The other man

This story was written for my Creative Writing: Fiction class at Temple University.

The_Other_Man

I carefully wound my way through the masses of trees.  Clouds had rolled in since the incident, covering what was a bright, full moon.  The lack of light made it difficult to navigate the tangle of woods.  I stumbled about, feeling blindly along.  The rough bark scratched at my hands as the roots reached out to grab at my feet.  They succeeded at times, causing me to tumble to the ground.  I could hear the gentle lapping of water ahead of me.  I had to be close.

I broke free from the stranglehold of the darkness and saw the expanse of the black, glassy surface of the lake.  I slowly walked over the smooth pebbles and sand below my feet to the water’s edge.  The wind began to pick up.  I knelt down and plunged my hands into the ice cold water.  It sent a shock wave through my body.  Goosebumps sprung up on my arms and a chill ran down my spine.  A bolt of lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating my pale reflection.  But it wasn’t my reflection.  It had my face, but the eyes that stared back at me were black.  They bore into my soul.  This other man could see my sins.  He knew my secret.  He saw what I did to her.

My eyes looked away from the other man and I pulled out the knife.  The feeling of the cool, steel blade sent a jolt of electricity running through my fingers.  It was the old hunting knife that passed down the family, but my father would never allow me to have it.  It didn’t matter because now I had it.  It was mine.  The blood had already dried and crusted to the edges.  I drove the knife between the eyes of this strange man looking up at me.  The ripples of water distorted him.  I rubbed my fingers along the edge of the knife.  The blood easily wiped away with my touch.  The wind increasingly grew and I could see the waves beginning to form across the top of the lake.

I climbed up the bank to the edge of the woods.  The lake was completely surrounded by maple and pine tree, but there stood amidst it all, an old magnolia.  I remembered when it was just a little tree when I was young.  I crawled to the base of the tree and began to dig.  Sand and pebbles flew by my head as I recklessly dug.  Once I felt it was deep enough, I shoved the knife into the empty expanse I had created.  I stared for a moment.  This was my prized possession.  Maybe one day soon I could come back for it.

I looked down at my hands and saw no remaining traces of what I had done.  Feeling that I was successful, I headed back towards the cabin before the storm fully reached me.  The rain began to fall as I climbed the porch steps.  The cool droplets rolled down my face and arms, washing away the night.

———————————— ♦ ————————————

Rapping at the door startled me awake.  Who would bother me here?  I have no family and no one knew where I was.

I winced as the bright sunlight coming through the dusty, old blinds hurt my eyes.  Pulling myself out of bed, I passed by the mirror above the wooden dresser.  I jumped as the man with the black eyes had followed me here.  I reached for the nearest piece of cloth and quickly threw it over the mirror.  How could he have found me?

I made my way to the door and opened it.  Two armed policemen stood there.  One was tall and sturdier, as if he spent all his days in a gym.  The real “macho man.”  The kind of guy I hated in high school.  The kind of person I used to go home and envision different ways of exacting revenge.  I was indifferent towards the other man.  He stood slightly behind, half hidden from view.  He was not as big.  He was short and a little pudgy, like he spent too many nights at a Dunkin Donuts.  Maybe he should hit the gym with his partner more often.

“May we come in?” the tall one said.  I glared at him.  I didn’t trust anything that came out of his mouth, but I moved aside to let them enter.  Before closing the door, I looked around outside.  There were two other police cars in the distance, but no sight of other annoyances.  I closed the door and turned to face the scene in front of me.  I had no time to clean the room.  A half-eaten box of pizza sat open on the coffee table while empty bottles of Molson were scattered across the floor.  The thrill of what I had accomplished kept my mind racing and I had to drink myself into a stupor just to relax and fall asleep.

“Looks like you had a good time last night.”

My eye twitched at the sound of his voice.  My fingers were itching for something to hold in my hand – something to make me more powerful than him.  I needed my prized possession back.

“Can I help you with something?” I grumbled.

“We just have a few questions to ask you.”  He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a folded picture. His thick fingers fumbled with the edges as he slowly revealed the blonde girl.  He placed the photo onto the greasy coffee table and slid it over in front of me.  “This is Lizzie Swanson.  She went missing last night.  We’re going around cabin to cabin to see if anyone has any information.”

His steely blue eyes were locked on mine.  I sank down into the old, moth-eaten sofa and stared at Lizzie.  She was such a beautiful young girl.  Her light brown, shoulder length hair framed her petite face so perfectly.  Such a shame she had to die at only twenty-two, but what else could I do?  She wouldn’t cooperate.  And then there was her fiancée.  She couldn’t understand that he was such a distraction.  That I was the one for her.

I looked over towards the pudgy one.  He finally spoke.  “Please, sir.  Any information you have will be very helpful.  We need to know where you were last night.”

Ah yes, the good-cop-bad-cop routine – just like out of the movies.  “I was here all night, as you can judge by the food and bottles.”

“Can anyone verify that?” he pressed further.

“Yeah, that couch right there can tell you my ass was sitting in it, and that TV over there?  That can tell you I was using it.”

“No need to become hostile.” The pudge put his hands up in innocence.

“Sir, if you don’t want to cooperate, we can take you down to the station right now.”  Mr. Macho Man glared at me.

I closed my eyes briefly.  These two were beyond a nuisance.  There had to be some way to get them out of the cabin.

“No,” I mumbled.  “I’m the only one here.”

“Just one last question.”  The macho man opened his mouth again.  His beefy voice felt like razorblades slicing up my arms.  “Can we have you name?”

There was no way out of it.  They weren’t going to leave unless I gave it to them.

“Jason Salo.”

The pudge wrote what more than likely was my name in his little notebook and stuffed it into his chest pocket. “Thank you for your time.”  He nodded and both of the nags finally left through the front door.

I followed closely behind and once they pulled away in their white cruiser, I snapped the door shut.  There was only one priority on my mind, and that was to get this man that continued to haunt me.  I needed some air to clear my mind.

I grabbed my old, faded-blue wind jacket and headed out the door.  Maybe I’ll just go for a walk around the lake.  There’s no harm in that.  It will be too crowded with campers for the man to follow me.

My eyes caught sight of the white cruiser three cabins away through the trees and I momentarily took my eyes off the steps.  My feet tripped over each other and I plummeted down into the mud from last night’s storm.  I squeezed my eyes shut for a few seconds to ease the pain in my legs.  I should have kept them closed.  When they slowly opened, I found myself staring into the cold, black eyes of the man in the puddle by my face.

“YOU!” I screamed as the man’s face glistened on the water’s surface.

I know…” the voice hissed inside my head.  “I saw what you did.

Soaking in mud and sweat, I scrambled up and after a last, quick glance at the face, I drove my foot into the puddle.  My head swiveled side to side to make sure the cops didn’t see anything, I back into the cabin.

Pacing across the floor, I tried to calm myself down.  So he knew…he knew what happened last night.  Somehow he saw it all.  I couldn’t have him giving away where she was.  I had to somehow dispose of him as well.  Before I did anything, I decided a quick shower was in order to remove the mud dripping all over me.

As I walked into the bathroom, I already had my shirt over my head.  Without even looking around, I walked right into the stall and turned on the water.  It didn’t take long for the steam to begin to rise and engulf the small, tiled space.

I let the water roll down my slender, six-foot-three frame.  A whirlwind of memories hit me as I stood there.  I could see Crystal’s face.  She was the most beautiful thing in the world.  She was the only one who was ever nice to me growing up, and I loved her unconditionally for it.  But then she met him in high school.  She was supposed to be with me.  I was supposed to be the only one in her life.  Then she ran off with him and got married when we graduated.  Why didn’t she love me?  I made her pay for breaking my heart.  I found her three years later in her little cozy apartment.  I watched as she struggled, trying to get away.

I finished my shower and walked into the bedroom and dressed myself.  I returned to the bathroom to hang the towel.  Condensation covered the mirror.  My curiosity got the best of me as I wondered whether the man had somehow gotten back into the house.  I took the towel and wiped away an area – and there he was.

The face startled me and I let out a yell as my fist went flying towards it.  The glass shattered and spilled onto the counter and floor.  Pain erupted in my hand and I could see the blood dripping down and into the sink.  A few shards of glass stuck out of my skin.  I carefully picked each one and threw them on the floor.  I wrapped the towel tightly around my hand and searched through the cabinets in every room for some type of First Aid kit.  No such luck.  Has no one ever gotten hurt on vacation before?

Grabbing my keys and jacket off the table, I hastily jumped into my dirt-encased, red Ford Tempo and drove to the general store.

———————————— ♦ ————————————

Scoping up and down the aisles as I entered, I tried in vain to see the medical section.

“Can I help you find something?”

The voice sounded like an angel’s as it floated wistfully into my ear.  I turned around and saw a petite, young girl standing behind the front counter.  She had light brown hair swept up on top of her head.

“Uh…yeah.  I had an accident,” I said as I raised my hand wrapped in the bloody towel for her to see.  “I’m a bit of a klutz and tripped over my own feet and my hand went crashing through the glass coffee table.”

“Oh my goodness!” she gasped.  “Here, let me show you where everything is.”

She stepped out from behind the counter and led the way, winding through the maze of aisles.  I stared at the girl, intoxicated by her appearance.  She wore a tight pair of blue jeans and the collared, green work shirt with “Bob’s General Store” stamped on the front.  She stopped abruptly in a little row in the back corner of the store.

“These should all help,” she said as she handed me a bottle of peroxide, a box of butterfly bandages and gauze, an antibiotic ointment and an ace bandage.  “I hope your hand heals.  Are you going to the hospital?”

“No, I should be fine doing this myself,” I replied.

“Okay, if you’d just follow me back to the front, I can ring you up.”  She gave me a warm, friendly smile.

As we approached the register, someone opened the door to enter.  A swift breeze blew in and her scent floated towards me.  I was hypnotized by the sweet smell of lilac coming from her.  I stared intently into her emerald-green eyes as she rung up each individual item and placed them in a bag.

“Okay, that all comes to $15.30,” she smiled as she gently placed the bag on the counter.  I fumbled with my wallet and had a tough time trying to open and pull the bills out with one hand.  After a minute, I was able to finagle a twenty dollar bill out and handed it over.

“I hope your hand gets better,” she said as she handed me the change.

“Thank you, err…”  I stared at her nametag. “Emily.”

Emily. What a beautiful name.  She gave me one last smile as I walked out the door and into my car.

———————————— ♦ ————————————

I sat in the car and waited outside the general store.  I couldn’t get her off my mind.  I wanted her.  I had to have her.

I watched as people jostled in and out of the door, and yet, she remained inside.  I glanced every now and then down to my bandaged hand.

Then finally, she appeared in the afternoon sunlight.  She looked even more stunning outside.  She had to have been only twenty.  A broad smile broke across her face and she stared at a blue Mustang convertible.

A man exited the car – not even by the door.  He hopped over the side like some sort of slick smartass.  He reached back in and grabbed a bouquet of daffodils and ran up to her.  He grabbed her around her waist, picked her up and spun her around.  She giggled like a school girl as he handed her the yellow flowers, she stretched up on her toes and gave him a kiss.

My insides boiled red hot.  I was full of absolute anger and disgust.  How dare she go for another man!  No one else can have her but me.

I waited until they got in his car and pulled away.  I slowly crept out of the lot and followed a good distance behind.  They drove to a little blue house on the outskirts of town.  I watched them as I slowly passed by.  They got out and he walked her to the door, hand-in-hand.  I could feel my insides burning with hate.  I turned the car around at the next house over and sped off towards the lake.

I swerved into the parking lot and found a spot remaining next to the start of the woods.  I flung myself out of the car and half ran, half stumbled down to the beach.

The lake was full of people as far as the eye could see.  Little kids played in the sand by the water’s edge as the more adventurous ones could be seen splashing in the dark blue lake.

My eyes scanned the beach for the tree.  It was nearly impossible with this giant mass of bodies in front of me.  Large crowds like this make me anxious.  I don’t like to be surrounded.  I could feel my throat closing at the thought of having to traverse through them.

I desperately scanned along the tree line, but umbrellas and fat adults blocked everything.  After looking around one more time, I spotted it – a little, olive-skinned boy was trying to climb up the branches.  He was too close to my treasure – my power.  I ran towards this foreign brat.  My good hand wrapped around the small, bony wrist as I yanked him away from the tree.

The boy immediately began to cry.  One little squeeze and I would crack the frail bone in my grasp.

“What are you doing?” I heard the desperate cry from somewhere behind me.  I pried the rock from the boy’s hand and frantically searched for where he picked it up from.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” A tall, slightly overweight woman in a one-piece snatched the boy from my grasp.

“He was ruining the tree,” I snarled at her.  She was wasting my time.

“Regardless, you don’t grab a child like that.”

“Excuse me, I’m in a hurry.”  I pushed past her and the little brat.

“Excuse me!  How dare you touch my child!”

“Listen here,” I growled.  “Why don’t you keep that brat out of my way and teach him how to behave.”

Taken aback, the lady turned and walked back to her umbrella, glancing over her shoulder at me every now and again.

I dropped to my knees and dug with one hand at the spot where I know it was buried.  There it was, glinting beautifully in front of me.  I quickly glanced around and stuffed the knife into my jacket pocket.  I tried to move as quickly as possible through the sand and towards my car.  I kept my head down as I pushed and shoved through the crowd of fat, pale beachgoers who constantly shoved food in their massively large mouths.

As I reached the lot, I saw the cop car sitting in one of the spots.  I frantically looked around and spotted them talking to an old man.  It was the same ones from the morning.  Their walkie-talkies beeped and a nosily voice spoke.  “We have a 10-54 located in the woods of the Bugle Boy Campground by cabins twenty-seven and twenty-eight.”

My heart raced.  They found Lizzie.

The officers rushed over to their cruiser and left.  I sat in the front seat and tried to figure things out.  I needed to leave.  I came here to escape from home.  Crystal’s body was probably already found.  How stupid of me.  I shouldn’t have done it again.  Not here.  Not my escape.

I contemplated leaving immediately and finding somewhere new to hide for a few days.  But Emily.  I could go and bring her with me.

———————————— ♦ ————————————

I parked the car deep in the woods opposite her house.  I sat in silence and waited.  I could see two figures moving about inside.  I played with the knife in my hands.  It felt…alive.  It made me feel alive.

The sun faded behind the mountains and trees and the sky turned a mix of pink and red.  Finally some movement at the door.  Her boyfriend walked out the door, twirling keys in his hand and whistled as he climbed into his cheesy car.  I watched as he backed out and faded in the distance down the road.

Placing the knife back in my pocket, I silently crept out of the car and across the street.  Lights were flipped on in the front room of the house, but I could see no shadows inside.  She must have walked away.  I checked the front door.  Unlocked.  How perfect.

I quietly slipped through the door, hoping the door and floor was soundless.  I could hear rustling from the kitchen area.  I could feel every beat of my heart thumping in my chest as the knife bumped against my side with each step I took closer to her. I snuck into the kitchen doorway and stood there for a moment, mesmerized by her beauty.

She was fumbling around the stove area.

“Emily.”

She jumped a foot into the air and spun around.

“What are you doing here?”  Her eyes were wide with fright.

“I’m here for you,” I began.  “I’m in love with you.  I want you to come with me.”

“I’m…I’m so sorry,” she stuttered.  Her hands were shaking as she pressed herself against the counter.  I slowly walked towards her.  “I n-n-need you to leave.”

As I passed the island, she darted around the other side and into the main room.  I ran after her.  Before she could reach the front door, I dove at her legs and knocked her to the floor.  I rolled her onto her back and scrambled to sit on her legs and pin down her arms.

“HELP ME!” she screamed in desperation.

“Shhhhhh.  We don’t want any other trouble.”

“Please.”  She began to sob.  The tears rolled down her cheeks.

“You can end this easily.  All you have to do is come home with me.”  She shook her head side to side.  I cradled her head in my bandaged hand.  Her cheek was so warm and soft.  I stared longingly into her green eyes.  I leaned over and gently pressed my lips to hers, but she snapped her mouth shut.  “Don’t make me hurt you.  Just cooperate with me.”

“Let…me…go,” she said as she struggled under me.

I shifted my weight from her legs to her hips and leaned back over and began kissing her neck.  She stretched her head back and I could hear her whimper.  I rose onto my knees to get a better balance, but it was a mistake.

“Get…OFF!” she screamed as she lifted her left leg and kneed me right in the groin.  I rolled off her in pain and she jumped to her feet and took off back towards the kitchen.

Climbing up, I staggered to the doorway, but before I could focus my attention back to her, I heard the handle of the front door jingle.  My head jerked around as her scumbag boy-toy appeared.

“What the…” he gasped as he caught sight of me clinging to the wooden frame.

“Mike?  Mike, help!”

“Emily?  What did you do to her?!” he screamed as he lunged towards me.  Before I could react, his massive hands closed around my throat.

I clawed at his bare arms, but nothing seemed to penetrate his thick skin.  Anger radiated through his body and I could feel it reverberate down into the fingers that denied me precious air.  My eyes locked on his – and I saw him.

His light blue eyes faded and were filled with black.

Murderer…” the voice said in my head.  “You killed them.  You’re time’s coming.

Anger overtook me and the cold steel in my pocket suddenly burned hot.  I dug into the jacket without taking my eyes off his.  My fingers closed around the handle and tore it out.

I glared into the soulless black pupils and gave a smirk.  I plunged my knife into his stomach and felt the warm ooze of blood run down my hand.  He immediately released his grip and I felt the cold air rush into my mouth and burn my throat and starving lungs.

The scum slowly backed away, but I stayed with him.  I grabbed the knife, still protruding from him, and pushed it deeper.  He sputtered blood and mumbled something I couldn’t make out.

“MIKE!”

She had run back into the room.  I could see the phone in her hand.  I glanced back into his eyes.  They returned to blue, but the light began to fade in them.  I pulled the knife out of the limp body and he crumpled to the ground.

“You son-of-a-bitch.”  Emily seemed to have regained some composure.  Good.  This will make my night more enjoyable.

“He’s no longer in the way.  You’re free to be with me.  No distractions.”

She stood at the doorway, half concealed behind the frame.  She looked to stunned to move.  I glided over towards her and she didn’t move.  She stared straight into my eyes.  She had this look in her eyes.  It wasn’t fear.  No, I couldn’t quite figure it out.  She placed her hand on the doorframe and looked over at the body lying on the floor.  I reached out and stroke my hand on her check, wiping away a tear that had begun to fall.

“That’s right, don’t fight me,” I cooed.

She looked back at me and this wild fury appeared in them.  She stepped out from the doorway and before I could react, she swung something at my head.

Next thing I knew, I found myself sprawled on the ground, my head throbbing and spots forming in front of my eyes.  My head was spinning.  I looked to my left and saw her feet standing by me.  She leaned over and picked something up.  I could see a rolling pin in her hand.  She turned to face me and whatever was in her hand reflected the ceiling light.  MY KNIFE!

“You bitch!”  I warily scrambled to my feet, uneasy and off-balance.  “No one touches it! NO ONE!”

She dropped the rolling pin and held the knife firmly in both hands.  She swiped wildly at me, but missed each time.  I waited for my chance to pounce.  She slashed at the air in front of me and I jumped at her and grabbed her throat with my bandaged hand.  My anger washed away the pain it cause me.  I grabbed at her wrist with the other hand.  I pushed her back against the counter.  I smiled as I watched her eyes frantically look for help.  I took one look at her hand in my grasp for my power, but it wasn’t there.

I searched the floor, but couldn’t find it.  I looked back at her.  She mustered a little smile on her face as if she knew something.

“Wrong…hand…” she managed to gasp.

I felt a tingling sensation in my chest.  I felt no pain.  I let her go and backed away.  She fell to her knees and grabbed at her thin neck.  Slowly I turned.  Standing at the end of the hallway was a huge full-length mirror.  I could see him staring at me, the eyes as black as night.  He smiled and looked down at his chest.  I followed suit.  My knife, my source of power, betrayed me.  It jutted out in the middle of my chest.  I could hear each heartbeat in my ear.  It slowed with every passing second.

I could barely make out the commotion behind me.  There were more voices.  I could hear walkie-talkies firing off.  White began to cloud my vision.  I walked to the face that I hated.  It was mocking me – showed no sympathy.

I reached the face, my hand instinctively grabbing at the face, but I couldn’t touch it.  My bloody hands left a trail down the figure as I slid to the floor, the beat of my heart ever more pronounced in my head.

Thump-thump, thump-thump…thump-thump…thump……thump…………

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2 Comments on “The other man”

  1. Heather
    March 19, 2011 at 6:46 PM #

    I love that you used a rolling pin! lol I do believe that was my idea haha!!

    • Candice Monhollan
      March 19, 2011 at 11:07 PM #

      Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

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