search the parking lot. Seeing nothing appropriate to chuck at her father's head she corrected herself. “I meant why would I be unconscious”. “From all that excited bouncing causing you to hit that pretty little head of yours”.
Before the girl could respond her mother called out to them. “If you need to use the bathroom do it now. This car isn’t stopping until we reach the resort”. She patted the car before continuing. “I’ll be inside getting some snacks. Any request?”. She waited for a moment. “No?”. Another moment. “Well just don’t come complaining to me if you don't like what I got. Got it?”. “Yes, mom” the girl replies. That being confirmation enough both parents head off towards the gas station. The girl turned towards the car preparing to climb back in when something caught her eye. Was that...No… It isn’t right? She shook her head before turning back to where she thought she saw the figure. Nothing remained there other than a broken gas pump. Did she imagen it? Maybe…?
She shook her head again looking back at the old gas pump. Still no. She sighed then turned back to the car opening the door, sliding in, and closing it with a click.
She picked up a nearby magazine with the intent to start reading but froze before she could even take note of the title.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw them. The figure from early was creeping out from behind the old gas pump. But why she thought. What reason would they have for hiding behind a broken gas pump? Maybe they weren't hiding but instead, they dropped something behind it and went to pick it up. But how could they have dropped something back there if they weren't behind it in the first place? Also. Why are they so intent on hiding themself. I can't even discern their gender. Maybe they're hiding something.
The girl pivoted her head to see nothing other than the broken gas pump and a crushed soda can. For a moment she wondered if the can was there before then not yet having properly pondered it another more mundane thought crossed her mind. Maybe there is no figure in black, and that it was nothing more than a figment of her so-called ‘overactive imagination’.
She was about to go into a whole mental spiel about how that theory was actually just a hypothesis, a weak one at that, she had no real evidence either way. Her thoughts were abruptly cut off by; “We got slushies”. And with that, all thoughts of the black-clad figure were cast away not to return until the fateful night ahead.
The remainder of the drive went by in a flash. When the family arrived they quickly checked in, raced to their room, and fought over the bathroom. Apparently gulping down jumbo slushies before embarking on a decently long car ride wasn’t such a great idea after all.
After that, the day was on. Games, junk food, and rides galore. It was an absolute blast.
They stuffed their faces with all sorts of delicious ‘delicacies’; aka junk food; soft and sweet cotton candy, savory ice cream, freshly baked pretzels, powdery and very sticky elephant ears, and butterfly chips with everything on them. They could thank the universe for their high metabolisms otherwise they would have put on some serious weight, not that it would have mattered.
After splurging on the food they had the ‘bright’ idea to start off for one of the spinning rides, you know, one of the ones shaped like a UFO that practically glues all but the show-offs with too much time on their hands to the wall.
The girl barely had time to reach a nearby trash can before emptying the contents of her stomach into the bin. Then, as if nothing happened, they moved onto roller coasters.
After hours of rides, they set off towards the games section. They played almost every game they came across nailing almost everyone. Those bottles didn’t stand a chance. They were doomed from the moment they came into view. The balloons? That’s another story completely.
Everything but the balloons were hit by darts. The people at the booths even had to dodge a few. The girl even hit a plushie puppy square between the eyes. Luckily for her, the nice lady at the stand didn’t mind almost being impaled on several occasions and even decided to take pity on the girl after witnessing her doleful expression by gifting her the puppy plushie -dart included-.
The little girl was exuberant with delight over the gift. She promised she’d keep that plushy forever. And to this day she has, her reminder of the ecstasy before the horror that had befallen them that night.
As night fell and the moon rose higher in the sky the family worked their way back to their hotel stopping for final rides along the way. Each time the father would say “We can always come back tomorrow”. Little did he know that there would be no tomorrow. Not for him at least.
By the time they finally make it back to the hotel they are exhausted and in need of a night's sleep. None, not even the little girl noticed the figure garbed in black standing towards the rear of the lobby. No. They just walked straight past and into the elevator.
The figure turned to them knowing they had not noticed his presence. Soon, he thought, soon he would accomplish what they came to finish. And, he thinks reflecting back to the occasions where he’d seen the girl today, he will get rid of any loose ends. A smile, a mixture of melancholy and pleasure, makes its way onto his face. “It’s time” he whispers, slipping off into the shadows of the stairwell.
Having slid the key card across the lock the door swings open. Without a thought, the girl took a running start flopping on the bed fully clothed, shoes and all. Sweetheart, don’t you think it would be a good idea to take your shoes off first, and maybe change?” her mother asked. The girl responded with a “Nuh” which was muffled by the blankets.
She expected a response, but all she got was an unnerving silence. Sensing something was wrong she lifted her head turning to her parents. Their faces were whiter than the sheets. “Mommy? Daddy? What’s wrong?” the little girl asked. They didn’t even look at her. No. Their eyes were fixed on the door, or more accurately, the figure who stood within its frame.
The girl directed her eyes to match their gaze and stunned at the sight of the figure in black brandishing a firearm of sorts at them, let out a little gasp.
“Who are you and what do you want?” the father demanded. The figure let out an ironic laugh. “What’s funny?” the father demanded. “You really don’t remember me, huh?” the figure said. “It’s funny that I spent all this time waiting for the perfect chance for revenge and you don’t even so much as recognize an old friend,” the figure said tossing his hat to the floor revealing the man beneath, Edward Smith.
This time the parents are the ones to gasp, the mother burst into tears and the father was unable to meet his eyes. This man who they had once been so close to, this man who they had caused so much pain, this man was here for revenge.
“Uncle Ed?” the girl said in a questioning tone. He turned towards her. “Ah yes, this must be your daughter, your pride and joy, your everything” his voice cracked on the last word blinking back tears. “The first to die” he whispered, raising the gun to her head. “A child for a child”. Before her parents even have the chance to react there was a click and a boom.
She falls to the floor her whole world hazy. She could vaguely make out the sound of two more shots fired before blacking out.
It must have only been a few hours when she opened her eyes again. At first, she wasn’t aware of what happened, but then she saw them and all memories of the previous day came flooding back. “No. No” she cried. “Don’t leave me, you can’t leave me. Wake up! You can’t be dead. You can’t”.
She grabbed her father's corpse, shaking him trying to wake him up, but he wouldn’t, nothing could be done. He was dead. She tried the same with her mother. The results were the same. They were gone.
It was in the moment of realization that followed that she decided what she'd do with her life. She would prevent this scenario from ever happening again. But first, she would have to survive the remainder of her youth.
20 years. It’s been 20 years and I still recognize his face. I have dealt with many of his type over the years I have been on the team, but I could never forget his face. He is the one who killed them.
He stands before me armed with nothing more than a handgun and knife. He fires a shot at me. It goes through my stomach, but I don’t notice. He fires again and again, firing wildly as I move closer to him.
Eventually, he empties the magazine. He tosses the gun aside drawing his blade. I don’t flinch as he charges me. I don’t flinch as he sinks the knife into my flesh. I don’t flinch as he screams for me to die.
“What are you?” he pants about to retreat. I don’t let him. In a swift motion, I twist the knife out of his hand and grab his wrists with the other. I then slam him against the wall.
“It’s not what am I you should be asking, it’s who am I”. He narrows his eyes at me. “Who are you?” he asks.
I let out a little chuckle. “What’s funny” he demands. “You really don’t remember me, huh?” I say copying the words he said on that fateful night. He looks confused. “It’s funny that I spent all this time waiting for the perfect chance for revenge and you don’t even so much as recognize me,” I say deviating from his words slightly at the end.
From his expression, I can tell he recognizes the words. “A bit ironic isn’t it Uncle Ed”. That did it. His eyes widened. C-c-c-Cora? You're alive? “Yes,” I say flatly. He looks to the knife in my hand and then to me. “I’m sorry,” he says in a hushed voice. “I had to,” he says “And if given the option I’d do it again, just without involving you. They…they are the reason my son died. They deserved to die. You didn’t”
Before I can decide whether I should console him or lecture him he says something that catches me off guard “Do it” he whispers. “Wha-” he lunges at me. I react, drawing my hands forward to stop him.
He stands still in front of me, a knife embedded into his heart. He smiles at me wheezing with his hast breaths “Thank- you” before falling to the ground motionless.
A tear rolls down my cheek. It may seem strange, but he was an important part of my life. Seeing him dead wasn’t what I wanted, but deep down inside I know it’s what he wanted ever since the death of his own son.
At least he can be at peace and I can too. This is not an end, but a new beginning. I will live on with new purpose.