Arkansas – Some time ago
Maggie gripped the Aluminum can tightly as she scraped the remaining beans from the bottom. She looked to her left, her newly found friend Lizzy was fast asleep on the makeshift cardboard floor. Old ragged newspapers were pulled up to her shoulders. She was shivering. Maggie had learned paper helps insulate, but not so much tonight.
The bitter unforgiving cold of Arkansas’s early January nights has taken it’s toll on the homeless. Maggie had seen what it can do to fingers, and toes. If they were not careful, the black death of frostbite could set in. Infection, and sepsis were common here.
Tonight had been a record low. The wind was whipping at an unforgiving -2 degrees below zero. Snow had built white blankets across the earth. Maggie reached up, and retaped the cardboard flap closed to keep out the snow in their makeshift shelter. She had made it from old blankets, rebar, and cardboard. It was the best she could do under such circumstances.
Her friend Lizzy beside her had fallen sick. They were making their way across a deep water run off when Lizzy fell, and landed on glass. Maggie used her old bandana to secure the wound. They had to keep moving. There was no time to take her to the hospital. If she had, then they would ask questions. What are you doing out here? Where do you live? Where are your parents? Why would a 20 year old be on the streets with a young child? Most importantly, why would a young child be accompanied by Maggie Paulson?
They would call the authorities, and take the credit for capturing Maggie, who’s name had gone nationwide. The world wanted answers for her terrible crimes, answers she was determined to never give. She’d rather live on the street, than prove her foster father right. She remembers his voice very well as he’d look at her. He’d say, “you’ll end up in jail Maggie, just you wait. You’ll always be a burden to the state.”
Maggie reached over to young Lizzy, and shook her shoulder. She didn’t move. She only cried out weakly. “here Liz…. Eat…. Please.” Maggie whispered in her ear. No response.
Maggie sat the can to the side, and reached into her dirty book bag. She pulled out an old stuffed bear. It was filthy, but it was the only thing that gave her any comfort. It was the last real gift from her father. She placed the bear in the child’s arms, and brushed her dirty blonde hair back over her ears.
Lizzy was sweating. This was a bad sign. She knew she had to do something fast, or this child would soon be another victim to death. Maggie pulled out a Map of Arkansas. She studied it for a moment before coming to the conclusion that her journey was at the end.
Greg Dixon lived off route 45, in an old house. It was out of the way and secluded by many miles of woods. She hasn’t planned on taking Lizzy with her when she escaped Dixon’s cult, but she was so young. She refused to let her become a part of the madness. Maggie wiped the sweat from Lizzy’s forehead, and decided when the snowstorm stopped she would drop her off at the nearest place she could, and just run.
She would go to Dixon’s home alone. She was prepared to do whatever was necessary to end the terror he created. Maggie had finally seen through all his b******t. He had a group of misfits he called family living together in old Warehouse in the inner city of Trent. Maggie had believed in his stories of salvation, and redemption through blood. They all did.
Once he started recruiting young girls, Maggie knew it had to stop. Lizzy, like several others, was only 11 years old. She couldn’t find it in herself to convince her it was OK to take another person’s life. Greg was wrong. Greg had to die. Maggie was the only one who saw through his lies, so it had to be her.
Once she was done she would end her life. She wasn’t sure how, she only knew she was tired. She was tired of running. She was tired of killing, and being left alone with their screaming faces once the reality of what she had just done sunk in. She wanted to sleep. She was sick of not knowing if she’d be able to eat each day. She’d have relief on days she did, and prepare for the stomach pains on days she didn’t.
The stomach pains were the worst. She was no stranger to starvation. She knew the noises. The nausea, and the dry heaves were the worst when they were accompanied by stomach bile. It was the only thing in her stomach she could vomit up. It left an awful taste in her mouth.
The worst of all was the sound. Maggie had learned while living among the homeless, there were different types of crying. There were those out of frustration, from being exposed to the elements to long, to cries of desperation. Hunger cries. Those were the most haunting to hear at night. The sobbing was more of a primal howl, the bodies last attempt at saying something was wrong. It came from deep inside the soul. To Maggie it was like the last flicker of a burning candle. Then…. Lights out… Forever.
Lizzy had a bout of hunger cries an hour or so before she had fallen asleep. Maggie was worried she had passed out instead. The child refused to eat. She folded the map, and placed it back into the backpack. She would save the last of the beans she had stolen for Lizzy when she woke up.
Maggie sat against the wall she had built her tent around, and pulled her knees up. Tomorrow would be the end of days. After she did what she had to do, she would see it fit to attempt to enjoy her last day on earth. The world was a terrible place. It will swallow you whole, and spit out your bones if you let it. She traced the terrible scars on her wrists. They were a reminder of her flaws. She wasn’t perfect, but she was strong.
She never saw her life coming to this. She never knew she would become a vagabond, but does anyone? Nobody comes into this world expecting to sleep in the gutter. It just happens one way or another, and they all have their share of sob stories that lead to cardboard boxes. But unlike many, Maggie refused to ask for a handout from a world who turned their backs.
The wind howled fiercely outside her tent. She pulled what was left of the newspapers up to her chin, and squeezed her eyes closed. She thought of her terrible foster parents scolding her about keeping doors closed. She remembers how much she was hated. She remembers the arguments they had about her from inside their bedroom.
She kept her suit case locked. She knew she would never stay anywhere long. She was OK with it. Maggie was to wild, lived by her own rules, and refused to ever wear what she was told, or act a certain way. Maggie was Maggie, and if they wouldn’t accept it she would leave.
The only person in the world who ever accepted her, flaws and all, was her biological father. She never spoke of him. Ever. He was buried deep down inside her, and only ever brought out when times got really hard. Tonight was a good night to think of him.
He was a large man, very stout, and muscular. Maggie’s earliest memories of him, were of her sitting on his lap late at night. He was a single father. She hadn’t and clue what happened to her mother. She was young, and naive. She had no clue what her father was really doing.
To her young mind it was only a game. He would sit in his chair, and say, “Mags get daddy his candy.” and she’d do as she was told. She would grab his little black bag, and his spoon. Maggie had no clue why he would melt his candy on the spoon, and then eat it in his arms. All she knew was that it made him happy, and then very sleepy.
Maggie would lay on his chest as he reclined, and listen to him breathe. It became a comforting mechanism for her. She would attempt to mimic his slow deep breaths, and count along with her eyes closed, until she too would fall asleep.
One stormy cold night in October, Maggie had gotten her father his candy per usual. The fire was lit in the fireplace, sending a light orange glow in the living room where they sat. Maggie had crawled on his lap as he drifted off to sleep. She then placed her little head on his chest, and began counting. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6…
She opened her eyes. The counting had stopped. Maggie could no longer hear her father breathing.
Maggie shook him. At the time she had thought he was only playing with her. Maggie nestled up into his neck and fell asleep. The next morning when she awoke, she noticed he hadn’t moved. This would be the first time Maggie would experience death first hand.
Some people go into shock, some panic, and some break down in tears. Not Maggie. No. When her father died, she developed a fascination with death. She stared at her father wondering where he went, and wondered why he decided to leave her all alone.
When he grew cold, and pale, Maggie buried the pain deep down. She decided it was time to move on. She grabbed her stuffed animal, and wearing nothing but the clothes on her back, made her way into the world with no real destination in mind. She would lie to anyone about her past should they care enough to ask. It was better this way.
Maggie spent the next seven years as a burden to the state. Each time her foster home became a sight in the rearview mirror, she would become more bitter. The world never wanted her, and in return Maggie would forever hate them all.
The snowstorm had finally passed. Maggie reached over, and was relieved to see Lizzy was still breathing. She disassembled her tent, and rolled it into her backpack. She was heading East on 45. She carried Lizzy three miles down the that back road until she came across a small fire station. This would have to do.
She gently placed her down at the doorstep, and tucked the bear into her arms, and kissed her forehead.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for Liz. Good luck.” she whispered into her ear.
A part of her wanted to shed a tear for her, but Maggie would not break. She knew this was for the best. Lizzy needed care she could not provide. If she was lucky she would find a good home, and forget about Maggie.
She quickly knocked on the door, and sprinted off down 45 in the direction of Greg’s small hidden home. Hopefully the b*****d was there. She needed to end this once and for all.
In what felt like hours, she was finally there. Maggie’s mouth was desert dry, and she was dehydrated. Her body begged for water. The house was at the end of a long dirt road into the woods. This was a perfect place for a man who needed to hide. It was a fatal mistake to ever admit it’s location.
She would kill him by any means necessary, and free the brainwashed girls. Hopefully by doing this, she would even free herself. As she made her way down the path the woods became more dense. The sun was starting to set, and the familiar cold was closing in fast. She knew she was going to freeze tonight, and she was out of food.
Maggie crouched down behind a tree thirty yards from the side of the small house. There was a light on. This was a good sign. She reached down to make sure her hunters knife was still in its sleeve on her leg. It was.
Suddenly Maggie heard a rustle in the leaves to her right. She jerked her head in its direction, and saw nothing but empty woods. What was that? She convinced herself it was an animal, and slowly made her way to the back door. It was unlocked. Greg wasn’t very cautious. This was careless. Especially for someone as paranoid as him.
She smelled bacon. Her mouth started salivating. It had been so long since she’s eaten a real meal. She crouched through the back door, and slowly closed it. She heard footsteps from the other side of the wall. Greg must have been cooking.
As she approached she saw him. His back was to her. The fear she felt faded away at the sight of him. She was now clouded with hated, and anger. This was the b*****d that told her it was OK to kill kids. It would free you he said. All his talk, and all this death, was never by his own hands though. He was a coward.
“Greg.” Maggie coldly spoke
Greg immediately tuned around, and backed into the stove almost knocking the frying pan onto the floor.
“S**t! Maggie! Don’t sneak up on me like that!”
Maggie slowly stepped into the kitchen. She removed the knife from its sheath, never breaking eye contact with Greg. There was a window above the stove, luckily out of sight from everything but the trees.
“What…. What are you doing here Mags?” he asked, eyeing the knife in her hand. There was fear in his voice. He knew.
They both stood there in complete silence for a moment, as they gazed into each other’s eyes. She could see the fear deep within them. Suddenly she felt a ping of remorse. She started tearing up. After all she was still human somewhere inside.
She hated Greg, but she hadn’t always. There was a time where she loved him. He had been the only thing she ever loved outside her father. He would touch her in a way no-one else had. He would tell her she was different from the other girls, that there was a special darkness inside her that was stronger than the rest of them.
A tear fell from her face. She knew it had to be done. He was evil. If there was one thing she learned from Greg, it was that murder was never emotionless. Each kill always takes something away from you. She had learned though, the more you do it, the easier the act gets. She had learned the worst part about murder, was the end. It was being alone with your conscience that was the hard part.
“Maggie… Think about what you’re doing. Put the knife down. Let’s talk about this. You’re just upset”
“why Greg?” she asked.
“why what Mags?”
“why did you lie to me? Why did you lie to all of us?”
“OK… Look… Just calm down. Are you hungry? Just have a seat, and we’ll talk.”
“No Greg… Not this time.” she said, and she lunged at him.
The darkness overtook her. The last thing she remembered before everything turned black was his face in utter horror. When she awoke, she was on top of him, screaming, and covered in hot red blood. She felt the blade digging deeply into his insides with each downward stab. No matter how many times, it was never hard enough. It was never enough to take away all the pain he had caused her.
She stabbed into him until she could no longer stab anymore. He lay there motionless. Maggie let out a loud scream as she grabbed her hair. She starting sobbing uncontrollably. She had just killed the only person who’s ever meant anything to her.
Suddenly a figure moved from the window above them. Maggie jerked up in a panic as she glanced at whatever was outside the window peering in. Someone was there. Someone had witnessed the horror. Who would be all the way out here? Was it some poor soul out hunting?
She backed into the wall in a panic. She was too weak to kill another. Her instincts told her to run. So run she did. Maggie dropped the knife, and took off as fast as she could out the back door. She sprinted into the woods, pumping her legs as hard as she could. She had to get away from the scene. She had to get far away.
Her muscles ached as she ran, refusing to look back, and hoping to get far away from whoever saw her. She would run deep into the woods, and then circle around back to the main road. Hopefully that would prevent her from being caught.
Her head started throbbing. Her stomach was in knots. She pushed past a small group of thick trees, and stumbled down a dropoff. Her body hit the ground hard and she started rolling uncontrollably to the bottom. She scraped her hands badly, as she stood up. Her knees felt like they were broken.
She went to run, but was suddenly haulted. In a panic, she pulled as hard as she could, but didn’t budge. Her right foot was caught in a thick tree root. She fell to her bottom and continued to pull. Her ankle was swollen and hot. She felt a warm stream of blood run down her forehead. It was hard to tell which of it was hers. She was covered from head to toe in blood.
Maggie let out a scream of frustration before finally giving up. She was incredibly tired, and in a lot of pain. Severe dehydration set in, and clouded her vision. Her arms felt like jello. She was much to weak to break free. She simply had to sleep. Her eyes were lead weights.
She fell back onto her back, and stared at the last remaining streaks of light breaking between the tree branches above. This was the end. It was over for her. Was this what death felt like? Her breath escaped into the atmosphere in short bursts of white smoke. The freezing cold was settling in. She could feel the blood thickening, and hardening on her face like a mud mask.
She closed her eyes, and prepared for death. At least Greg was dead. She had done what she sought out to do. The last thing she remembered before blacking out, were cold hands lifting her from the earth. Death was taking her away from this cruel world. Or so she thought.
Maggie let out a groggy moan. She heard the stream of running water from somewhere around her. Her whole body ached, but to her surprise, she felt incredibly warm. She immediately sat up, and let out a yelp of pain. Her body wasn’t prepared to forgive her. She looked down, and realized she was laying in a bathtub. The water was a mixture of brown, and red.
She was naked. She held up her arms. She could see her skin again. Someone had cleaned her. She shut the running water off, and slowly crawled out of the tub to her feet. Where was she? When her vision came to, she realized she was in a bathroom. It was small. Her bloody clothes were thrown to the side.
Looking into the small cracked mirror, she could see her face. Her eyes were baggy from a lack of sleep. How did she get here? There was a white towel folded on the toilet bowl. Maggie quickly grabbed it, and wrapped it around her battered body.
She slowly inched her way out the bathroom door. She smelled the familiar smell of bacon from down the hallway she was standing in. Her heart nearly exploded from her chest as she realized she was back in Greg’s house. How did she get back here? Was Greg still alive? She had killed him? Right?
She heard the sound of pans clinking from the kitchen at the end of the hall. Whoever it was, someone was definitely with her. To her right was the front door. Maggie thought she would sneak past, and once again escape.
She hugged the wall, and crept quietly. As she neared the kitchen, she saw Greg’s body mangled on the floor to the right of the oven. He was hardly recognizable. Maggie had made a mess. She stopped at the sight of a young male standing next to Greg’s Corpse. His back was to her. He was cooking the bacon that Greg had started. There was a plate with eggs on it placed neatly next to silverware on the small table in the center of the room.
“you’re awake. Good. I was worried.” he softly said.
He turned his head slightly in her direction. His eyes were a bright blue. There was something off about him. Maggie stood still, frozen in shock.
“please sit… You must be starving miss.” he said.
Maggie looked to the door. It was only about ten feet away. She could make a run for it. How far could she get before this stranger would catch her? In a towel nonetheless.
“You can leave. I hope you don’t. At least not until you get some food in you. You don’t have to worry miss, I’m not here to harm you.” he said.
“You… Did you pull my leg free? Did you do this?” Maggie weakly asked.
“yes miss. That was me. You were in distress.”
“why? What do you want? I don’t understand.” she asked nervously. She kept eyeing Greg’s body on the floor.
“sit. I’ll explain. Just eat.”
He spooned the bacon from the pan onto the plate, and turned off the burner. Maggie was starving. Her stomach was growling. She was doing everything in her power to act passive about the food. She didn’t want him knowing she wanted it.
Cautiously, Maggie made her way to the table and sat down. He sat across from her. He was young. Average built, and his hair shaved down into a fade. He was handsome. His eyes were almost unnatural, and he was pale. Maggie took no notice to his unusual attire.
She grabbed the fork, and started tearing into the food. She shoveled large forkfulls into her mouth. To have fresh cooked food again was almost overwhelming to her senses. It had been so long. She couldn’t eat it fast enough.
“My name is Esra miss. Who are you?” he asked politely.
“Maggie.” she muffled between bites.
“I witnessed everything.” he softly said.
She stopped eating, and looked at him nervously.
“do not worry. You did me the favor. I myself was going to kill him. You merely got to him first.” Esra said.
“oh… You… You knew Greg? Then you know what he’s done. He deserved it. He was a monster.” she said.
“You owe me no explanation Maggie. I know his sins. I believe I owe you thanks. You made my hunt easy.” he smiled. His fangs shined from under his lips momentarily.
“hunt?” she asked.
“yes miss. I am here to feed.”
“I don’t see you eating.” she said confused.
“I already did.” he said looking at Greg’s corpse.
Maggie looked down at Greg, and then back to Esra. “what do you want from me? Look… I appreciate you cooking this food, and helping me, but I’m not f*****g you if that’s what you want.” she said.
“No maggie. I want to help you. I can see you are alone. Do you not have a family?”
“No. Not anymore.” she said looking down at her empty plate. “who are you?” she asked.
Esra smiled, his sharp fangs protruding from his mouth. “please” he said extending his hand.
“allow me to show you.”