I was cold to the bone from the winter chill, and then there was that woman . . . her shotgun pointed at me throughout the drive. How she could travel along the snowy road just fine and hold her double barrel one-handed like so, with her other hand firmly on the wheel, I’d never know. Her little sister used to say she was skilled with a gun. I had no idea.
And she kept eyeballing me.
If I’d so much flinched oddly, I’d be dead for sure.
Can’t say I knew Liz that well, and here I was, in the passenger-side seat of her car, facing those dark holes slugs within readily capable of ending my life.
I didn’t know her plan until she parked, popped the trunk open, and told me, “Grab the shovel.”
“You really want me to dig my own grave? Out here where no one will ever find me?”
“Point. Genius.” She shook her head. Her thumb caressed the curve of her trigger. “And don’t play the victim. You know what you did,” she said as if I killed her dog, something important.
Liz jabbed my face with the barrel to make me move. I felt like a cow being prodded. The coldness from the shotgun, frosty pricks.
Drowsy from whatever was on the rag that she had put over my mouth before I passed out earlier. Chloroform? Something related. Guess she got the stuff from her sister’s vet clinic. With the place recently closed down medicine was there, readily available. She probably had a key. Makes sense, those two were best friends.
It was so hard to walk so I stopped.
Then hard metal tubes pressed against my face. I didn’t know what the long black poles were for a second. Ah, the barrel, kisses from Death, which flayed flesh off my cheekbone as Liz pulled the shotgun away. The only warmth came from the blood that followed, sliding down my face.
“Move,” the heartless woman demanded. I never did anything to her.
Left, right, left, right. I marched forward. My eyes pointed down at bare feet. Everything was hazy, minus all what was left of my mutilated legs. Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange—almost the whole color wheel on my limbs from the bruising and blood. Quite possible some of the hues were hallucinations caused by whatever she had drugged me with earlier.
My little toe got stuck to the other one. The middle toe turned purple. I couldn’t feel my big toe anymore. That one would have to be cut off if I made it through this alive. That was my right foot. She cut off three of the toes from the other foot to make certain I was incapable of running.
At least Liz stopped the bleeding by wrapping the wound up. Otherwise, walking might have been even harder. She didn’t bandage me up to be nice, but to mask the blood. She wanted me to suffer too. I could tell because she’d show me this smirk of satisfaction every time I groaned.
Then there was her shotgun. Those slugs would hurt like hell. I had heard drowning was the most peaceful way to go. I guess if suffocation was anything like that, I would be okay with dying underground. Fading away painlessly, and with my pride in tact. There wasn’t anything tender about getting shot. I’d do whatever I could not to die that way. If only I could avoid dying altogether? My foot wound or stump began to bleed through the gauze.
The loss of my toes had already caused me to walk all unbalanced. The oozing blood made me slip over my own footing. I fell on an icy rock covered in snow sludge.
Can’t stand. I should’ve just stayed there. Let her send me off to my eternal oblivion right then. Be done with this charade. For some stupid reason I truly believed I’d make it out of this scenario alive. My need to survive kicked in. Maybe if I just did what Liz told me she’d forgive my minor slipup in the past and allow me live. There was a voice in the back of my mind saying, “She’s only testing you. Do what she tells you. She’ll let you go free. Tell you to leave town and never come back.”
I could do that. I could start over. Always wanted to live somewhere without snow, like Texas. Also, I loved a good steak. Liz’s sister told me once that the state had the biggest, tastiest slabs of T-bones in the world. She knew all about my love for a thick piece of meat. On our second year anniversary, she made me promise to go to Texas with her by our third. Never happened, never had time, which made her resentful. I was sad about not being able to go, too. She only wanted to see my smile after taking a first bite from a delicious Texas steak. She’d refer to my happiness as her favorite thing in the world. Texas . . .
What a laugh.
Much like then with my false promises, today, I was a fool, driven by desperation. My chances of getting out of this situation were a joke too. My future. Buried under snow. But as I lay there on my rock bleeding, I realized how soft, how welcoming the ground felt against my flesh.
I always had a natural talent for math so I knew something for certain. Winter multiplied by her shotgun equated to certain death for me. There, on the ground the thought occurred to me that I could maybe get out of a hole I was buried within. Perhaps that was my way out of this? God, oh God, somehow, I would live.
“Stand or die there in the ice. I don’t care.”
“You’re going to kill me either way.”
“Want a messy death in the snow, or underground where it’s warm? Your choice, Vick.”
She pitied me. Saw the fear in my eyes. So pathetic I was, to reveal fear to my aggressor before she took everything else away. At least I didn’t piss my pants. Or, I hoped I hadn’t. It was so cold there was no way to know, really. Snow had gotten my clothes wet. The dampness on my jeans could have been urine.
“Lift. Shovel. Move.”
I hobbled to my feet. She shoved me forward with the point of her weapon. While the double barrel stabbed into my spine, I realized the shotgun was sharper when force was applied. Liz had way more strength than I gave her credit for.
There was something sticky in my hair. Ah, dried blood. I could fight her off if she removed the rope from my wrists. Liz was petite; my type, like her sister. Untied, she’d be mine.
I thought Liz was seducing me before this when she brought me to her house. If only I had realized . . .
She had planned everything down to . . . to removing my toes with piano wire. I had never thought that kind of pain was imaginable. She had gauze ready. My blood never had a chance to leave a trace of me. Lost my job because of the trial and bad media attention. A few months went by since everything had happened. Cops left me alone. Prosecutors left me alone. Cameras did too. The friends I had before forgot about me. My parents were long dead. No one in town would look at me anymore. No chance someone would search for me if I went missing. I’d be gone from this world. She’d straight up get away with murdering me in cold blood. Guess I grew today some, as I discovered life truly was unfair, unkind, most of all unforgiving.
“Shut up. Move.” The point of her gun jabbed my shoulder blade hard.
Come to think of it, how did I miss the plastic tarp underneath the sheets on the bed? Had she not caught me by surprise—this would have gone down a lot differently.
I needed to escape. Overpower her. Turn this around. I could still make my way to Texas. Start over.
We stopped walking.
“Dig.” The back of her gun motioned toward my icy plot.
“How am I supposed to do that if you won’t untie me?”
“Figure it out. Get. Unless you’d rather die this way?” She pulled back the magazine. The only solace she allowed me: knowing I’d die underground away from her shotgun. She could pull a trigger a lot faster than I could flee.
The snow made the ordeal even worse, especially on my heels where I had to position most of my weight. I’d be a cripple even if I lived. Yet, I couldn’t think about my slim odds of survival. There were frozen layers to make my way through with the shovel. I dug past all that before hitting dirt. After a few feet, I realized this was my moment, my last sure way to get out of this predicament. I had to distract her somehow. Get the gun. Get away. “Could you at least grant me one final request?”
That was when she hit me in the face with the backend of her shotgun. “Did I tell you to stop digging?”
My nose opened up. Cartilage snapped. My face painted the snow vermilion. “Why can’t we talk?”
I crawled out of the hole along the white ground, coloring everything near me red, attempting to avoid my future grave, and search for a way to get loose, free.
“Nothing to talk about.” She edged closer to me, and aimed the shotgun at my face. “I see you trying to escape.” She toyed with me by sharing a story. “You know, when we were girls, my sister and I used to go hunting with our pa. I’ve shot quite a few deer in my day. Big ones, little ones, standing, sitting, and running ones—I’ve shot ’em all. Suzie on the other hand, hated killing.
“One time, Pa was pushing her to take a shot. She couldn’t stop crying. ‘I don’t wanna, Daddy,’ she yelled over and over. I did the dirty work for her when he looked away. She was eight. I was ten. My sister was ever so grateful. I was her big brave, Lizzie. She, she, she was my little innocent, Suzie.”
Tears welled in her eyes.
Now I saw why Liz was furious. This whole time I had only thought about my feelings. What an awful, horrible day. The day had haunted me—tormented my soul. I’d regret what I did until my last breath. Never once occurred to me, she lost a sister.
Then Liz got closer. “I’ll tell you this much about a shotgun wound—” the barrel pressed the wrinkles of my forehead, “—they hurt. If they cause a deer to scream in agony, I can’t imagine a human would be in any less pain. This way—” she readied her shotgun to serve my fate. “—Or your hole. Last chance.”
I definitely peed. A yellow trail was there between my legs on the snow. I could see the slugs through the darkness. “Okay. I’ll keep digging.”
She lowered the shotgun. “Up. Shovel. Now.”
An hour passed. The only sound had been dirt dropping. My hips were underground. There I was with earthworms, abandoned trash that made it this far down. The smell of decay overwhelmed my senses. I got on my knees, in the hole half my height, pleading for my life.
But, she didn’t care.
“That’s deep enough.”
“A shallow grave? You won’t even . . . not even let me have a proper burial?”
“You didn’t pay the same kindness to my little sister. You left her on the side of the interstate, under leaves in a ditch. The courts might’ve let you go due to lack of evidence, but we both know whatcha did. The fuckin’ crows pecked her eyeballs out and ate at her entrails until the state trooper found her. M.E. said she’d bled out for a minimum of two days. Her legs were twisted and broken, Vick. My Suzie couldn’t even walk to safety.” That was when she lifted the gun. “Oh, by the way, about not shooting you if you dug, I lied.”
“No. No, Lizzie. Wait. Listen. I lost my temper with her. I just . . .” Needed to tell the truth. Then all would be forgiven. “I—I hit her too hard. She—she—she made me. You know how she’d get when she was upset. We’d both said stuff we didn’t mean. I overreacted.”
She was listening. Liz was listening; finally, a way to change her mind. “I made one mistake. An accident. When she fell her head hit the coffee table. She wasn’t moving. In all my panic, I didn’t know she was alive, or she could’ve been saved. I was afraid. Did what I had to do to hide what had happened. I’m sorry. I’ll confess, tell the truth, anything. Please let me live. I’ll do whatever you want.” For a millisecond I had an ounce of hope, which went away when Liz pointed her shotgun at me and revealed that smirk of hers.
“Only my sister could call me Lizzie.”
The light from the blast was blinding, the pain long lasting, yet the slugs dealt death so fast I didn’t even have time to yelp. I’d never felt such anguish in all my existence. I began to see a dark abyss as my own blood blinded me before I met the cold of nothing.
Probably no T-bones in hell.
BAM graduated with a degree in English with honors and minored in psychology. His education has helped him write such action-packed shorts that appear in Akashic Books, Dead Guns Press, Over My Dead Body Magazine!, and Yellow Mama. BAM’s unpublished paranormal suspense novel, Diaries of Karma, recently won the WILDsound contest. He has several fiction awards, interviews, and featured stories here and there. When BAM‘s not writing, he’s either traveling Japan or teaching English to kids.