Isn’t it strange what 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 blazing down from a sky so blue I kept staring up at it through the ancient oak planted beside the main road.
Our quaint little house was situated on the outskirts of town. As I walked, the scents of heated tarmac and diesel fuel gave way to the 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 entered through the back door, put away my bag, and noticed my mother’s handbag on the table.
Why wasn’t she at the diner? Scarlet never missed a day of work.
The front door stood slightly ajar, and I pushed it open. If she were home, she’d be sitting on the old rocking chair out on the porch, watching nature change from day to day.
Why was she home this early? Was something wrong?
I stepped outside, and when I glanced down, noted a large, thick, brownish, drying liquid on the wooden floor. Even before I looked up at that chair, my brain recognized what it was because this was mostly a farming community.
Her arm drew my attention, and my stomach turned as I stared at the ragged open cuts that reminded me of Halloween wounds, but they were bloodied and infested with blowfly eggs, and the image burned into my brain forever.
Pale as death, with dark blue smudges around her mouth and eyes, Scarlet stared sightlessly at nothing. Her irises were milky white, and for a second, I assumed it was a hoax, but my mother would never do such a cruel thing to me.
The metallic tang of blood filled the air, the scent of death clung to the back of my throat like something fatty, and the first undertones of rot reached my nose.
My mother had finally lost her fragile balance on the knife’s edge she’d been teetering on for thirteen years.
She was only half visible, but I needed to see no more. Turning on my heel, I ripped open the screen door and ran through the house because I didn’t want to see the rest of her.
Halfway through the woods, my ringing ears popped, allowing the sound of my voice through. My throat was raw, but I couldn’t stop running or screeching.