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The End of Everything

I was always afraid of monsters as a child.

The idea that there was something waiting for you under your bed, ready to grab for your legs as you passed by to pull you down, dragging you as you clawed for safety, only to be pulled to the depths of hell.

What I never stopped to think about was how those creatures became who they were. Did they choose the life of becoming a terrifying being, one capable of pulling fear from others in order to regain some sort of strength within themselves? Or did they simply want good things and found themselves in situations where their darkness outweighed their light?

Was the world in which we live too cruel to those with troubled souls and painful pasts?

What terrifies me is not that I’ve become the monster. No, what terrifies me is how easy it was. It was as simple as slipping and standing up as someone new.

I can relate to that monster beneath the bed, needing to avenge the pain others have inflicted upon them. Pain and suffering changes people. It can take a simple man and make him vile. It can take a kind woman and make her vicious. But what it can’t take is your will to live.

“Pen?” Deena’s hoarse voice barely reaches me. “Pen, what happened? W-where’s...?”

My back is facing her as I dig the blood out from under my nails with a knife. I shift my weight slightly and point to the rolled-up tarp in the corner.

Oh my God.” She hobbles up and over to me, her hands holding my face.

I stare blankly at her.

“You’re going to be okay now,” she says in a shaky tone. “We’re going to be okay.”

She helps me to stand as I suck in a breath in pain. After swinging the bat on Tom, he fell back down the stairs, hitting his head on the concrete rock along the wall. I thought it was over, but when I’d least expected it, he’d tackled me from behind. With hands gripped around my neck, he choked me until my vision blurred. As he attempted to squeeze the life out of me, he shook his head, murmuring a phrase again and again as the darkness took over. Searching for anything with my hands, his tears fell onto my face as my fingers found the handle.

I stabbed him in the neck with the gardening tool that once sat firmly planted in his hand. I watched as the pain coursed through his body, destroying his hold on me. In a mix of tears and blood, he collapsed on top of me, along with every future we could ever have before this.

What I did was done, and there wasn’t any going back.

I couldn’t cry for my past. The present destroyed too much of it. Pain had taken its hold on me like that monster beneath the bed, and I wasn’t capable of feeling sadness. So I rolled his body into a tarp and sat until Deena regained consciousness.

Together, we did what we needed to do to remove any and all evidence. The tools, the tape, the rope, the chair. Burying your husband with your best friend was not where I saw myself a week ago. But even as I kicked the last bit of dirt over his body, his last words penetrated my thoughts. You never knew.

“We need to go somewhere tonight. Documented, before we leave town.” Deena says as we hike our way back towards the house.

I nod my head.

Deena stops in her tracks, grabbing my upper arms in her hands to face me. “Pen, talk. You have said nothing at all. Talk to me.”

I shrug her off and make my way out of the woods just as the sun peaks its attempt at light across the vast, open field.

“Two long islands please!” Deena says, leaning forward over the bar. “That should help,” she adds beneath her breath.

I wait as her friend makes his way around the back of the bar. The big burly man who was previously seated at the stool by the door, grabs a glass of water, filling it up with the soda handle directly in front of me.

“I’m going to run to the bathroom real quick, I’ll be right back,” Deena says, standing and flipping her long red hair over her back, adjusting the bottom of her oversized shirt.

Her red Crocs squeak against the sticky bar floor as she makes her way back towards the restrooms. The bartender fills our glasses with ice, smiling at the man next to him.

“So good to have you back, Rob. The place was getting ransacked with crazy college kids while you were gone.”

I try to divert my eyes, but can’t pull myself from their conversation.

The burly man chuckles. “I’d rather have been here. The in-laws are worse than the college kids. At least I can rough them up.”

Chuckling at his comment, the bartender grabs the soda handle from him. “Well, we missed ya.”

He pats his back as Rob makes his way back to the stool with his glass of iceless water in hand.

Rob. The bouncer.

The bartender slides our light brown drinks dressed with lemons my way. He gives me a wink, pulling me from my thoughts as I slide money across the old wooden bar.

We missed ya.

I see Deena approach me from the corner of my eye, the loud squeak of her shoes echoing through me like shards of glass.

“Ah, yes,” she says, saddling up on the stool next to me and grabbing the glass in her hand. “Cheers, my darling. To new adventures.”

I swallow, my index finger shaking as I touch the condensation on the outside of the glass. A drop rolls down to my finger, coating the tip where my husband’s tears sat only twelve hours ago. I recoil my hand, tightening my jaw before taking a deep breath and grabbing the glass.

I pick up the drink, turning to Deena and for the first time, give her a genuine smile. We down our drinks and after another hour of my silence and her cracking peanuts while watching the Bulls play, we decide to hit the road.

We drive for hours in the darkness as my entire world rotates on its axis. I reach into my pocket, feeling for the dice. I couldn’t find myself willing to part with them. Rolling them in my hand, Deena makes a quick turn at a busted down little gas station right off the highway.

“The hotel is right around the corner. Figured we could grab some snacks first.” She unbuckles her seatbelt, grabbing money from her backpack near the floorboard before jogging inside. I watch as a man pumping gas eyes her body. She turns and flips him off before shooting me a quick wink and grabbing for the door.

As soon as she’s inside, my hands take over for my mind and the need for answers becomes my only purpose.

I grab the backpack, opening zippers, shuffling through papers and pockets, searching for something. Anything.

More cash, scrunchies, printouts for the hotel...nothing suspicious.

I let out a deep breath, but shook my head at the doubts.

Until my finger slips through a tiny pocket in the bag’s interior. My eyes shift to find Deena now at the counter with her arms unloading bags of chips and soda bottles onto it. I rip into the pocket, pulling out the lining, seeing a hidden compartment beneath. It’s too dark to see and I can’t put the overhead light on to highlight what it is I’m doing. So I dig. I dig until I hit something sharp.

Two things.

Two tiny things that hold the weight of absolute devastation.

My mouth parts as all the air in my lungs escapes me. I’m instantly numb as my heart reminds me just how alive I still am. Pounding through my head, my hands shake as I try to inhale the air around me, only capable of sucking in quick, short breaths.

I hold the earrings in my hand, rolling them together like I did the dice in my pocket.


I dig a little deeper, feeling something soft that causes me to withdraw my hand. Shaking it off, I dig in again, grasping the soft item, pulling it out.

Blond hair. My hair.

I grip the tips of my hair, checking the edges, unsure of where it came from, but knowing it’s mine by the exact color.

A quick sob escapes my chest as I drop the hair into my lap. I gasp for air, quickly pulling it together to dig a little deeper. My eyes become trained on Deena as she chuckles at the man behind the counter, pointing outside towards me, smiling her flirty smile.

I slap on a grin, my cheeks shaking uncontrollably as I wave my free hand. My entire body is quivering now. With my fist still deep in the bag, my fingers come across some sort of tube. I pull it out into the light of the moon, seeing a certain shade of lipstick that’s all too familiar.

Blood red.

The same color on the napkin.

The earrings.

The hair.

The lipstick.

The door.

She pushes through the door as I shuffle everything back into the ripped interior of the bag, dropping the papers in as she rounds the guy pumping gas. I’m sick to my stomach as I watch her prance along. He says something to her again, and she pauses with her bags in hand. Mumbling something back, her eyes find mine again and she laughs.

Getting into the car, she kicks her bag down beneath her seat, handing me the bags of snacks.

“That jackass really thought he could give me the D.” She scoffs, starting the car up. “I told him my girlfriend was waiting in the car for me and we were gonna scissor all night. That got him to shut-up.”

A breath escapes my chest, but lucky for me it sounds like a chuckle.

We get to the motel, placing our bags in the room as my eyes search the place for something.

Deena drops her stuff near the wooden table and chairs by the window, diving onto the king-sized bed face first. She laughs, then rolls over on her side, her head propped up by her hand.

“The only room left,” she says with a shrug as she rubs her palm along the comforter beneath her. “The lady at the desk offered it for half price, so I took it. We can keep each other warm.” Her eyes trail my body as I stand there as stiff as stone.

I smile at her as a warm rage surges beneath the surface. My blood is hot with fury, the need for the peaceful revenge of the devil before me a requirement for my insurmountable pain.

You never knew.

Tom was right. I never knew what truthfully destroyed us and turned us against one another. I never saw it coming. I let this woman destroy my mind with the thoughts she implanted deep in the root of who I am. She took our tragedies and exploited them, destroying everything about who we thought we were.

“But, a hot shower is a must!” she says quickly, sitting upright before she heads towards the bathroom at the end of the room.

I rip the cord from the old phone on the desk, rolling it into my hand as I slowly stalk towards her.

She turns on the water, leaning back to shut the door when she sees me there. Her face, surprised, yet playful.

“Unless...you want to join me?” She wiggles her eyebrows, then leans in towards me.

I tip my head to the side, allowing the closeness.

“I always knew you’d come around,” she whispers against my lips. “Just took a little convincing, huh?”

A slow grin creeps up my face, and I nod once. She licks her lips before pressing them against mine. Her kiss tastes like poison, her breath like the demons possessing her.

“Perfect.” She smiles against them, pulling back.

Turning her back to me, she grabs the edge of her oversized shirt and, with a flirtatious grin over her shoulder, pulls it up and over her head. Before the shirt even drops from her arms, the phone cord is around her neck.

I tighten it to me, twisting the end around my wrist as her hands claw at my arms. We fall to the floor as I close my eyes, holding tightly until I feel her give up her fight.

“W-what’s happening?! Where am I?!” she cries out into the dark room.

I hear her pressing against the constraints of the rope, digging into her flesh as she frantically tries to free herself.

I pull the cord for the light hanging above her, illuminating the dark, cold basement yet again.

“Pen?! Pen, what is this?! What are you doing?!” she screams as the blood from the second hit in the car streams down her face. “Don’t. It’s not what you think. We were always meant to be!”

I slowly stalk towards her, rolling the dice in my pocket. Pulling them out, I drop them into her upturned palm. Her terrified eyes are red with streaky veins, a look of knowing about her.

She’s finally meeting the monster she unknowingly created.

Pulling the dice out, I drop them into her upturned palm. She pants, shaking her head.

“Let’s play a little game, Dee,” I say, circling back to the front of her, pointing my knife at the bloodied dice in her hand. “You were always so good at those.”


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