In the Pines by Jodi MacArthur

The snow falls soft and red in the pines, as does the knife from my hands. The moon sings above the frost and layered mist. I look at the blood on my hands still warm, now cooling, and I shiver. I feel sore, tense, as if I’d just ran for my life or fought off King Kong, but I am uninjured. The blood splattered on my WICKED WOMAN tee and the ground isn’t mine. But whose was it?

Sometimes, I don’t remember the rage or what follows after.

My gaze flits back to the moon, she still sings, but it’s a song of mockery. Between the mist and snowflakes, I see in the moon’s center an orange red glow. She knows. The thought is there and I hold it as clouds cover the shimmery red glow and the moon is gone. Darkness fills in what the moon has left, and I am grateful for the cover.

A thunder of white shivers from a tree behind me, and I cover my head, then look. An old Ford sits under the tall pine. It must be my truck– thank god.

Icy frost burns into my bare feet as I scramble through the snow to the Ford. I hop back and forth from one foot to the other and scrape my palms against the hardened ice on the windshield, then the driver window. “Where the hell are my shoes?” I rake at the windows and frantically hop from foot to foot. I grab at the door handle pulling up, up—it won’t budge. My nails snap, blood pours from my fingertips. I hop back and forth, back and forth, foot to foot. I snatch at the handle again and wiggle it a little before I jerk it to the side and up. My fingers slide across, and from an on looker’s perspective it would look like a comedy act. Simultaneously, I hop-step on a slippery slope of snow compacted by all my jumping about, I fumble and end up on my ass.

“Damn it!” I scream up at the parting clouds.

Just then, the moon peaks out, her maroon center glaring at me like a giant eye, She knows. My arms are stretched above my head, fingertips leaking crimson, a bloody snow angel vulnerable to the light. Or am I?

“I know where you sleep,” I whisper at the moon. Deep inside, raw instinct trips the light fantastic. There are things you just know whether you have the memories to back it up or not. And this is what I know as I lay on the ground, a bloody angel with a mini skirt full of snow and a tee shirt full of WICKED WOMAN: At some point, everyone’s light runs out and when it does, for some, I’ll be there in the darkness, waiting. For others, I am the darkness.

The moon’s bloody center blinks in reply as if she’d been privy to my thoughts, waiting for this confession. She disappears entirely as snow bears down once again. I rise to my feet, brush off, and reassess the Ford. Why the hell am I dressed in only a tee and mini skirt? Whose blood is now mixed with mine on my arms? I must have been totally enraged with someone, whoever he was.

This time, I leave both feet on the ground and I gently pull at the door again. It doesn’t budge. I scrape at the windshield with my fists and try to look inside. I think I see something on the dash. A noise from the trees threatens another avalanche of snow. I step back, then have an idea. I scramble back and fetch the bloody knife. I jam it between door and frame and yank on the handle, the door pops open at the same moment the tree shed itself of another pile of snow.

Swoosh!

I fall to the ground with it. My lungs (and panties) fill with the frost and for a moment I can’t breathe. I dust myself out of it, my pale skin turning blue, and pull the door all the way open. I jump into the driver’s seat and slam the door, searching for keys in the ignition and flip the engine over. Now time for heat, I search for the knob.

Stop…

Something hangs over the heater vent. It’s all twisted and hairy. I follow it up. A head sits on the dashboard. His ugly, fucking head…

I must have cut it clean off.

Vomit forces itself up my throat with a scream. I swallow both down and begin to laugh instead.

Lars’s head sits in the middle of the dash, one eye upturned, the other is covered with a black skull and cross bones eye patch. I say, “Well, arrr me matey!” His mouth hangs open as if saying Doh! His beard is long, rugged and braided down over the heater vent as if pointing to the radio knob.

I laugh and laugh, shake my head and laugh. The bloody memory, sadly, does not return. I flip on the radio knob as I reach to the glove box. I pull out a cigarette and lighter. It warms me, both the expression of surprise on his piratey face (I always wanted to make him up as a pirate- ha!) and the warmth of the stick in my mouth.

The tape player switches on instead of the radio. Kurt Cobain sings about losing his head where the cold wind blows. I say, “Oh, Rietta, you kill me!” and laugh again. Opening the door, I toss out Lars’s head, and grab the knife. They may find his skull with the eye patch when the snow thaws, but I know I hid the body well.

I throw the knife on the seat beside me. It slips into the chair’s fold, where shadows caress it like a lover. Like me, it prefers its secrets hidden, buried. I am the darkness. I grin like the devil at the thought, turn the wheel and back out as Cobain sings on.

~*~

10 thoughts on “In the Pines by Jodi MacArthur”

  1. I tried to access this story and got the following message: “Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.” I really, really want to read Jodi’s story. How can I find it?

  2. Exquisite words as only Jodi can write them. I love how we stand right there with the narrator in the cold, cold forest under a judgemental moon, fighting with her to retrieve the memories we want to hear. And oh, how satisfying the slow revelation is, culminating in a wicked and perfect ending. Beautiful.

  3. Harbro~ Wicked is as wicked does. Thanks!

    Paul~ True! And vice versa. Just depends on who is holding the knife. Appreciate you reading. Sidenote- Hope the new shop is doing well.

    David~ You’re a fellow Seattlite, right? Glad you liked that first sentence. I almost cut it. Glad I didn’t. It’s been awhile, thanks for reading!

    Madame Z! I know this site always gives you trouble ;p Thanks so much for reading my work and commenting, much appreciated. Lars is an amusing fellow, more so in death than alive, I think. or at least Henrietta thinks so.(Hee)

    Chris~ Thanks, Mister. Excited to read the new antho you put together.

    Lily~ Glad you enjoyed the conflict with the eye in the sky and the ending. Hope all is well, hun.

  4. Jodi,

    You’ve made killing so beautifully literate. There’s a wonderful, fascinating mystery to your character. You’ve told us just enough to enthrall us, yet you left us just enough to keep us guessing and in suspense as to exactly how she became what she is. Of course, she is fashionably dressed for killing in her Wicked Woman tee shirt. Perfect for the occasion.

    Who’ll turn up dead next?

    Charlie

    1. Hi Charlie 😉
      Thanks for your kind comments. Henrietta is always dressed for the occasion. And she keeps me guessing too. I have a whole file of her stories that build up to the bigger picture of who she is, how she became that way, and where she’s going. I’ll have to compile it someday, but it isn’t complete yet.

      It’s always good to hear from you. I hope you have a story in the next issue– I miss reading them!

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