Anne needed sleep. It had been days since she last slept, days since she last ate, days since she had water. Sleep, food, water. Three essentials for life. Three essentials everyone in America took for granted ... everyone except her now.
She wondered, in her weakened state, which of the four assassins would do her in. Exhaustion, starvation, thirst … or him. Henry … her husband. The man she fell in love with during her sophomore year at college. The man she had vowed to love and care for in sickness and in health, till death did them part. The man who was now on the other side of the cellar door wielding a kitchen knife, part of a set that they had received as a wedding gift.
Part of her wedding gift would be used to kill her. Poetic justice? She shivered at the thought of it.
"Anne? Honey, I’m home!"
His voice was still laced with the same charm that had attracted her to him all those years ago.
"I just want to talk."
The tone of his words was in stark contrast to his actions. Each word was followed by the knife slashing into the door. Anne could hear splinters of wood being pulled away from the door with each withdrawal of the blade.
She didn’t call out to him. She had given up on that hours ago -- and she knew perfectly well what had caused his descent into homicidal madness. She knew nothing could stop him from getting through the last obstacle between himself and his twisted idea of his destiny ... his revenge. He had left her alone for a couple of days and now he was more anxious than ever to get hold of her.
She had prayed that starvation or thirst would take her first, feeling that either would be infinitely preferable to a violent death at the hands of her husband. Part of her refused to surrender to Henry’s bloody wishes, but her weakened condition seemed to rule out any chance that she could defend herself. Even at her best, her petite frame was not match for Henry’s two-hundred-plus-pound bulk.
It seemed like lifetimes ago that she made her mistake, her lone but irrefutable diversion from an otherwise moral life. The thought of being led astray from her path of being a faithful wife burned her memory like a branding iron. How could she have been so foolish? Gary had meant nothing to her and she knew it. But she had still given in to her passions and desecrated her wedding vows.
Gripping a screwdriver tightly in her frail hand, she vowed silently to plunge it deep into Henry when he got close enough. It wasn’t much but it was the only weapon she had been able to find, a forgotten tool discarded underneath Henry’s rickety workbench. It had been years since he last touched his tools and she smiled as fond, lost memories floated into her mind. Memories such as Henry’s vain attempt to build a doghouse for their beloved dog Ramsey, who now lay upstairs, butchered by Henry.
"Come on, honey, just open the door. Just open the freakin door!" The knife sliced into the wood again and again. She let a small chuckle escape when the blade caught one of his fingers and he snarled an obscenity that even now sounded strange coming from him.
"You’ll pay for that!" he screamed through the door. "You just wait and see!"
Despite her situation, Anne started to feel drowsy. The hunger and thirst were undoubtedly starting to take their toll. Maybe it would be better this way, she thought to herself. Like taking sleeping pills and just not waking up. When Henry finally got through to her it would be quick and painless.
The door was beginning to weaken under Henry’s relentless blows. Each swing of the knife seemed to spawn newfound strength and determination in him to get to her. To wrap her in an embrace of retribution and death. She was too tired to cry except for a small shedding of a tear. She loved Henry. Not the monster on the other side of the door who was cursing maniacally at her, but her husband of the past. The man who shared her bed for nearly ten years. Ten years compared to ten minutes. The irony stung like a bee.
"Come on! Damn door! They sure don’t make them like this anymore do they Anne?"
She looked up to see Henry’s hand working its way through the shattered remains of the door handle. He’d managed to pry the lock off and was using the knife to wedge between the jamb and the door.
"Son of a ... come on! Aghhh! I’ll get this damn thing open or …" The door gave way and was violently flung aside by Henry. Looking up, Anne was greeted by her husband’s cold stare from the top of the stairs. His eyes burned with a homicidal fire that tore through her very soul.
"Sorry I took so long," he chuckled. "But I had a little trouble with the door." His voice was cold and dark. He took one step then another and at the third stair, he paused. Looking up he appeared puzzled. At first Anne didn’t understand, but then she heard the noises as well. Soft, almost indiscernible noises. Footsteps!
Someone was upstairs! Someone to save her! With all the strength she had left she cried out.
"Help me! He’s trying to kill me! I need help!"
But the footsteps did not quicken. They maintained their slow, methodical pace. Henry was filled with more rage than before. He shot Anne a razor sharp look and mumbled, "I’ll be back."
All she could do was wait and listen. Too weak even to stand up, she grimaced in pain when her back spasmed. Upstairs loud crashes erupted and she heard the two bodies wrestle with each other. She couldn’t tell for sure, but it soon became obvious that Henry was losing the battle. Whoever it was must be strong to tackle someone like Henry.
"Pleeeease, help me. Help me," she moaned to the now silent house.
Several minutes passed with no reply and Anne struggled to hang on to both her sanity and her life. Soon however, a large shadow appeared in the doorway. A knife dangled limply from its hand. Anne held her breath as the figure began to silently descend the steps. It was Henry! But he looked dazed…injured, severely injured. Her hopes rose when he dropped the knife and it tumbled down the stairs and landed not more than ten feet from her. Henry leaned forward and looked directly at her. It was then that she seen the true extent of his injuries. His head had a deep gash from the temple down to his chin. Bits of brain matter peeked out from the bloody crevice. His eyes were glazed over and reflected no life; dark bruises decorated his neck and arms. But she noticed the worst damage when he pitched forward and fell down the steps. The back of his head was split wide open. He landed with a sound reminiscent of a melon hitting a sidewalk.
Relieved, although shocked, Anne pulled herself upright, ignoring the stabbing pain in her back. Each movement was hindered by the pain as she slowly made her way towards the knife. She twisted her ankle badly as she maneuvered around Henry’s corpse and soon found herself one with the floor.
"Help me," she called out to her would be rescuer. "I can’t walk -- my ankle is --" Her words echoed in the silence. A long, terrible silence.
Then finally, movement. The person upstairs began to slowly walk towards the cellar. She held her breath and stifled a scream when she accidentally moved her ankle. The man was standing in the doorway now looking down at her. He said nothing, swaying slightly as if standing in a breeze.
"Hello? I need help. Help me please."
Her throat constricted when the man reached the third step. The small light bulb which dangled from the ceiling revealed his face to her at last. It was Gary! But that was impossible. Gary was dead. Henry had slit his throat right in front of her upstairs when he had caught them in bed. She had barely managed to escape herself and ran to the cellar where he had let her sit for days before starting his attack on the door.
She cringed in horror when Gary lifted his head back to reveal the jagged red crease on his neck. The stench of decay assaulted her nose and tightened her stomach. Had she had anything in her stomach she surely would have thrown it up.
But the eyes. Gary’s eyes gazed at her with mercy, almost love. Could he be trying to help her? After all, she wasn’t the one who had killed him. He already had his revenge on Henry. Maybe he wanted to help her and finally rest in peace.
"Gary," she called out as sincerely as she could. "I need help. I can’t stand, I think my ankle’s broken." She waited for a response.
Gary tilted his head, as a kitten would do trying to understand its owner. A tiny smile formed on his face and he nodded his head. Relief overcame Anne.
"Oh thank you, thank you," she gushed.
Gary started to step towards her but suddenly stopped at Henry’s corpse. He glanced down at the man he had killed and swung a quick look back at Anne. She forced herself to smile as convincingly as she could but the smile froze on her face when Gary bent down and grasped the knife.
© 2006 by Rick McQuiston
Rick McQuiston says "I am a 38 year old father of two who loves to read, write, play drums and paint. I have had 48 publications so far including recent ones in Alienskin, Midnight Times and Demon Minds. I am also a guest author each year at Memphis Junior High School.
E-mail: Rick McQuiston
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