Pale, the sun rises into the foggy morn, a dull lemony color barely peeking out over the horizon. The old woman, familiar with many a chilly springtime dawning, puts on her light grey jacket and a fuzzy pair of black knitted mittens, then steps out into the dampened air. Her breath exhales in puffs, although the temperature today feels warmer than it has for months. This is her ritual: Every day for the past 30 years, the woman has walked from her home to downtown and back for her exercise regime. While she travels more slowly now than in younger days due to some mild arthritis, the three mile jaunt helps awaken her and keeps her in decent shape.
The cracks on the sidewalk are old friends as she starts trudging along her regular path. The trees to the right no longer wear blankets of snow or frost, showing signs of some early growth with small buds at the tips of their branches. She smiles at the thought of the tulips popping up soon. She loves the small town’s mid-May festival for these beautiful flowers where families from all over the state come to visit. She feels obligated to support her heritage and hasn’t missed one of the Tulip Time Days since childhood. During the festivities, she’ll even partake in some of the Dutch letters and chocolate pastries despite typically avoiding such delicacies the rest of the year.
Turning to her right, she then crosses over to the left-hand side of the street. The houses begin to show signs of apartment complexes and historical buildings as she nears downtown. All of the tidy yards are peaceful and quiet, no-one else having stirred on this sleepy Sunday morning. On her left, she notices where some construction has been going on for what seems like ages behind the wrought iron fence of one of the white plaster historical complexes. Unlike most days, however, there are two workmen digging with shovels.
Amazed any soul would be digging by hand this early with the ground still so firm and frozen, she squints to look at the scene more closely. Pausing for a moment several feet away from them, she hears the men grunting, while sweat is pouring down their mud-caked faces. Both are dressed in blue-grey denim overalls with thick, light grey sweaters and no jacket. Immune to her observations, they continue to hack into the cold earth and scoop out its contents.
Readying to continue back on her walk, she spots a large-sized wrapped package directly above the hole where they are digging. The dirt is being channeled on the other side of the parcel as they avoid building a pile on top of it.
One of the men stops and says something low to his partner. The woman isn’t able to catch the precise words other than what sounds like “seems good.” The other man grunts and stops as well. Both throw their shovels up onto the pile of dirt, then heave themselves out of the hole. Standing on either side of the badly wrapped package, they begin to lift it when one of the men looks up for a second. Catching her eye, he stops and blinks at her. She starts to wave and then her arm freezes in mid-air as another far less cheerful arm drops out of the wrapping they are clutching. Stiff, the arm is nude and bluish with crisscrossed cuts traversing the surface. Stunned, the woman and the man just stare at each other for several moments.
The other man appears oblivious, trying to move his side of the body into the opened ground. After getting no help from his cohort, he mutters grimly, “What’s up Derek? Why ain’t you helpin’ with this fucking bitch?” Derek shifts his gaze back to the man and hisses, “We have company, dumbass,” then he bends down to lay down the load and points her way. Confused, the other man just looks dumbly in her direction.
She ceases breathing from the terror that is filling up her mind like a dense, thick fog of dark malevolence making it impossible to move. She opens her mouth to scream, but only a raspy death-like rattle emits from it. Leering, the first man, who is called Derek and who appears to be the leader of the two, dusts off the dirt from his clothing, wipes his hands on his pants slowly, seemingly to enjoy these unhurried movements. He begins to saunter toward her.
“Hey, Vincent, get my shovel while you are at it,” the man calls back as he halts for an instant. Just about eight paces from each other now, she takes in the man’s appearance. Very attractive, he has dark hair and intense grey-blue eyes. He could likely pass for late 20s but is probably in his mid-30s with some fine lines etching around the eyes. He sports a few day’s worth of stubble on his squared jaw. Still smiling with a maddening confidence and arrogance emanating amidst the utter evil flowing deep within the cold eyes, he jovially states, “I’m going to enjoy hacking you up into little bits and pissing on your corpse.” These words catch into the fresh air, far warmer than when her journey began in what feels like an eternity ago.
His partner says something she isn’t able to hear again, and the man turns to look at him. Finally, her body cooperates with her as she proceeds toward downtown, slowly at first, then faster and faster. She knows the men might take a few seconds to realize she’s trying to escape, but they are far younger and nimbler, so she has no chance to possibly outrun them.
A car screeches to a stop to avoid colliding with her. The driver gets out of the car. “Hey, do you need a ride?”
Next Story: The Car Ride