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Crime Mystery Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

TW: suicidal thoughts, death, gory details


Madison Rydell put the roses under the faucet, pricking her thumb on one of the thorns. She reached for the scissors and cut off the ends, a sublimation of her desire to do exactly the same to one of her fingers. Snip, snip, snip. Maddie remembered what her parents’ fingers looked like when she found them, each moving with a wet crunch as she prised them from the bedsheets. How incongruously easy, she thought, it would be to chop off her fingers now, the teeth of a plier sinking into her skin. This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none

  A cattle-prod shiver of loathing ran through Maddie’s body. She could place the shocking tableau in her mind even now, a year later, down to the twist of her dad’s smile and the cold ripple of the comforter; the bluebottles batting against the window and the pyrrhic yellow of the sunlight as it washed the hideous wallpaper. Why? Why did they have to go like this? 

  But it wasn’t how they went that rankled. She had even begun to imagine the myriad ways in which she could end her own life. What bothered her more, understandably, was that the lowlifes, the murderers who bludgeoned Maddie’s sister so many times that the pathologist had to spoon her brain back into her skull, were yet to be found and brought to justice. 

  Gritting her teeth, Maddie locked and re-locked the windows three times—just to be sure. The entrance of the culprits was the only gleaming nugget of information that the initial sweep of the house had yielded: the downstairs window, and thus was an obvious focus for Maddie’s attention every time she visited. Forgetting to lock a door or a window was a mistake too devastating for Maddie to make, and a chore that was now tragically ingrained in her memory. 

  Be it cruel or comforting, she decided to secure the window for the fourth and final time, before moving upstairs, the scrape of her footfalls seeming loud in a house that was completely fleshed of its intimacy, though almost palatial in its emptiness. But it was an emptiness Maddie liked. Too long had her family home been throbbing with detectives, or prospective buyers, who Maddie soon learned had no intention of buying the house but only to tour the place where an actual murder took place. Maddie knew the house had potential: with its soaring ceilings and gleaming floors it was perfect for a double-page spread, but was coloured by an all too important, albeit complacent throwback to a not-so-distant past: the only photo Maddie had of her sister, which had begun to follow her movements like some kind of vengeful spirit. Maddie set the photo frame down, and made a mental note to restore the beaming smile back to its natural resting place on the mantel the next evening. Maddie wouldn’t sleep knowing her sister was on show like that; it was almost an invitation for more trouble. 

  Nudging open her sister’s bedroom door, which was always to remain ajar, she entered and stood exactly six inches from the bed frame. It was a practice so mundane, and so natural, that it made even something like debating which eggs to buy at the supermarket seem complicated. Maddie took comfort in remembering the clean-up of this bedroom; how terrifyingly quick it was, how thorough, how much everyone seemed to care then. Swabs were stroked, scratchy blue gloves were snapped on, and her sister’s body was placed in a body bag and wheeled away. She was too young, the pathologist would say as a matter of courtesy, his whitening fingers fumbling for one of the scalpels. Her denuded body was on a slab, her organs, like some Ancient Egyptian practice, placed on every other available sterile surface. She was too young, the pathologist would repeat as he heard one of the metal drawers clang. Far too young

  She really was, Maddie agreed. Many of her friends, ruminating on the relative age of the poor girl, came to regard Maddie as the lucky one; the one that escaped; the sole survivor. I wish I went with them, she would retort under her breath. 

  Blinking out any vision she had of her dead sister, Maddie returned the door to its ajar position and proceeded to her parents’ bedroom opposite. It was a running joke that Maddie had the better room in her family, given she slept in the attic above, elevated from the smallness of such petty rivalries. Her parents’ room was still the biggest though, and this made for a great retort. It wasn’t something Maddie wished to flaunt however; not after what happened, in this very room on Friday 9th November the previous year. 

  The bedroom spoke for itself. Bathed in a sulphurous red light - the kind one would expect to find in the deepest, darkest recesses of Amsterdam, or streaming through a Manhattan basement window, or in an abandoned gentlemen’s club, and one that matched the blood pouring out of Maddie’s mother’s mouth and onto the pillow - its crumpled crochet blankets, and frayed drapes felt nothing more than the connivances of a film director. 

  Maddie stood herself by the now-dead ficus tree, affectionately nicknamed Vincent. The yellowing plant in a room that was once sweet with the smell of rotting flesh became something of a friend to Maddie in the days following her family’s death, hence the name. Any question Maddie wanted answered, Vincent was there, unwavering in his devotion. She found it a lot more helpful than the support group her aunt recommended she go to. One of the people she met there, Travis, whose parents were sideswiped by a trailer truck while travelling south when he was just four years old, had too found his own way of coping. Something as benign as looking right and left a modest estimate of ten times every time he crossed the road looked relatively normal when put up against Maddie’s practices. 

  Snapping the drapes shut, a corrective to the fact that they remained mysteriously open on that fateful fall evening, Maddie slammed the door shut and moved to the attic. It was a room largely untouched by the forensics team, and one that Maddie made sure to painstakingly preserve. The bed was still made, the alarm clock still on its side, the pictures still askew, and the Blondie poster that whipped up every time there was a gust of wind still folded. The biosphere, set within its own hermetic bubble, had fallen into an adorable state of disrepair, its shabbiness almost cute. Maddie refused to step inside as she was in danger of messing it up; it was the closest, only tangible thing she had to her dead parents and sister. 

  Resisting a smile, Maddie gently closed the door—the announcement of the end of her nightly tour, and her boyfriend Luke’s cue: 

‘Maddie? Are you coming down?’ 

‘Just a minute!’ 

Maddie opened the drawer on the landing outside her room to find the kitchen knife she always liked keeping there. She ran her finger up and down the handle, the pleasing scrape of the blade against her soft, white skin. 

‘I’m coming now!’ Maddie shouted down to her boyfriend, replacing the knife with a wry smile, before making her way down the stairs. She found Luke at the front door. This is where he always waited when accompanying Maddie on her nightly pilgrimage to her family home. 

‘Everything okay?’ 

Feeling reassured, Maddie nodded and trailed Luke when walking out. In her own private moment, she looked to the hallway, checking everything was in place, before slamming the door on every memory the house held for the final time that evening. 

July 05, 2023 17:38

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13 comments

Denise Mauer
18:18 Jul 10, 2023

I'm a horror fan, and I love the details in this story. The hook was the piggy rhyme. Fantastic illustration of trauma-induced intrusive thoughts. It feels very real. Thanks for sharing!

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Oskar Reiss
18:22 Jul 10, 2023

wow thanks so much for reading this, denise, i really appreciate it!

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Joshua Bodwell
17:22 Jul 10, 2023

Loved this! Your storytelling is really wonderful

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Oskar Reiss
17:23 Jul 10, 2023

Ah thanks so much, Joshua!

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Oskar Reiss
14:45 Jul 06, 2023

I hope you enjoy this tale; it riffs on themes of loss, family and grief.

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Shannon C.
16:58 Jul 26, 2023

Very haunting and very dark. My very favorite! This feels like it could be built upon and fleshed out into something much larger. Definitely left me wanting to know so much more about the back story. Great read and great Job Oskar!

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Oskar Reiss
17:04 Jul 26, 2023

thank you shannon!

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Marc R. Micciola
18:44 Jul 16, 2023

I really enjoyed this story! It had good pace and the plot was haunting. Very, very good job!

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Oskar Reiss
18:45 Jul 16, 2023

thanks so much marc!

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Mary Bendickson
18:00 Jul 12, 2023

I am still not sure if she had any part in the horrific happenings on Friday 9th November. Thanks for liking my taco story.

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Oskar Reiss
18:31 Jul 12, 2023

no worries - i really enjoyed reading it!

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Mike Panasitti
16:21 Jul 12, 2023

The way you portray the self-injurious thoughts of the protagonist are shocking and believable. Readers are left wondering whether she'll ever be able to heal from them by means of vengeance. Very well written.

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Oskar Reiss
16:45 Jul 12, 2023

thanks so much for reading mike

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