(One year before SUPERGIRLS tale takes place)
The forest is creepy, dark and deep, and we got a date with Johnny Depp to keep. Pirates of the Caribbean to be exact. My sister May and I’ve watched it a million times, and probably will a million times more if we can get this buried treasure shit over with.
I hide behind a giant oak. It stands tall and looming like a giant’s shadow. I peek around the tree and search the path. Moon glow breaks through tree branches and haloes an area free of brush and brambles. A deer skull with a huge eight-point rack sits in the center, the white of bone stands out against the dark dirt.
Excitement quivers my insides. My fists curl against the bark of the oak. Please…I ask the half moon, the non-existent stars, whatever gods that may or may not exist. This could be it–the answer to everything, the cure all, me and May’s golden ticket.
May is behind me. She thinks the huckleberry bush hides her, but with that mop of blonde hair she has, a blind person could point her out. Not that we are hiding from anyone in particular. It’s just really dark, so dark the stars don’t shine— as if they’d shine for us anyway. According to May’s treasure map, a piece of toilet paper with pen scrawls and a red lipstick X, the treasure should be buried right there, under that deer skull.
How did we end up with a treasure map? It’s both simple and complicated, so pay attention: May has a BFF at the escort service named Jeannette. I’ve never met her, but they go to the same places, visit the same men, share notes on who is who and how much they make. One night, Jeannette goes to the alley behind the club to piss (the little girl’s room was full) and texted May when a cop threatened to put her in the tank. May showed up with a frying pan and clobbered the cop over the head. In thanks, Jeannette gave us the map. She said she lifted it off a of couple johns who were throwing a private party to celebrate knocking over the local bank. The johns ended up booked for the next 20 years, and the money? All ours.
We agreed to give Jeannette a third of what we found…if we found anything. It all sounded pretty farfetched to me.
“This is it!” I whisper, trying to keep the excitement out of my voice.
“Ummm….” May looks at her toilet paper map then back at the deer skull, then back at the toilet paper. “She said they claimed to have put a deer skull on it, so… I’m thinking yes. Hey, Jenn?”
“What?” I peek around the tree again and lift the spyglass from my pocket. It was heavy with an eighteen-inch telescope wand, made of aged copper with a ring of silver at the end. I swapped the pawnshop guy for it.
I adjust the telescope full length and focus in on the skull. “I think I see an X on the top between the antlers, but I can’t be sure.”
May says, “Why are we whispering?”
I say, “So no one catches us.”
“Okay,” she says. “But who’s going to catch us? We’re in the middle of fucking nowhere.” She yells fucking nowhere to make her point.
“Precautions. Anyways, shut up, May! I’m looking through my spyglass.”
“Gah,” she says behind me, and before I know it, I hear her crunching on every dry leaf and broken branch possible. She marches past, dragging the shovel, bumping against my shoulder so that I drop the spyglass. “Dammit, May!”
She says, “Game over, Twisted Sister. That treasure is mine.”
“May! Quiet! We gotta be quiet.” I snatch up the spyglass and sprint after her.
May’s long blonde hair gleams golden in the moonlight. She drops the shovel and picks up the skull, grunting with the weight of it, and hoists it above her head. “Can you hear that?”
I freeze and glance behind us. “What?”
She gazes at the skull in awe and reverence. “It’s whistling. The deer skull is whistling.”
“May…” Oh, no, not this again. She talks to things sometimes, and hears things—things that aren’t actually there. This is the worst possible time for her to have an episode. Did she take her meds that morning? I can’t remember. And if I can’t remember, that probably means not. My little sister exasperates me. “I don’t hear whistling.” I pick up the shovel and scoop a pile of dirt from where the deer skull sat.
May’s eyes are huge and she smiles at the skull. “It’s as real as I’m standing here. The deer head whistles at us—a good omen.”
She starts whistling Twisted Nerve from Kill Bill and I do everything to keep myself from beaning her over the head with the shovel. “I’m not so sure a whistling deer head is a good omen, May. Now shut up before someone hears us.” I keep shoveling, and she quiets and sets down the skull beside us. She says, “You remember your promise, right? First thing we’ll do after we get the money?”
“Yeah,” I say. “We get a hotel room, lie low and…”
“And we have a movie binge, Pirates of the Caribbean first. Then? Mad Max or The Punisher. Do you like The Punisher?”
I glance at her, and she is touching the bone white antlers. The question is for the deer skull, not me. She tilts her head. “Perhaps it’s a moose?”
“No, May. It’s a deer and I doubt the poor dead deer head has ever watched Pirates of–”
She snatches the spyglass out of my pocket, extends it and waves my precious spying tool around like a sword, then points it at me. “Avast, ye landlubber!”
“Avast dip shit unless we find the treasure and get the fuck out of here. God, May–”
“Crude, whore child. Ye must walk the plank!”
My shovel hits something hard. I look at May. “Hear that?”
May’s eyes grow wide and she drops the spyglass as she nods. “OMG, it’s for real. It’s for real, Jen-Jen.” I hate that nickname. She’s called me that since we were little, though not as much since we left high school. Thank the stars.
A crisp crunching of leaves echoes in the darkness. My heart leaps into my chest and my head snaps back the way we came.
“What’s that?” whispers May.
But I am already shoveling as fast as I can and as I do, I see the top of a small treasure box, just like you’d find in the movies, but smaller. It’s wooden with a tiny brass lock. It’d be easy enough to break off.
May takes a step back towards the path. She sweeps the spyglass up and looks through it.
“I see a flashlight,” she whispers and ducks when the flashlight shines her way. “Hurry! Oh fuck, hurry.”
I drop to my knees and scrape away the dirt surround the treasure box.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…”
Finally, the box breaks from its grave. It’s obvious money isn’t inside. If not money, what can it be? Visions of diamonds fill my head.
May drops the spyglass. “Hand me the treasure…”
“May, no…” I glance back at the flashlight and footfalls.
“Give it to me, god damn it!” She rips the box from my fingers and charges into the forest like a football player running towards his goal.
I pick up the spyglass. “May!” I call out in a whisper after her, she’s going the wrong way. We need to loop back around the way we came or we’ll be lost, but she’s already disappeared and the flashlight spills over me, and I know we are caught.
At least I am.
I drop to the ground and squirm through dense brush, then rise up on my hands and knees and crawl back into the woods. I spy a stump with a spray of thick huckleberry bushes around it and crawl as fast I can. When I reach it, I squat behind it, breathing a sigh of relief and scanning the trees for any sign of May. Her hair should have been easy to pick out, but if she kept on running, she’d be long gone by now, which was fine with me, because that means she’s safe. I’d rather take my chances of survival in the dark woods than with the person holding the flashlight. All I have is a spyglass. I peek around the edge of the stump, expecting to see the person standing by the hole I dug.
But the flashlight is gone, and the person nowhere to be seen. It is if they had vanished, beamed up into the dark void of night.
Confused, I scan the woods right, left. I don’t have time to scream when a monster grabs me from behind.
Its huge claws rake my breasts and squeeze them. He thrusts his groin into my hips, fumbling with my jean buttons. I’m scratching, biting, kicking when suddenly the monster flips me around and bear hugs my arms against my sides, smooshing me against his chest.
I see his face.
One eye is hollow and missing, a thin scar frowns from the edge of his empty eye socket down his cheekbone. He bellows at me in a deep gravely voice then buries his head into my neck, rubbing his bristly whiskers against me. A bear has caught me in the woods dark and deep. His whisker burns turn into nibbles and I scream “MAY!” and do the only thing a girl can do when pressed up closed to a grizzly monster—I knee his groin.
He doesn’t flinch. In fact, it makes him laugh. He lifts his face to the night, his bellows echoing amongst the stark trees. Stealing his idea, I bite into his grungy neck. Eye for an eye, bite for a bite. He tastes like rotten meat. It reminds me of the time May and I had dug food out of trashcans while playing hobos. We’d pulled out what looked like a half eaten t-bone steak. It made us sick for two days, barfing and all.
Bear shouts, “Fucking bitch!” and then laughs again as he lifts me in the air, my arms still pinned to my side. He grunts as I kick him in the gut, and in that savage moment between fear and survival, I see her hair, May’s hair, glowing like an angel. She stands quiet as a ghost behind Bear.
She clutches the deer skull. The antlers blaze fierce and razor sharp. She places it directly behind him, brings a finger to her lips and tiptoes away.
Bear still presses my arms to my side as he plants me down on my feet in the dirt. I can’t see around him anymore, all I can do is look up into his ugly one-eyed face. His expression changes, growing dark and serious. Where is May?
“Ain’t you the prettiest little honey? I think I oughta keep you.” I stomp on his foot and he laughs. “Or just eat you. Both sound good to me.” He dips his head again to nuzzle my neck, only this time, he doesn’t nuzzle. He bites. Hard. I feel blood erupt. Its warmth rivers down my chest.
I scream, “May!” With the pain of his bite came clarity and a plan. I’m grasping the spyglass like a catholic with a cross. I whip it from my left hand to the right behind my back, then wiggle my elbow free.
When Bear comes up for air, he says, “Taste good, don’t you?” His one eye grows cruel with lust and hatred. His voice falls even lower. It’s tinged with gravel and grit. “Aww…what’s the matter, little girl? Did sis run and leave you all alone in the dark with me? And unless she brings me back my treasure… you and I are going to have ourselves a little dinner party.”
Kill Bill’s theme song whistles from the woods. Bear swivels his head toward the sound, and as he does, I wiggle my right hand and spyglass out of his grasp.
“What’s this?” He turns back to me and I am ready, holding the spyglass like a baseball bat. His one eye gleams a mean silver. He growls and snaps his teeth at me, yellow and red with my blood. Worst of all, they were sharp, horribly sharp like they’d been filed to a point. What kind of sick fuck does that?
And then it strikes me, the monstrous beast plans to eat me and spit out my bones. He’d grown a taste for human flesh, not so uncommon among the population of grizzlies, but he isn’t a bear. He is a human, preying and devouring his own species. A cannibal.
And here at the age of nineteen, I’d told myself I’d seen all the absurd fucked-up-ed-ness of the world, that it can’t get any worse.
I was wrong. No matter how much I see, have seen, there will always be more. Evil will be topped with greater evil. Depravity topped with even more depravity. And so the world goes as it spins on its big axel around the giant star in a galaxy we call the Milky Way (which happens to be my favorite candy bar.)
I force myself not to flinch as his shark teeth snap at me like a starved piranha. I grasp the spyglass with both hands and swing with all my strength, thwacking his one good eye like a baseball. Home run for the Supergirls!
His eye pops. Bits of gooey insides spray my face like egg whites.
I cringe and draw back, frozen in place and time as eye flesh clings to my face and slide down my cheeks like teardrops.
Bear squeals something unintelligible, and is unable to inhale as his wrath builds and builds like a volcano. This instant seems to last for hours, years and then his hands release me. He raises them to the night sky, howling like the savage beast he is.
Hitting the dirt wakes me out of the spell. I am free! I am also a tangle of legs and arms, scrabbling to jump up and escape.
But Bear is reaching for me just as quickly as he let me go. He lets loose another howl into the night as his wrath and pain focus in on me. He grabs for me, blindly.
May springs out of nowhere like a lithe piratetess . Her eyes dance with wild excitement. Her hair bounces around like octopus tentacles—a goddess awoken from the deep. She raises the treasure box above her head, then smacks it down on Bear’s face, the corner of the box catching in his gushing wound. He yowls like a wounded animal and attempts to cover his head. May thwaps him again and again until he stumbles backward, retreating.
I see now what she is doing. Brilliant May!
I leap from the ground and rush Bear just as May lands her final blow. The treasure box shatters like an eggshell, and in that very second I see a glittering star fall from the box.
Bear falls backwards, May and I both pushing our weight into him as he does, and with a sickening thud, the antlers pierce through his ribs, instantly piercing his heart. His thick limbs wiggle and jiggle like an insect caught in a web. It goes on for eternity, and finally they cease.
I am weeping when May pulls me off him. We clutch each other on the forest floor, crying, breathing–alive.
And that is when we hear the click of a hammer being cocked.
We both turn to a tall woman in heels, tight leather pants and a crimson silk top. She wears a dark hat with a veil.
“Jeannette?” screeches May. She jumps to her feet and the woman in leather says, “Don’t. You. Dare.”
May puts her hands above her head. “I don’t understand…I…”
May, dear naïve May. I shake my head and watch the realization fill her gorgeous blue eyes.
Jeannette takes a few dainty steps, leans into the mess of blood, leaves and dirt, never taking her eyes off us. What she pulls from the debris leaves me breathless, stunned… a diamond easily the size of my thumb.
May says, “That’s ours, Jeannette.”
She glances at May. “Supergirls? Really? Grow up, doll. Thanks for finding this for me.”
“He with you?” I nudge my chin toward the beast shish kebab. I’m not sure which I am angrier about: Jeannette stealing our diamond or that she sicced Bear on us, knowing he’d probably peel our skin and eat our hearts. Jeannette is more monster than the bear had ever been.
The veil covers her eyes, but her full lips lift to the side. “Yeah, what of it?”
That’s it. Her response triggers the bomb inside me.
From the dirt I leap at her, grabbing her ankle. She shoots the pistol just as May grabs me from behind. The bullet grazes my shoulder. If it weren’t for May, it’d been straight in my heart.
Jeannette re-cocks the gun. “That’ll be enough ladies. Next time I won’t miss,” she says, walking backwards into the night.
Johnny Depp is swinging on ropes of the Black Pearl with swashbuckling music while May dabs at my shoulder with a cotton ball she’d soaked in rum.
The bullet had barely grazed my shoulder. It stings, but not as much as it had stung to watch that woman walk away with our buried treasure. Our diamond. That gem could have gotten us out of this slum forever.
“Does it hurt?” May asks.
I say, “Dumb question.”
“Don’t have to be mean.”
I gasp when she presses the cotton ball against Bear’s bite.
May says softly, “The whistling deer head told me too, you know.”
“Told you what?”
“What to do.”
I sigh. “No, May, that was your idea. Deer heads don’t speak… or even whistle for that matter.”
She says, “This one did.”
I stay quiet, there was no point arguing. There’s a knock on the door and we both jump. May says, “It’s for me.”
“Kinda late, don’t you think? Just tell him tomorrow.”
May hugs me and says, “A job’s a job, plus he tips me extra if I tickle his feet…”
I raise my eyebrow. “Tickle his feet?”
“Yeah, while I–”
Tears spring to my eyes. I hate that she has to do this. That I have too. I whisper, “Don’t tell me. Just go get it done, whore child.”
She lets go of me. “Keep the rum on that bite. I’ll be back in a while. Remember you work the register tomorrow morning.”
I think of the dumb gas station. “Yeah.”
She brushes her hair and applies lipstick. “How do I look?”
I say, “Like a sinner.”
“Excellent.” She grabs the door and I see a pasty face with black hair, he says, “Hey Sexy…”
May tosses me a playful glance. “Laters, Supergirl.”
I frown as the door slams shut.
Diamonds are like stars, you see one every once in a while, but in the end they are meant for someone else. I lean back against the wall and watch pirates fight. After awhile, my eyes close. And deep in dreams, I see a green countryside where the air is fresh and a thousand gems twinkle in the midnight sky. A cabin sits on a hill, a lazy curl of smoke sauntering out of the chimney. Flowerpots line every porch step. I see two rocking chairs on the porch. May sits in one. She looks like an angel. She rocks and watches the stars. She turns to me, but instead of peace in her eyes I see fear. She says, “Piggy’s coming.”
A monster roars in the night and I wake up.
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SUPERGIRLS : A Novella of Suspense
Sisters Jenn and May have finally found their golden ticket out of the slums. Pervy sugar daddy, Frederick Bells, promises to be an easy score with a big payoff—millions are hidden within his mansion.
The plan is simple: tie up the pig, steal his cash, and skip town. But fate has a different plan, including a villain with a wicked imagination. The sisters resort to playing their childhood game SUPERGIRLS to battle their fears in Bell’s den of horrors.
Will the SUPERGIRLS find their prize or will their heads join the pile behind the black cellar door?
When Mav Skye isn’t turning innocent characters into axe murderers, refinishing old furniture, chasing around her spring ducklings, or reading the latest horror novel, she’s editing at the almighty Pulp Metal Magazine. She adores puppies, pirates, skulls, red hots, Tarantino movies and yes, Godzilla. Especially Godzilla. Look for her wicked horror romance, Wanted: Single Rose, this fall and the second book in the SUPERGIRLS series, Night without Stars, early 2015. Find Mav: Website, Twitter, Facebook Page, and Goodreads.