(A Portland Maine Series)
Brice, and four of his lifelong friends from Portland, decide to take a celebratory vacation to a family owned cabin in the mountains of Ontario Canada. This vacation was intended to celebrate a turning point In their lives, as they all were moving to different places for college. Things went south when a terrible snow storm left them fighting for their lives. They were forced to do something tragic in order to survive, and all of them swore an oath to never reveal the events of that night.
Twenty years later, Brice receives a phone call that not only forces him to face the past he’s been running from all his life, but reminds him that nothing stays buried forever.
Ontario Canada – Mount Robson, Western Province of British Columbia (1997)
The wind howled like a wild beast as thick snow consumed the once warm oak cabin. The air had become thick, and the temperature was dangerously low. The power had been out for almost a week, and the only light came from a weakly lit fire in the stone fireplace. James rubbed his hands vigorously over the small flames in hopes to regain feeling in his fingers. He frowned when his plan failed him.
They had ignored the predicted weather. James was consumed with the idea of bonding with his best friends. One last ride, he had called it. He wanted to drag out the remainder of his childhood with his friends. Soon they would part ways, leaving everything they’ve known in Maine behind them.
The sun soaked beaches, and empty bottles of bud light, and cheap vodka they had swiped from Brice’s old man’s liquor cabinets would soon be a thing of the past. As much as high school tries to prepare you for the real world, nobody was ever truly prepared for the next chapter in their lives.
James was to pursue a degree in psychology in Boston. Brice had scholarships, and was going to Florida to pursue his education in forensic pathology. To please his father, Ryland was going to Minnesota State, per family tradition. Morgan got accepted into MUSC school of nursing in Charleston South Carolina. Lastly, Dylan wanted to move to Seattle to study music theory, and possibly get an advanced degree in audio engineering.
James’s parents owned a cabin in Canada. He grew up listening to stories passed down by his family. He had Cree Indian blood running through his veins. The beautiful cabin lay on the western base of Mount Robson. It once belonged to his great grandfather, and was handed down the family tree over the years. It was an escape from reality. James had many fond memories here, and thought this would be the perfect ending to the lifelong bond he shared with his four friends.
It was his way of thanking them for the memories they’ve created together. Instead, it was a fight for survival. The snow storm bore it’s ugly face, and showered down upon them, forcing them to take shelter inside for almost two weeks now. The power was knocked out, their food supply was running dangerously low. What little they shared was hardly enough, even for a small child.
Brice had a pot of snow he melted for water hovering above the small fire. Four days. He had rationed, and counted four days of food left. That was now six days ago.They couldn’t stray outside for a food source, for it meant certain doom. The icy grip of death was taunting them despite their thick clothing. A draft had made it’s way between the thick logs, and left them with tense muscles, and shivering bodies.
Morgan sat against the cabin wall with her knees to her chest. Her long brown hair was matted against her face. James kept poking at the fire, trying to spark whatever heat he could get from it. His sunken eyes casted a soft glow against the orange flames. He looked weak. His cheekbones were showing, and his lips were cracked. He was tall, like his Indian ancestors. His muscular frame was starting to suffer from the lack of nutrition.
“I… I… Don’t know how much more of this I can take.” Morgan’s voice cracked. There was a sense of desperation to her.
“how much wood do we have left?” Brice asked from the couch.
“Maybe two… Three days left. If we keep it small.” James replied.
The cabin’s living room was rather bare. It contained an old living room furniture set James’s parents had kept, a few end tables, and an old oak coffee table. The fireplace was stone, and to the right was a small kitchen area with empty cupboards. The refrigerator had also been empty for days. Each of them felt the sharp sting of starvation. They had to keep talking to eachother to stay awake, for fear of not waking up again if they slipped into the darkness. Madness was slowly creeping in with each growl of the stomach.
Brice was so desperate for food, he had even attempted to eat a leaf that had some how blown in the cabin at some point. That ended in a few chuckles as he spit the remains onto the floor.
“Just two days. Two more days, and they’ll be here to rescue us. You heard the man. We can do this. We have to.” James said
“How do you know? Who really knows who was on the radio? It could have been anyone.” Brice said
“I doubt it. Only officials, and patrol uses CB radios out here. That was a legit channel.”
“They better be here. I’m so hungry guys. I have never been so hungry in my life. I’m down to one cracker, and half a granola bar.” Morgan said, shooting a glance at her backpack sluggishly tossed near the front door.
“it’s getting colder in here. I can’t even feel the fire anymore. It’s useless.” Brice said, through his chattering teeth.
Suddenly, Ryland made his way back into the living room from the back bedroom. His glasses were fogged over from the frosty air around them. His breath escaped in short clouds as a sense of worry washed over his face.
“Guys… Dylan isn’t doing good. His fever came back, and were out of medicine. I don’t know how much longer we can wait.”
“Did you redress his wound?” Morgan asked.
“That’s about all I did. I mean… I’m no Doctor but I think it’s infected. If something doesn’t change he may not make it.” he said.
“I’ll go check on him. Let me look at it.” Morgan said, standing up. She slowly made her way into the bedroom.
Brice could tell by her stride she was tired. They all were. She had lost her bouncy step since they arrived. It was replaced with a sulky trot across the living room. She looked on the verge of collapse. He could hardly stand to look at her. It was a constant reminder that death shared no mercy, especially to beauty.
Morgan was a hollow shell of herself, and Brice was afraid to look in the mirror. He felt he wouldn’t recognize himself. He could feel the change. Morgan’s hair was no longer tame. Her skin had dulled in color. She was no longer the girl he lost his virginity to.
Morgan was hardly over five feet tall, and with a beautiful figure. What she lacked in breast size, she made up in moxy. Portland’s firecracker, and she knew it. She would often tease Brice about being a Virgin, until one drunken night they engaged in a conversation about the c******s. They were alone in his room as they often were. It wasn’t unusual.
That night, instead of binge watch horror movies, she decided to teach him the proper way to please a girl. It was something he cherished. It was also their secret. They never told the guys. The last thing they wanted to do, was to drive a wedge between them all.
Brice learned something about her the night they had s*x. Morgan was a nymphomaniac. She had lost her V-card at the age of 14, and by the time she took Brice’s at 16, she was a pro. To her, it was a gift for a close friend. To a young, and quite nieve Brice, it was confused as love.
He had memorized every inch of her body that summer, all the way down to the cute freckle on her inner thigh. He even named it Bob. Bob the freckle. She’d laugh every time. It was a weekly routine all summer. When they finally ended it on her request, he had bought her a sterling silver anklet as a reminder. She never took it off since.
“Dylan?” Morgan asked, slowly pushing the door open.
The room smelled of sweat, and peroxide. Dylan lay still in the bed. She’d think he was dead if she hadn’t seen his stomach moving up and down. She made her way to him. She could see he was perspiring despite the deathly cold air. Tiny beads of sweat were present on his gray skin. His eyes were closed, and he was mouth breathing. Soft clouds of warm breath disappeared above him.
She slowly tugged at the fresh bandage on his left leg. A large gash was present. It was red, and swollen around the edges. Her heart sank when she saw it. Dark blood illuminated his veins around the wound, and it was slowly spreading. This was a clear sign that severe infection was present.
“Oh Dylan.” Morgan softly moaned.
She pat the wet rag around his eyes, and forehead. He softly moaned to her touch. He was hot as fire. If something didn’t happen soon, he would be taken by the harsh cold around them.
“Mom?” Dylan moaned.
“No Dylan it’s Morgan.” she sadly replied.
“Morgan?! Please…. Please don’t let me die! Please!”
“Shh… You’re not going to die. It’s OK. Help is on the way. Just hang on a little longer.” she said, fighting back her tears.
She took a deep breath, and made her way back to the door. She was suddenly halted by Dylan’s outburst.
“Tell him to stop!” he cried.
She turned to her friend with a confused look on her face. “Tell who to stop?” she asked.
“The man with that awful paint on his face!” he said, pointing to an empty chair in the corner of the room.
“I… I… I can’t sleep when he’s pounding on those stupid f*****g drums!”
Morgan sighed, and closed the door gently. When she made her way back to the living room, all three of her friends were huddled around the fire shivering. Ryland made eye contact with her, and immediately lowered his eyes. He knew as well as she did, if help didn’t come soon, they may lose their friend.
“he’s not doing good. He’s starting to hallucinate. Guys….”
“We know!” James interrupted.
“We know. All we can do is hold out until help shows up. Once they do, he’ll get help, and we can get the hell out of here. God I wish the phones were working!”
Brice grabbed the throw blanket from the couch, and handed to Morgan. She weakly smiled at him, and sat down against the wall next to the fireplace. She motioned for him to join her. He sat down, and slid his body against hers, and she covered them both. The blanket was as cold as the snow outside. The only thing that helped was Morgan laying her head on his shoulder.
“we have to stay warm.” she said. “All of us do.”
“I’ll grab another log.” James said.
“if we don’t do something we’ll freeze to death. James can you please just make a big fire? Just for a little bit?” Ryland begged.
“we can’t, we’ll run out of wood faster. We have to keep it small.”
“it’s not helping. We might as well not have one at all!” Ryland yelled.
“I know what to do.” Morgan interrupted, feeling a fight starting to form.
She closed her tired sunken eyes, and contemplated her next words. All eyes turned to her desperate for answers. She looked at Brice, and then turned her head back toward the others.
“We need to share body heat. It’s the only way to keep warm.” she said.
“like cuddle?” Ryland asked.
“Yes… Like cuddling. Brice follow my lead.” she said, while maneuvering under the blanket.
After a few moments of confusion, Brice’s eyes grew wider. He realized she was taking off her clothes. He shot a look toward James who started smirking.
“Are you kidding?” he asked.
“Do I look like I’m kidding?” she answered, and threw her balled up clothes out from under the blanket.
“f**k that.” Ryland barked.
“I saw a documentary on survival in the Alps. If we all strip down, and touch skin on skin under the blanket, it will work.” Morgan said, pulling Brice’s jacket off.
Brice started u********g under the blanket next to Morgan as both James, and Ryland, stared at them contemplating the ridiculous request. Little did they know, Brice wasn’t as uncomfortable as the others. If anything he would be glad to hold Morgan’s naked body again, even under such dire circumstances. He never showed it, but he missed seeing her like that.
He missed the days of Morgan laying n**e on his bed without a care in the world, letting him see her, and being so comfortable about it. He still had strong feelings for her. He never wanted their fun to stop, but he knew it would eventually. Morgan wasn’t the relationship type. She often discredited cultural ideals such as marriage, and monogamy. She considered it selfish to expect someone to share themselves with only one partner forever. Brice was the opposite, and it would lead to frustrated conversations. He finally accepted the fact that this was just how she was.
Brice’s n**e body shivered under the blanket. He was exposed, and felt vulnerable, until Morgan wrapped her arm around his waist, and pulled him close to her body. He immediately remembered how it felt to feel her skin. His heart started pounding as she leaned into him. Her breasts rested gently against his chest.
Slowly, the shivering had stopped. She was right, it was working. She layed her head on his shoulder, and held tightly. For a second Brice forgot James and Ryland were still there until James spoke.
“Fine, but I swear… If anyone gets a b***r I’m going to lose it.” he said, removing his clothes slowly.
“You guys are nuts. I’m not doing that.” Ryland said.
“What’s wrong? Afraid we’ll look at your pee pee?” Morgan teased.
Both James, and Brice erupted in laughter at the remark. An angry look grew on Ryland’s face. “No. I just think Morgan wants to see me naked.” he said.
“Don’t flatter yourself. I could care less what anyone looks like naked. I want to be warm, and it’s working. Grow up, get ahold of the situation, and get over here with us. Or don’t, and freeze to death.”
He let out a sigh of defeat, and started removing his clothes. After a few moments, all four friends had squeezed together under the blanket. All discomfort was put aside, and ignored, as the shivering stopped. Finally they had found slight comfort in what felt like forever. They were starving, but at least they were warm.
Within minutes, all four of them drifted off to sleep. Their bodies lacking in nutrients, and warmth, had taken it’s toll. As they slept, the howling wind outside was a constant reminder of possible death. The small fire James had built, sparked its last flame, and faded out into smoke. The cabin became dark, and still.
Suddenly Brice opened his eyes to the darkness around him. “guys?” he mumbled. No reply.
Somehow the three of them had pushed Brice out of the cuddle circle as they slept. All three were bundled together under the blanket. Disoriented, Brice stood up, and grabbed his clothes. The faint light of the storm was just enough light for him to see as he groggily dressed himself.
He was freezing again. His neck was stiff from constant tensing. As he zipped up his boots, he heard a faint moan from the back bedroom. He peered back at his friends, who still slept soundly unaware.
He made his way to the bedroom. A soft blue glow illuminated from underneath the door. What’s that? Brice thought to himself, as he pushed the door open. The room was as dead as the rest of the Cabin. Darkness was all that was present. He found no source to the light.
Dylan lay still in the bed. The chair was now facing the corner. He heard the faint sound of rhythmic drum beats. It sounded ritualistic. They sounded far away, and were growing louder with every step he made towards the bed.
“Dylan!?” Brice yelled. He voice echoed into the frosty air. The drums became accompanied by chanting. Brice couldn’t understand the language. It grew so loud his ears started ringing, and then suddenly everything fell deathly silent once more as Brice placed his hand on his sick friend’s shoulder.
Dylan’s eyes shot open. They were frost white. He looked blind. Brice stumbled backwards, alarmed.
“Ahh!” he screamed out.
Dylan sat up in a ninty degree angle, and sharply turned his head at Brice. He projectile vomited bright red blood, and bone fragments all over him, and onto the sheets. Brice let out a sickening scream of terror as he fell onto the floor. He attempted to stand, but slipped, and fell once more into the mess.
A sick gutteral gurgling sound erupted as chunks of meat, and hair fell out of Dylan’s mouth, and onto the floor below. The blankets, and sheets flew off his body as if someone had violently ripped them off. Dylan flew back hard against the wall over the bed frame, and slid up towards the ceiling. It looked like he was being dragged harshly by his shirt collar, but there was nobody there.
He was pulled to the center of the ceiling, thrashing about madly, trying to fight off the invisible intruder. His arms and legs were forced apart, and held down. All his clothes tore away from his skin with a loud rip. Dylan let out a yell as a strange crescent symbol was crudely carved into his chest.
Brice could only sit there, and helplessly watch his friend be mutilated in front of him. He was frozen in fear. Suddenly Dylan fell from the ceiling, and hit the bed hard like a ragdoll, then bounced onto the floor with a loud thud.
Bruce stood up slowly. His legs were weak. He felt a cold hand grab his shoulder. He turned, and saw an Indian with red, and white War paint staring at him.
“No!” it whispered deeply to him.
Brice’s eyes shot open. He jerked in a panic, causing the others to wake up. It was only a dream. But it felt so real. What was that? Brice was sweating profusely.
“What the hell man!” James yelled out.
“Sorry… I… I had a bad dream.” he said embarrassed.
“about what?” Morgan groggily mumbled.
“Dylan!” he barked.
His heart sank in his chest as he glanced at the door down the hall. What if it wasn’t a dream? What if it was some kind of warning? He had to check on his friend.
“We need to check on him. We have to see if he’s okay.” he yelled.
“would you calm down?” Ryland asked
He shot up, and almost fell over putting his clothes back on. The immediate freezing temperature reminded him of how hungry, and cold they were. He didn’t care. His head throbbed from the lack of food as he sprinted down the hall to the bedroom door.
He barged in, and immediately was greeted by the unwelcoming smell of infection. It had grown thick over the past several hours. How long were we asleep? Brice thought. Dylan lay motionless on the bed. Panic washed over him, as there were no signs of movement in the bed.
“Dylan?” he weakly called out.
No reply was returned. Brice approached the bed cautiously, and felt silly, half expecting an Indian to be behind him. He knew it was only a dream, but it was hard to shake. Dylan’s face lay staring at the ceiling, his eyes open, and glazed over. He knew the answer before he even opened his mouth. Brice knows this look. It was the look of death.
“D… Dylan?” Brice squeaked. His voice cracked, trying to mask the pain in his heart. He gently shook his friend. His eyes never moved. Their worst fear had come true. Dylan had passed away.
Brice put his hands to his mouth, and backed up to the door slowly. He started dry heaving as nausea washed over him. He went to turn around, and bumped into Morgan. She was dressed, and looking at him confused. She could tell by the look of horror on his face that something was wrong.
“He’s… Dead…” Brice whimpered.
“What?!” Morgan yelled, and ran to the bedside.
Immediately she screamed out in utter shock. Brice ran from the room, and fell to his knees sobbing. He couldn’t watch anymore. It was to much to handle.
“Dylan! Dylan!” she screamed from the room. Both James, and Ryland were at the doorway now. They to had a look of horror on their faces. The storm had taken him in the worst way. Nobody was prepared for this.
“F**k! F**k!” James screamed, and started pacing in the door way.
Morgan slowly appeared from the bedroom, with a defeated look on her face. Her eyes were swollen, and red.
“We’re going to die. All of us. We’re going to die in this cabin.” she said, in a flat tone.
“OK.. OK… Just keep it together. Everyone just calm down. We’re not dying here. Not like this. Help is on the way. We just… We just have to hold out a little longer.” James said. He looked deep in thought.
“We don’t even have any food James, I haven’t eaten real food in days. My stomach is killing me. How the hell are we going to hold out any longer?” Morgan said.
“I know Morgan. We’re all in the same boat.” he replied.
James grabbed several logs, and relit the fire. The room immediately started glowing again, in a soft orange glow. The flames cracked, and popped into the frosty air.
“Screw it. We need a real fire.” James said.
Slowly the four of them sat in front of the fireplace, and attempted to get warm. Nobody spoke as they all stared into the flames. The tragic death of their best friend numbed them. The fire did very little to comfort them as they sat in silence.
Although nobody spoke a word, desperation, and madness, was sinking in. They were to hungry to sleep, and to weak to care about motivating eachother like they desperately needed.
The minutes turned to hours as they sat. Morgan was the first to succumb to the delirium. She sunk over onto her side, and closed her eyes. Brice attempted to comfort her, but she didn’t react. He rubbed his cold hand through her matted hair. No movement. “Morgan?” he whispered to the back of her head.
“I don’t want to die Brice.” she softly sobbed, refusing to turn her head toward him.
He felt a hot painful lump grow in his chest. Her voice… It was the sound of utter defeat. He placed his body on the floor behind her, and wrapped his arm around her waist, and head her tightly. He kissed the back of her head softly, holding back the tears that were forming in his eyes. He wanted to save her, but all he could do was hold her as tight as he could. He couldn’t lie to her. He couldn’t comfort her, and tell her it was going to be okay. Deep inside himself he felt it to. Death.
The fire shot their shadows against the cabin walls. Was death painting it’s final picture of them? He felt his body grow heavy as his senses dulled. His head throbbed. At least they would die together. He felt something softly touch his hand. Morgan had squeezed his hand within hers.
“I… I love you Brice.” she weakly said
“I know I said I didn’t believe in relationships, but if I was ever in one I’d pick you. You know that right?” she sobbed quietly.
A tear silently fell from his cheek, and onto hers. She was so weak, she didn’t even react to it. He didn’t speak. He lay with her quietly. She had no clue how long he wanted to hear those words escape her breath. Why did it have to be now? Why like this?
Brice heard shuffling behind him, followed by voices. He had blocked out his surroundings. He hadn’t been paying any mind to the argument taking place behind him. He strained his neck to see the commotion behind him. His eyes were blurry. It took him a moment to realize it was James. He was screaming at Ryland. James’s face looked more panicked than angry.
“Don’t you f*****g do it!” James yelled.
“Look at them!” Ryland said, pointing to Brice and Morgan. “We can’t keep going on like this!”
“Do you hear yourself?! Do you have any idea how crazy you sound?!”
“We have to James. We don’t have any other choice. He’s already dead man. Already dead. It’s not about respect, it’s about survival.” Ryland said, trying to speak calmly.
“He’s our friend.”
“He was our friend. Now he’s gone, and if we don’t do it then we will die to. I don’t know about you, but I can’t watch anymore of my friends die.” Ryland could hardly choke out the words. His eyes were red and swollen.
James sat down. He was tired, and defeated. “not like this man… Not like this.” he said, dropping his chin down to his chest.
“You don’t have to do anything. None of you do. I’ll do it. He would have wanted us to do it if it meant life or death.” Ryland said through his dry cracked lips.
“What’s going on?” Brice mumbled from the floor next to Morgan.
“Nothing Brice.” Ryland said, still staring at James waiting for an approval.
James looked up. His eyes sagged, and neglect of sleep. He let out a sigh, and closed his eyes in a drawn out blink, then gave him a simple nod.
Ryland licked his lips. Pain shot through him from the weathered cracks of his skin. His eyes had a strange glaze to them. He looked like he was gone, no longer with them in the room, and disconnected. He pulled a six inch hunting knife from his boot, and gripped it tightly in his hand.
“put another log in the fire. Get it hot okay? I’ll do the rest.” was the last thing Brice overhead before sleep took him.
Beautiful swirls of red, and orange pulsated with great intensity in front of him. Thick black vapors danced around the red, hugging it, dancing with it before letting go, and departed into the air above only to vanish before his eyes. Tiny red lines wiggled into gray ash, and fell onto the floor to sleep among the others, creating thick fluffy gray blankets. For some reason this was a soothing sight for Brice. The warmth of the glowing colors reminded him of home.
He smiled, and extended his hand to welcome his new friends. Pain stabbed at his fingertips, snapping him back into reality. He was staring into the embers of the large hot fire. Someone had dragged him off of Morgan, and placed him closer to the fireplace. Sucking the pain from his finger, he slowly sat up. He was relieved to see Morgan awake, and sitting against the couch. He smiled at her, and when her eyes met his, a look of shame washed over her, and she looked away.
Brice noticed a shiny glaze smeared across her lips. It looked like a thick coat Of clear liquid lip gloss was applied to her mouth, until he noticed Morgan was chewing intensely. She was eating. He hadn’t noticed it, but something smelled incredible. The air was thick with something. It smelled like somebody had grilled ribs, or maybe brisket. Brice’s mouth began to water, and his stomach growled at him, telling him to eat.
James was on the other end of the couch eating as well. He took up thick brown deeply cooked strips of meat to his face, and bit into it, tearing it like jerky into his mouth. Nobody was speaking. Nobody acknowledged he was even there watching them.
“Eat Brice.” Ryland said, handing him a plate. His face was void of any emotion, and his voice was flat. Why were they acting so strangely? Had they killed a rabbit? A deer? This was good news. Brice took the plate with a confused look pasted on his face. Ryland ignored him, and took his spot on the floor beside him.
Immediately Brice consumed the food. The warm protein sent tingles down his spine. It was overwhelming to his senses to eat real food. He was swallowing before he could chew, and almost choked. He had to remind himself to chew his food.
Several minutes passed. The food had been consumed. Still nobody spoke a word. Finally Ryland stood up, and faced the others. He looked almost afraid. A mixture of shame, and sadness was painted in his eyes.
“Guys… We have to bury him.” he said.
James looked up, and then away towards the window. Morgan just sat in silence.
“What’s going on?” Brice asked.
He looked down at his empty plate, and then back at Ryland. His eyes grew wide as he finally started piecing together what happened.
“What did we just eat?” Brice asked cautiously.
Again he was ignored. Nobody could stomach the truth. They were all to afraid to say it out loud. If they did it would become real. Reality would rear it’s ugly head.
Suddenly Brice jumped up, and ran to the back bedroom. Ryland immediately chased after him.
“Brice don’t! No! Don’t open that door!” he screamed.
It was to late. Brice shoved the door open wide. He yelled out in sheer horror. There on the bed, lay his friend. He was sprawled out on top of the sheets in an unnatural position. Large dark pools of blood soaked into the fabric. The smell of hot copper was still thick in the frosted air around them.
His body had been stripped of clothing. Large strips of flesh was sloppily carved from his body at his thighs, and arms. Chunks of darkened meat still hung from bone in thin strands, and lay over the ends of the bed like uneven red and black ribbon.
Dylan’s stomach had been cut, and peeled back, revealing thick yellow gelatinous globs of fat sticking to the skin. His stomach was partially severed, and hanging out of it’s body cavity. The liver had been removed entirely. Dylan’s eyes were casted right at Brice. Looking at him. Looking through him, never blinking. His eyes captured Brice’s eyes, pulling him in, suffocating him, reminding him he’s no longer human, no longer alive.
Color had drained from Brice’s face. His knees felt weightless underneath him. He reached out, and grabbed the doorframe. He started dry heaving, suffocating, he took in big gulps of air.
“Oh my god! Oh my god! No… No…. No!” he screamed.
Brice took off to the bathroom. His stomach was in knots. Holding his hands to his mouth he almost busted the bathroom door down as he plummeted in, slamming his body hard against the bathroom wall, and fell to the floor over the toilet.
“Don’t you dare throw that up! I told you not to go in there! Damn it Brice! Why doesn’t he ever listen?!” Ryland barked
“Stop it Ryland!” Morgan yelled.
“why?” was all Brice could get out of his mouth.
“We had to Brice… We had no choice. We were dying.” Ryland said.
Brice slowly got up, and wobbled into the living room. He sat down on the couch, and crossed his arms. He sat there staring into the fire. His mind not grasping reality. All he could see was each and every one of them chewing in front of the orange fire. They ate him. They ate their friend.
“we have to bury him. We clean up the mess, and we bury him. When someone shows up we tell them he got…. He got lost looking for a radio tower or something.” Ryland said
“He never came back.” James said, staring into the fire, and then glancing to them.
“Exactly! He never came back. That’s the story.”
“Brice!” Ryland yelled. Brice kept his eyes fixed on the fire.
“Brice look at me!” he yelled again. Slowly Brice turned his head in utter disgust.
“That’s the story okay?”
“No. I… I can’t.” Brice weakly sputtered
Morgan sat down beside him. She softly placed her hand in his lap. Her eyes were filled with empathy, and sadness. She half smiled at him, and rubbed his knee.
“I know this is hard. I don’t like this either Brice. We had to do it. We need you… I need you. Please.” she softly said
“Did you see him? Did you see Dylan?” Brice cried.
“Don’t think of that. Just try to understand… He was dead Brice. He was already gone. He didn’t feel any pain. He would of understood. He saved us. He saved our lives. We would have starved to death.”
“So we make a promise. Right here and now.” Ryland said.
“We take this to our graves. All of us.” he said, looking to James.
“I promise.” James softly said.
“Me to.” Morgan said.
Good. I promise as well.” Ryland said.
All eyes turned to Brice. He slowly looked at his friends. What happened to them? It was as if he was looking into the eyes of strangers. What have they done? What the hell has he done? He knew nothing would ever be the same again. Even though they lived because of Dylan, he felt like he was dead too. Did they feel the same? They had to right?
“Yeah… Okay…” Brice said. “to our graves.”
Florida Keys – present day.
The sun casted down heat waves on the white sand. A mixture of baby blue, and cotton white, swirled the air above into a beautiful sunny day. Amy opened the window above the kitchen sink to let in a nice summer breeze. She always loved this time of year. She took in the summer air, and smiled. From the distance she could hear a group of kids laughing. The faint sound of waves hit the shoreline.
The sunset strip was a beautiful place during the summer. There was a static in the air. It was so alive. Amy understood why her hardworking Husband wanted to live on the strip. It was peaceful to feel the salty air whip across your face after a long day. Brice had talked Amy into the overpriced piece of property.
She had originally wanted something smaller. Brice insisted on their four bedroom beach front home. He wanted to raise his kids there. Sam was six. A split image of her mother. Long brown hair, with the bluest eyes turned a lot of heads. Amy was convinced it was that deadly combination that won Brice over.
She had met Brice at the snack shack. It was a burger stand on the strip. It was the local hotspot for tourism. It was also the perfect place for young women to show off their beach bodies. Guys as well. She had worked there during the summers. The tips were high, and the job was mostly fun. The only downside was the aggressive men who would excessively flirt.
Amy was a hot target. Every guy wanted her. She’d smile, play the game, and collect the big tips. It was a routine game. On an average weekend she’d pull in more than 200 in tips. She was used to the perversion of Horny roided out muscle heads. The only thing she wasn’t used to was being ignored.
One typical Saturday she was making her usual rounds when a young, handsome man caught her eye. He was sitting alone at a table deep inside an Anatomy book. He wasn’t dressed for summer. He wore jeans, a pair of Nike shoes, and button down with the sleeves rolled up. He had a pair of white Oakley’s resting on his charcoal hair. Many girls in their skimpy bathing suits passed by, and not once did he look up.
This behavior caught her attention. Amy walked over to his table. She put on her best smile, bit her lower lip, and asked if he had been helped. She purposely learned forward, putting on her best cute face. He looked up, smiled, and said he was fine. He looked at her eyes, not her breasts. He was polite. Suddenly this stranger became the only interesting guy there.
She sat with him, and had a real conversation. He was funny, charming, and gave great advice. By the end of his meal, she had given Brice her number. She had no idea this guy was in medical school. Forensic Pathology. Jackpot.One beautiful kid, and a beach house later here she was. It was truly happily ever after.
Everything was perfect until Brice started having blackouts. He blamed it on the job. His stress was through the roof. He always suffered anxiety spells, but it was getting worse. The more responsibility, the more stress Brice had said. It came with the job. It was the price he paid to provide a nice living for his family. His doctor, who was a family friend, had given him anti anxiety meds. It helped. Things seemed to finally be back to normal, and Amy couldn’t have been happier.
The oven alarm rang out. Amy briskly walked over, and pulled out her homemade peach pie. It was a family recipe. Fluffy strips of golden brown dough lay evenly across a bed of glazed peaches. Amy smiled, taking in the wonderful smell. Brice would love this little surprise. It was his favorite. She placed it on the window ledge to cool, and washed her hands. She looked at her phone. It was 7PM. She frowned, Brice was late again.
He had told her an usual amount of corpses were showing up over the past six months. They found missing bodies all over the northern most part of America, and we’re sending them to be analyzed, and inspected in Flordia. He hadn’t gotten into the details with her, but he seemed puzzled. It looked like a series of brutal animal attacks. The media had been inclined to back off, as to not alarm the residents. It wouldn’t be a good idea, because as of now it seemed like nobody had any real answers yet.
Sam was at her mother’s for the night. Amy had the house alone. She figured she’d bake a warm pie, have a home cooked meal, maybe a few glasses of wine, and take a long bubble bath with Brice. She made her way to the stereo, and tuned it to light jazz. She then dimmed the lights in the dining room, and placed her favorite candles out on the table. This was going to be perfect.
With how busy Brice had been with work, their intimacy had been lacking. She understood, and has been patient with him, but still, she longed to be romanced. She missed his touch. At almost forty years of age the days of constant fornication were long gone. She missed all the sexual adventures her and Brice shared. There was once a time she would never wear underwear around the house underneath her skirts just to have him chase her. He would.
Brice would walk in the door, and grab Amy, and she’d wiggle out from under his grip. The game of chase would end with her on the bed being held down gently by her best friend. He’d kiss her, and explore her body in ways nobody else has ever done. He was the best lover she’s ever had. She missed it.
As of late, life had become more routine if anything. Not tonight. Tonight he would come home, and she would bring the romance to him. She opened a bottle of wine, poured herself a glass, and sat on the couch. Yes. Tonight was going to be wonderful.
Amy became lost in her thoughts. The wine had done just fine relaxing her muscles. She smiled when she heard the front door open.
“Is that you?” she yelled from the couch. No reply.
Amy turned around just in time to see Brice hurrying up the stairs. He had thrown his briefcase on the floor just inside the foyer. The case was unlatched, and papers had fallen out. This was unlike Brice. He was always neat, especially with his work.
Amy quickly took the last gulp of wine from the glass, and sat it down on the coffee table. She made her way to the briefcase, and quickly scooped the papers back inside. One piece of paper caught her eye. It was a photograph. It looked like a crime scene photo. It was of a young girl. She couldn’t have been older than nineteen. She was n**e. Her body was pale white, And dirt had showered her milky white skin. Amy gasped at the horrific site of three large gaping claw marks deeply embedded from her sternum to her umbilicus.
She quickly threw it into the briefcase, and placed it on the end table. She made her way up the stairs. She could hear the sink running. He was in the bathroom.
“Brice?” Amy called out.
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” She said, standing outside the door.
“N… Nothing. I’ll be right out.” he stuttered.
“I’m coming in.”
it was to late. Amy had already pushed the door open. Brice was leaning over the sink. He was filthy. It looked like he rolled around in mud. He was digging dirt from under his fingernails. A small bruise was under his left eye. He looked at Amy, and sighed. Feeling embarrassed he sat on the toilet lid.
“Oh Brice.” Amy moaned.
“Amy… Please. Don’t.”
“What do you mean don’t? Look at you.”
“It’s nothing. I just had another blackout.”
“this was the result of a blackout?!”
“I fell okay? I was walking to the car, I got off Early. I was going to surprise you.”
“Off early?” Amy interrupted.
“Brice do you see what time it is? It’s almost eight.”
He looked at the wall clock. His face drew a blank. He had gotten off at five. “Oh.” was all he could say. His blackouts had stopped. The medication was working. What happened?
“Now you’re losing time.” Amy said, putting her hand in his shoulder.
“I’ll call Chris tomorrow. I’ll get him to adjust the meds. I’m tired. I just want to take a shower. It has been a long day.” he said.
Amy sighed, “You’re not eating then?” she asked disappointed.
“I don’t know. I’m stressed. A new body just came in today. I’m backed up on paperwork. I’m sorry.”
Amy pretended to be shocked. She wasn’t about to tell him she saw one of the pictures. Brice didn’t like her going through his things. She smiled softly, “I’ll keep a plate for you then. In case you change your mind.” she said.
He stood up, and softly pecked her in the cheek. “Thanks.” he said, and then turned on the shower.
Amy turned around before she frowned. She slowly closed the door, and made her way back down the stairs to the dining room. I guess there’s no need for candles now. She decided to still have the wine though. A few more glasses and she’d be numb to her disappointment. She’d take care of herself then once he fell asleep.
Amy didn’t tell him, but she had bought herself a toy from the Iron Panther. It was a small s*x shop she heard the neighborhood women gossiping about. She could tell Brice wouldn’t be in the mood tonight. Not after this. She spent the next fifteen minutes slowly picking up.
She dragged her feet to the stereo. As she turned it off the phone rang. She quickly swiped the cordless from the counter. Usually landline calls were her neighborhood girlfriends. She kept her cell phone for work, and family. She was slightly surprised to hear a man’s voice asking for Brice.
She walked up to stairs with the phone in hand. Brice was freshly showered. He had made it to the room wearing nothing but a towel. He hadn’t noticed Amy walk in.
“Brice you have a call.” Amy said, holding her arm out.
Brice first looked at his cell, and then took notice it was the landline. He looked confused. Amy shrugged her shoulders, “Asked for you.” she said, handing him the phone.
“This is Doctor Brice Miller.” he said, holding the phone to his shoulder while putting on clothes. There was nothing but static on the line. He could hear muffling.
“Hello?” Brice said.
“Doctor Brice Miller. I’ll never get used to saying that.” a soft male voice said into the receiver.
“Excuse me?” Brice asked Confused.
“Brice…. Are you sitting down? We need to talk.” The stranger said.
Brice held his finger out toward Amy. She backed out of the room, and he slowly shut the door. “umm no not at the moment, may I ask who’s calling?”
“It’s me Brice… Its…” there was a brief pause. “It’s James.”
Suddenly Brice felt his heart sink in his chest. He immediately sat down on the bed. His skin got hot. He almost dropped the phone when he said his name.
“James?” he weakly asked.
“Yes. James. Listen we need to talk. I wouldn’t call you unless it was important.”
Brice couldn’t speak. He felt like his throat was closing. Tiny beads of sweat were forming at his hairline.
“It’s Dylan. He’s… He’s alive Brice. Dylan is alive. I’ve already called the others. We need to meet. How soon can you travel?”