(Trigger warning. 16+)
It’s strange the things you remember from the day tragedy struck your life for the first time. I recall having just turned twelve, walking home from school with the sun blazed down from a sky so blue I kept staring up at it through the oak trees planted beside the main road.
Our quaint little house stood on the outskirts of town. As I walked, the scents of heated tarmac and diesel fuel gave way to forest, the clean earthy smell of fresh rain from the night before, and wild-growing lavender.
I planned to swim in the nearby pond that afternoon, and nothing about that perfect day warned me anything was wrong. As I always did, I walked in the back door, put away my bag, and noticed my mother’s handbag on the table.
My mom should have been at the diner—she never missed a day of work that I could remember. The front door stood slightly ajar, and I pushed it open. We had a rocking chair out on the porch, and she loved sitting out there and watching nature change from day to day, but she never came home this early.
I stepped forward, and when I glanced down, I noted a large brownish, drying liquid on the wooden floor. Even before I looked up at that chair, my brain knew what it was. I saw her arm, the ragged open cuts like Halloween wounds, bloodied and infested with blowfly eggs, and the image burned into my brain forever.
She was pale as death, eyes wide open, staring sightlessly at nothing. Her irises had already discolored to a milky white. Her lips were blue, and for a second, I believed it was a hoax, but the metallic tang of blood filled the air, the scent of death, the first undertones of rot, and I knew. My mother finally lost her fragile balance on the knife’s edge she’d been teetering on for thirteen years.
Scarlet was only half visible to me but needed to see no more. I turned and ran through the house because I didn’t want to step in her blood. I only realized I was screaming halfway through the woods, my ears were ringing, and they popped, allowing the sound of my voice through. My throat was raw, but I couldn’t stop running or screeching.