Life With the Grandparents

Submitted into Contest #92 in response to: Set your story in a countryside house that’s filled with shadows.... view prompt

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Fiction Horror Thriller

TW: graphic scenes of abuse, violence

The sun is shining through the windows, casting shadows on all the walls. The gentle spring breeze blows through the trees, causing the shadows to dance and move in rhythmic succession. The mid-century wooden furniture displays small knickknacks that Emily’s grandmother had collected through the years. Her favorite was a small gray kitten, playing with a ball of yarn done in porcelain. She remembers her grandmother telling the story of receiving it as a gift from grandpa in the early years of their marriage.

 

Emily picks up the small trinket and looks at it closely. She smiles and returns it back to its place on the shelf next to the picture of Grandma and Grandpa embracing at the lake. They look so happy, she thought to herself.

 

Now that Emily is twenty-four, she understands what life is like living in the country. After her divorce from her one and only husband, she moved in with her grandparents to help on the family farm. It was a rough life, but it helped her build character.

 

Her Grandmother would sometimes tell her the stories of how they would get through the rough times when the crops didn’t survive, because of drought or invasive bugs. But when that happened, they would squeeze through another year and hope for the best next year.

 

Grandpa was the workhorse of the family. Up by 4 AM, and you usually would not see him until noon for lunch. Then back on the field he would go. He said, “There’s always work to be done on the farm.”

 

Emily continues her walkthrough of the lower floor of her grandparents’ home. She is not looking for anything in particular, just reminiscing about life with her grandparents by looking at the things in the house. Depending on the item she sees, she sometimes feels remorse for doing what she did to her grandparents.

 

Sixteen hours earlier

 

“I think I’m ready to go back to the city,” Emily says while reaching for the string beans her Grandma made.

 

“What?” Grandma says, shocked at the comment. “Aren’t you happy here?”

 

“Of course I am, Grandma. But I think it’s time for me to move on. I need to return to the city and get my career moving again.” Emily says.

 

Grandpa reaches for a roll without making eye contact and says, “You made a commitment to us, Em. We assumed you would see that through.”

 

“Grandpa,” Emily replies, “the only commitment I made was that I would help while staying here. I never said I would be here forever.”

 

“I think what your Granddad is saying, Emily, is we have just grown accustomed to having you around to help us.” Grandma takes a drink from her water glass. “With you no longer being here, it’s just going to be more difficult on the two of us to take care of the farm.”

 

Emily is shocked to hear the words from her grandmother. “You guys, I’m glad I could help you while I was here. But I have to get my life moving again.” Emily looks at her Grandma. “You understand, don’t you, Grandma?”

 

Grandpa stands from the table and throws his napkin on the half-eaten plate of food. “You’re just like you’re damn mother. Thinking the world has something better to offer you. Let me tell you something, there is nothing better than working a hard, honest day on this farm. This farm provided for this damn family ever since my dad left it to me. You damn kids. You all think there’s something better for you out there in the world.” He storms out of the dining room.

 

Emily watches her Grandfather leave the room angry. “Grandma, you understand, don’t you?”

 

Grandma stands from the table and collects the dinner plates. “I’m sorry, Emily. I can’t deal with this right now. But I will say, I am with your Grandfather on this. You are going to disappoint us, just like your mother did.” She leaves with the plates to the kitchen, leaving Emily by herself at the dinner table.

 

*    *    *

 

Later that night, Emily is lying in bed staring at the ceiling, wondering if she is doing the right thing. All this time, she expected her grandparents to be supportive, not angry, and disappointed.

 

She stands from her bed and decides she needs a drink of water to help her work through her thoughts. She opens her bedroom door and can hear whispering coming from downstairs. She listens.

 

“You take care of the rope, Ma. Let me worry about how tight we’re going to make it. I’ll be damned if we’re going to lose another one to this godforsaken world. I can’t believe they don’t understand we are trying to protect them.”

 

“Pa, just don’t tie the rope too tight. You know what happened with Jenny.”

 

Grandpa gives her a nasty look. “You know damn well that was an accident, Ma. And I told you never to bring that up.

 

“Do you have the rope? Come on, let’s get this over with.”

 

Emily is shaking, hearing the words that came from her grandparents’ mouths. She hustled back to her room, trying to think of what she needed to do when they got there. She quickly took the chair from her small desk and propped it under the door handle, hoping it would prevent them from entering.

 

She moved to the corner of the room, shaking in fear, not knowing what was headed her way. The doorknob moved, and an attempt to open the door failed. “Em, open up. This is Grandpa. We need to speak to you.”

 

Emily stays silent. Her breathing is now loud, and her heart rate increased to its maximum. She sat balled up in the corner, watching the door, hoping her grandparents would simply leave and give up.

“Get me that ax, Ma,” Grandpa said after one more attempt to open the door.

 

A minute later, Emily twitches in fright from an ax blow through the door. Another followed it, and one more before her Grandfather’s arms pushed through and moved the chair out of the way. The door opens quickly, followed by Grandpa, who throws the ax on Emily’s bed and makes a line straight for her.

 

He grabs her arm and lifts Emily up with one quick motion. He pulls the chair close and throws her down to sit in it. “You need some discipline. You are just like your mother,” he yells. “Ma, give me that rope.”

 

Emily freezes with fright and cries, hoping she would be okay if she just did what Grandpa said.

 

Grandpa takes the rope from Grandma and ties Emily to the chair, starting with her hands behind the back.

 

“Remember, not too tight,” Grandma says, watching Grandpa closely. “I don’t want you to make her uncomfortable.”

 

Emily cannot believe what her Grandma said. Uncomfortable? Really? “Please,” she cries, “I’ll do whatever you want. Just let me go.” Emily fights to hold back the tears, still in disbelief that her grandparents would do this.

 

“Ma, shut her up,” Grandpa yells.

 

“How do you want me to do that?” Grandma asks.

 

“There’s duct tape in my dresser drawer. Grab that.”

 

“Please, Grandpa. Please. Just let me go. I’ll do whatever you want.”

Emily begs to be let free as tears continue to fall down her cheeks.

 

“That’s what your mother said,” Grandpa responds. “And she never came back. I’m not that stupid to be fooled twice.”

 

Grandma returns with the tape. She rips off a piece and places it over Emily’s mouth. “Sorry, dear. But Grandpa needs you to be quiet.” She presses each end of the tape firmly against Emily’s cheeks.

 

Grandpa reaches for his brown leather belt. “You kids these days need more discipline in your lives. You have forgotten how to respect your elders.” He lifts the belt and brings it down quickly on Emily’s knees, leaving a bright red mark.

 

Emily tries to scream, but the tape muffles any sound she tries to make.

 

Grandpa lifts the belt again, “You need to learn a lesson about respect” (SLAP) “and discipline” (SLAP.)

 

Emily’s tears get bigger as she looks towards her Grandma in disbelief.

 

Grandpa raises his belt high again. “Wait!” Grandma yells. “I think she’s had enough.”

 

Grandpa looks at Grandma. “What?”

 

“I mean, on the legs. Hit her somewhere else. Somewhere that she’ll remember what will happen if she disobeys again,” Grandma says.

 

Grandpa nods in agreement. He takes the belt and slaps it across Emily’s face, forcing her to close her eyes. Her head drops, hoping another slap from the belt does not come.

 

The beating stops. Grandpa throws his belt on the bed, landing it next to the ax. “That’s enough for now. We’ll give you time to think about your actions.”

 

Grandpa and Grandma close the smashed door behind them as they leave the room. Emily sits in the chair, barely awake, crying in fear and disbelief. She hears the bedroom door close to her grandparent’s room and knows she must find a way to escape before they return.

 

Emily moves her hands around as she tries to determine how tight the rope is around her wrists. She felt it was loose enough to maneuver her hands to untie the rope from behind her. Emily could not figure out the type of knot tied but realized the more she wriggled her wrists, the loser the binding seems to get. Thank god for Grandpa listening to Grandma about the tightness, Emily thought.

 

An hour had gone by, and Emily could finally free her hands from the rope. She removed the tape from her mouth and then released her feet, doing her best to remain quiet.

 

She retrieves the ax from her bed and quietly makes her way to the hallway. Each creak of the hardwood floor sounded louder and louder. She knew it would awaken her grandparents. She reaches the door of her grandparents’ bedroom and hears Grandpa snoring. Next to him in bed was Grandma, also asleep.

 

Emily creeps and stands next to the bed on Grandpa’s side. She lifts the ax above her head. With one fast motion, she brings it down on Grandpa’s neck, immediately decapitating him.

 

Grandma wakes up as she feels Grandpa’s head hit her on the side of hers. She looks up and sees Emily walking toward her. Now frightened for her own life, she begs. “No. No. Emily. Please.”

 

“Discipline?” Emily says, lifting the ax above her head. “You want discipline?” She swings the ax down on her Grandmother’s face, instantly killing her.

 

Grandma lies in bed with the ax still stuck to her skull. Blood oozing out of both the bodies, Emily leaves the room. Crying in anger, she heads downstairs and makes a pot of coffee.

 

She sits down in Grandma’s rocking chair on the front porch and watches the sunrise. With the cool breeze and birds chirping, she felt it would be the perfect day to pack up and leave for the city—A perfect day to forget about her grandparents.

 

Emily finishes her second cup of coffee and returns inside to get dressed and pack her belongings.

 

Before leaving, she walks around the house, looking at the trinkets her Grandma collected. She picks up the porcelain cat that she loved and places it in her pocket. The breeze blows on the trees making the shadows of the branches dance on the walls. She puts her suitcase in the backseat of her car and drives away, knowing her new life was now going to happen.

 

*    *    *

 

Years later, Grandma and Grandpa were found when a developer attempted to contact them about buying their property. All evidence of the gruesome murders was long overgrown with vegetation growth. The decayed bodies were now simply skeletons on the bed.

 

No charges were ever filed, and the Sheriff closed the case as a murder-suicide.

 

Emily now lives in Houston, Texas, where she owns her own interior design company. Her success in her career and the annual seven-figure income she earns has helped her forget about her grandparents. Until one day, she received a package with no return label. Emily opens it. When she looks inside, her knees get weak, and she sits down at her office chair.

 

Inside is an old bloody ax with a typed note that read, “I know what you did.”

May 02, 2021 05:44

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