Tales of Terror

Stirring In The Deep End
by
Jason Lavertue

The town outside his window looked as dead as his heart. The traffic trickled down Lament Street like a Sunday afternoon. The gray skies made even the newest buildings look old and decrepit. The trees swayed in the gusting wind and looked as though they were trying to break from their roots and run from their jaded surroundings. The cars in the parking lot were bored from hours of sitting idle. They looked up at John with their sad headlights and begged him to be set free.

"I know how you feel," John sighed.

He sat down at his desk and rested his face in his bony fingers. He massaged his weary face until his office door interrupted him.

"Why are you still here, John?"

"There’s nothing else out there for a guy like me."

"There’s plenty of things beyond me. You’re free to experience all that which I can only dream about."

"I’m scared," John sobbed.

"What do you mean?"

"I’m in a rut and even though it sucks, it’s comfortable."

"The rut lies within your mind. Flee from it and start anew."

John cocked his head like a dog trying to understand its owner’s commands.

"You’re right, but where should I go?" John asked.

"To a place where you can escape the drain of this world and find yourself," the door said. John stood and walked to the coat rack. His hands trembled as he slid his coat onto his lanky torso. He had never up and did anything. Regimental, that was his word. Ten years in the same apartment with the same job. Variety was grocery shopping on Saturday rather than Thursday night. John shuffled to his office door and paused before opening it.

"Thank you," John said.

The door didn’t reply. John stepped out into the lively hallway of his office building. He strolled past the closed doors of his coworker’s offices and wondered if they were having the same conversations with their doors.

The elevator opened before John could push the button. Things were already looking up. He entered the empty lift and the door closed him off from his work world.

"Going down?"

"Actually things seem to be going up," John chuckled.

"Down it is."

The lobby light came on, and the elevator dropped smoothly to the ground level. The door opened and John stepped out.

"Have a good day," the elevator said.

"You too."

John skipped across the parking lot. He stopped at his car and opened the door. John situated himself in his seat and turned the key.

"Leaving early today?" The car asked.

"Yes," John replied.

"Where are we going?"

"I don’t know," John said. "Where do you suggest?"

"The park is nice this time of year."

"The park sounds like a winner to me," John agreed in a jolly tone.

John backed out of his parking slot and turned onto Lament Street. The car remained silent for the rest of the journey except for the monotone hum of tires on asphalt. The clouds parted and let some much-needed sunlight into John’s world. The wind cheered sounded like cheers as it passed through the cracked window. This combined with the tall grass and trees that waved him on and reminded John of the old World War II documentaries he so loved to watch on Friday nights. Perfect John mused. He couldn’t remember the last time he noticed such beautiful things.

He pulled the car into the Mitchell Park entrance and proceeded deep into the forest. There were many branches off the main road but none really urged John on until he came to the Drummer Road exit. The bright sunlight made the road appear as if it were paved with gold. The glare from the distant lake was his spiritual beckon.

He stopped his car in the lot overlooking the marvelous lake. He watched the water ripple as a cool and soothing wind blew across it. John rolled his window down the rest of the way to catch the breeze. The air cooled his feverish face. He closed his eyes and drifted into the sanctuary of his mind. Peace consumed him for the first time in years.

He was startled out of his rest by the sound of name. John looked around nervously, trying to find the location of his caller. When he was convinced it was the wind, he eased his head back onto his headrest.

"John, up here," the crow squawked. John opened his eyes and saw the jet-black bird perched upon a limb of an oak tree.

"Hello," John said.

"What brings you here?"

"I decided I deserved a day to catch up on my sanity so I came here to relish in the beauty of the forest."

"What’s wrong with your sanity?" The crow asked.

"Lately I’ve been losing control. I feel like I’m going to crack. The littlest things get under my skin. My friends, my family, my job, everything. I feel like doing something to take care of it, but I’m scared," John snapped.

"Surrender to your desires."

"But… but the things I’ve thought of doing. Murder, suicide. I could never do such things, but I can’t get away from the thoughts. They crawl into my head all the time. I can’t even masturbate without thinking about strangling someone or hanging myself."

"Go with it," the bird cackled. "It will ease your troubles."

"I can’t," John yelled.

"Have you ever tried?"

"No," John wept.

"Then try," the crow urged John. "These things come from deep inside your mind, and your mind knows what’s best for you."

John’s weeping became uncontrollable. Tears stung his welted eyes.

"Stop this self-pity and release your pain," the crow demanded. "Your salvation lies within."

His crying subsided, and he stared at the scavenger. The crow took flight, and John watched him in his flight pattern until an oncoming vehicle caught his attention. The car had a young couple inside. They laughed and carried on without acknowledging John’s presence.

"The nerve of them," a voice said.

"Yeah," John agreed without taking his eyes off the young couple.

"The bird was right you know?" The massive oak tree asked.

John turned his attention to the wise old oak, "About what?"

"About listening to your mind."

"Maybe, it’s time I did," John scowled, turning his attention back to the lovers as they walked into the forest along a narrow wooden path.

"Go with it," the tree encouraged. "Listen to your mind and let it guide you to your destiny."

John stepped out of his car and walked to the trunk. He popped it open with his key and rummaged for an instrument of destruction. The best he could do was a rusted single bar tire iron. The rust from the iron stained John’s twitching hand. He poked his head out from behind the trunk to check the whereabouts of his prey. He watched them disappear into the lush forest, and he quietly secured the trunk.

John made his way onto a small knoll overlooking the path. He watched the couple with the eyes of a wolf. They frolicked their way to a clearing where they spread a blanket and fell onto each other. John watched in disgust. It had been a long time since he had known a woman in such a way.

"Get’em Johnny," said a voice from bellow.

John placed a thin bony finger to his lips. "Shhhh. They’ll hear you."

He gripped the iron tight and slithered his way closer to the couple.

"Hello," John bellowed as he vaulted to his feet. "I’m here to kill you."

John buried the tire iron into the young man’s skull before he could react. John placed his foot on the man’s neck for leverage and pulled the iron out. He drove the iron violently into the woman’s back as she tried to escape. She dropped to the forest floor. Satisfied she was incapacitated; he worked on the man. The entire forest cheered him on while he beat the man with ruthless enjoyment. Once the man’s face resembled a Halloween pumpkin that had been stolen and smashed in the street, John pursued the wounded woman. She had struggled to feet and was stumbling down the meandering path. John raised the blood soaked iron over his head and slammed it into her neck. The pop of her neck rang through the forest. She landed on the ground, determined to escape her demented attacker, and began crawling. John hovered over her and taunted her with her impending death. He let her snail crawl within sight of her car before driving the jagged edge of the iron through her back and into the soil beneath.

John collapsed down beside the girl and gazed into her dying eyes. She tried to mutter something to John but bloody saliva was all that would come. What a pretty girl she was. Amber hair set against green eyes. The tears of pain made them glow like springtime fireflies. A woman of this caliber would have never dated him. Only if she would of, though. This could of all been avoided. Such women were destined for better things than he could have given her. The huge diamond on her finger was proof of that.

John forced himself to his feet and walked to the parking lot. He walked sluggishly like a little leaguer who had cost his team the championship. The forest creatures shunned him for his brutal deeds. Trees turned their branches upwards in disappointment while the birds sang melodies of disgust.

"You told me to," John cried out in anguish. The critters scurried at the echoes of disdain.

John reached his car and sprawled out on the hood. The winds picked up and chilled his body. John tried to produce tears but none came.

"It’s over John," the breeze carried the sweet voice of the lake to John.

"Come unto me, and I’ll set you free from your misery."

"But…," John tried to argue.

"No John. It’s the best way, the only way."

John rolled off the hood and landed on his feet. He staggered down to the water. He entered the water, and it seemed like he was walking on top of it until he felt the refreshing coolness on his bare arms.

John stopped when the water reached his throat. All of his fears and frustrations left his body. He watched them dance around him while the lake swallowed him whole.

The wind blew the water into white capping waves. The trees swayed in silence. The blades of grass fluttered emotionless as they had for years. Animals clambered from tree to ground and back up. The forest, like John, was again calm.

 

Jason Lavertue

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