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“That’s all folks”
“No. It’s almost two in the morning. If we’re going to be up at first light then we’d better get some sleep”
“But dad nothing. Last word of the night is bed”
“He’s right. We should get some sleep. I can’t say I’m thrilled about the subject matter anyway”
“But we love scary stories”
“That may be but when you’re waking me up in the middle of the night because you hear a noise outside your tent, it’s me who’ll be picking up the pieces”
They’re old enough now Nadia. You can’t wrap them in cotton wool all their lives”
“You haven’t got a leg to stand on buddy boy. I think we’ve had enough zombies, vampires and serial killers for one night don’t you?”
“Kids. Your mother has spoken”
Millie and Jake belligerently gathered their sleeping bags while their father doused the last enduring flame and prepared for lights out. He hadn’t seen any harm in telling a few harmless campfire tales and it had passed the time well considering the mess the family had found themselves in. Their usually bankable Toyota had blown a tire in the most inconvenient of locations, about three hundred yards up the trail on the deserted mountain road. A short cut had seemed like a good idea at the time and, in fact, may well have saved their lives. Should the unforeseen puncture have occurred on the interstate then it may have been a different story entirely but nobody had been harmed and that was the main thing.
At the crack of dawn, Peter would be required to trek into the unknown in search of assistance. If his sketchy map was accurate, then it would be no more than a couple of kilometers to the nearest service station and, with a dash of luck, the McAllisters would be back home by early afternoon. If nothing else, then it had been an adventure of sorts, and neither he nor his wife could remember the last time they bonded as a family unit. His job kept him out of town for protracted periods and Nadia worked two jobs so the children spent more time with their child minder Linda than mom and dad. Indeed, the nineteen year-old co-ed had joined the family on this expedition but suffered minor whiplash during the sudden pit stop and retired to her single-berth tent almost two hours ago.
“Night mom. Night dad”
“Love you, you little scallywags”
“Love you too”
“Peter, I wish you wouldn’t fill their heads with that drivel. It’s alright for you, you’d sleep through an earthquake. It’ll be me left to deal with the night terrors”
“You can’t wrap them in cotton wool forever Nadia”
“I’d just rather they hold onto their innocence for as long as possible”
“Yeah and when they finish their education and find out the hard way that life sucks, they’ll be totally unprepared”
“I couldn’t remember what it was that attracted me to you in the first place but it just came flooding back”
“My big dick”
“And my big dick”
“I’ve forgotten what that looks like”
“Well, the kids are down now and Linda’s dead to the world. How about a quick refresher?”
“I agree to those terms. All but the quick part”
“You’re not the one who has to traipse around the wilderness at dawn”
“Then time’s a wasting Peter McAllister”
Nadia knew exactly the manner in which to move things along. Despite conflicting work schedules the pair still engaged in boudoir shenanigans at every available opportunity. It had taken time for them to assume their respective roles in the bedroom but she knew by now that submission drove him wild. After removing her denims and unsexy woolen sweater, she commenced to lead the way, padding barefoot in her skivvies as her husband of twelve years hurriedly stamped out any remaining cinder and scurried off to be dominated.
“Second thoughts. I want you to fuck me right here”
“But we’ll wake up the kids”
“Not if you make another pathetic comment like that we won’t. Now strip for me wussy boy…and take your time”
“What is it?”
“Did you hear that?”
“No I was too busy being in a deep sleep. You should try it”
“There’s something moving around out there”
“Probably just a coyote. Get some rest”
“Great. So we’re going to be mauled to death while you get your eight hours”
“Chance would be a fine thing”
“Peter. I’m not kidding. I want you to go check it out”
“Yes dear. Of course dear”
“You can drop the sarcasm”
“If I do this are you going to leave me alone?”
“Just do it before the air in here gets decidedly more chilly”
Peter reluctantly gathered his senses, gave his weary eyes a quick rub, and stepped outside grasping his flash light.
“Do you see anything?”
“Give me a chance…can’t see anything no”
“Well you won’t see much here. Do a sweep or something”
“A fucking sweep? It’s nearly three”
“You ain’t stepping foot back in here until you do”
Peter knew better than to hang things out any longer. Being in long distance haulage, he knew only too well about the quiet life and its distinct benefits. He’d seen the whole dog with a bone routine too many times not to be aware of his best defense. Say nothing, do as he was told, use the time to take a piss and pull the wool over her eyes that his investigation had been thorough. Everybody wins and maybe, just maybe, he’d get his head down for a decent stretch. Little did he know his every move was being soundly monitored surreptitiously from a nearby vantage.
Peter liked to amuse himself at every given opportunity and urination afforded such light relief. He mimicked his childhood hero Zorro, using his own rapier to etch his insignia in the twigs and berries a few inches before where he swayed and looked on with pride as this was undoubtedly his pièce de résistance. His attention was diverted away from said masterpiece as he discerned raised voices emanating from back at base camp. It sounded like Nadia, indeed, he knew her disenchantment only too well. It appeared as though she was hopping mad so he sheathed his sword and cursed his knee-jerk action immediately.
There was once a time when a brisk shake would’ve sufficed but alas, for Peter, years of boasting over possessing the bladder of an ox, had left him with a decidedly compromised faucet and saturated jockeys were his punishment for slamming the paddock door too soon so to speak.
“What? I’m coming, I’m coming”
What initially sounded suspiciously like vitriol suddenly morphed into distress as a vague scream rang out and was snuffed out almost instantaneously. He stopped momentarily in his tracks, clutching his flash light alongside him tight, before picking up the pace and jogging back to investigate the disturbance. The site was deathly silent and a low mist hung in the air about his ankles, which he hadn’t remembered being there a few moments ago. The sole audio of Peter’s erratic heart beat provided ominous respite from the quietude and he sensed that something was far less than right. As he reached the diminished camp fire, he paused for breath and decided to take the final few steps with caution. Something was stirring beyond the canvas.
Reaching for the fastening, he cranked the flash light high above his head, not willing to take any chances despite the fact that this was potentially nothing. The dread in his gut intensified as he began to slide the zipper along its teeth ever so slowly, peering in to gain himself vantage. Once it was at half mast, the left side slumped open and Peter’s eyes widened in abject horror. Laid out before him was his high school sweetheart looking every bit as resplendent as she did the very first time they met…from the shoulders down at least. Her head was conspicuously absent from her windpipe but the apple didn’t fall far from the tree on this occasion and it rested beside her flickering blood-spattered lantern, basking in its own grotesque glow. Her eyes were still fully dilated which suggested he had arrived back seconds too late and that, whatever torment she had been subjected to was done without anesthetic.
Peter couldn’t halt himself from wretching and, as he steadied himself and looked back up, he was greeted by a mortifying sight.
“I did it. I finally did it Peter”
“Oh my God. What have you done?”
“I’d say that was crystal clear wouldn’t you sweetheart?”
Peter began to sob uncontrollably, clutching Nadia’s lifeless cadaver in his arms as the awful realization set in that his wife was dead. Meanwhile, Linda stroked the serrated blade of the hunting knife she was grasping with uttermost composure.
“Now I know there’s going to be a period of adjustment. It’s going to take some realignment”
“Realignment? You killed my fucking wife you crazy bitch”
“I know it can be hard letting go. But it’s in our best interests. Now we can be together like you promised. Just me and you remember? Nothing in our way anymore”
“I’ve got to get the kids. I can’t let them see this”
“About those kids Peter”
“What? You wouldn’t”
“Three heads are better than one. Isn’t that how the saying goes?”
“NO! NOT MY BABIES”
“Nothing in our way anymore Peter”
“God, that was gross”
“Thought you’d like it”
“We loved it”
“Now, I think it’s high time you kids go to bed don’t you?”
“One more story. Pretty please”
“I don’t think so. It’s already nearly eleven and I said I’d have you in bed by ten”
“But you tell the best scary stories”
“Well, that’s the last one you’re getting tonight. You’re lucky I agreed to you pitching up in the garden anyway. You two will get me into trouble one of these days”
“Don’t give me that. I’m the one who has to deal with your parents when they get home. Now get some sleep”
“Goodnight Miss Kane”
“Children. We’ve known each other for long enough now don’t you think? Please I must insist that from now on you call me Linda”
Linda reached for the zipper.