Short - Broken

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 Broken

The old house creaked and moaned as the evening descended. She’d never been afraid of the dark, though now didn’t seem like a bad time to start.

Housesitting had been her roommate’s idea, and she cursed the older girl now for talking her into it. It had seemed like a fun change of pace, a little adventure, when it was one which they would share. With her roomie at work, and her alone in this old house, too far off the beaten path for her liking, it didn’t seem like much fun anymore.

A pair of dogs barked down the street, and she leaned over the sink to look out the window. Nothing but darkness and shadows of trees. The hum of vehicles on the road down the long gravel drive was just barely audible, and she listened for the familiar rumble of the beat up old truck her roommate drove.

The wind had picked up, howling through the trees. A rush of air slipped into the poorly insulated old house, creating a siren’s wail through the attic. The little brunette shuddered, and flipped on the TV, hoping to drown out the eerie whine. She yearned for her apartment, nestled in the depths of the city, the building filled with familiar hum of people and the routine of their daily lives.

The skitter of a clawed animal across the roof made her jump, and she went to the window again. She knew there would be nothing but shadows, but she couldn’t resist the urge to look. As she leaned over the window sill, she heard the faint sound of the door in the foyer. She turned, a smile spreading across her face.

“Reah!” She exclaimed, her bare feet padding noisily across the wooden floorboards. The entrance way of the house was dark, empty and still when she skidded to a halt, her heart thundering ominously.

“Bell, get a hold of yourself.” She muttered, and made her way back down the hall, fighting the urge to jump at every noise made by the boards beneath her feet. For each footfall, each logical creak of aging wood, there seemed to be several more she couldn’t account for. She put her hand to her chest, her heart fluttering like a trapped bird. With a deep breath, she attempted to calm herself.

The distinct sound of breaking glass shattered her effort to calm herself, and she stood wide eyed, gasping for air in the hallway. Something in the kitchen. Her mind ran over the logical explanations.

Something had fallen. She’d left something out. The wind that howled and screeched through every crack of the old house must have knocked it down.

With a faint nod to herself, she made her way towards the kitchen. A glass, the one she’d used for water, lay in sparkling fragments across the polished floorboards. Dim light filtered in from the den where the TV still carried on, causing the shards to twinkle like a tangle of Christmas lights.

She glanced down at her bare feet and sighed. She’d need to fetch her shoes from upstairs to clean it up. Shaken, her legs wobbly, she ran for the stairs as quickly as she could manage, flipping on lights as she went.

The trail of lights did her little good. She failed to notice the attic hatch hanging open from the ceiling in the upstairs hall, just low enough to catch her across the forehead. Everything went dark before she could register what had happened.

Pain blossomed across her vision in the form of dancing orbs of light. The light faded into black, and she moaned, her head and neck aching from the impact. She stared up at the ceiling, barely making out the lines of the wooden beams. The dangling pull cord of the attic door finally registered in her sight, and she pieced together what had happened.

“I hate this house.” She muttered, climbing wearily to her feet. With one hand, she shoved the hatch back up into the ceiling, hearing it click securely into place before making her way, unsteadily to her room.

There was a mirror hanging in the hall, and she glanced in it as she passed, seeing the bruise spreading into a faint blue across her dark skin.  She couldn’t help but pause. The skin was broken along one edge, a trickle of blood tracing its way down the side of her face. As she reached up to gently prod the wound, she caught a flicker of motion in the edge of the mirror. She spun, there was a sound of creaks down the hall, but she saw nothing.

Heart thundering, she fetched her shoes and made her cautious way down the stairs. Each step was a laborious progression, every hint of sound a reason to pause. Just before the entrance way of the kitchen, she froze. The sound of footfalls behind her was undeniable, and she spun around, just in time to catch a flurry of movement down the hall. She cursed, and ran into the kitchen.

Carefully skirting the spray of broken glass, she grabbed for the knife in the butcher block. Stalking back down the hall, she checked each room carefully. The chorus of creaks  and moans started up again, and she jumped at each. After the second doorway, she caught a flicker of movement behind her.

All the lights she’d flicked on were off again. She gasped, a scream caught in her throat. The explanation of the power going out would have been feasible if the light she’d just flipped on had gone out as well. She trembled slightly as she held the knife before her, stepping carefully back the way she came.

“Who ever you are, I’m armed. And my roommate will be here any minute...” Though she’d meant to intimidate, to sound confident,  her voice wavered, and she knew the warning didn’t have the intended effect.

Stepping to the doorway of the next room in the hall, she slipped her hand inside, feeling for the switch. The room was illuminated, and starkly quiet. She moved to the next, eventually finding her way back to the kitchen. The pattern of broken glass sparkling across the floor caught her eye, and she stared. Had it changed?

She felt, more than heard a hint of movement behind her. Before she could react and turn, she was shoved forcefully from behind. Everything seemed to progress in slow motion. The scream that had caught in her throat just moments before, now echoed through the kitchen, deafeningly loud, caught within those four walls. Desperate to catch herself, she released the knife, and it clattered to the ground, spinning out of reach. She found herself sprawled in a blanket of shards, her knees and hands aflame.

As she did her best to scramble back to her feet, she whimpered at the sight of tiny fragments creating a pattern of sparkles and crimson in her trembling palms. Straightening painfully, she attempted to turn and face her attacker. Her shuddering efforts were rewarded with another fierce shove and she fell back into the jagged bed of glass. Unable to catch herself, she fell hard on her thigh.

She screamed, a hoarse cry, wrought with pain and desperation. There was a sharp, deep burning in her thigh. Every movement was a struggle as she attempted to climb onto trembling feet. She rose to a trembling crouch, entranced by the large chunk of glass embedded in her flesh, the blood welling around the edges. The pain dulled her senses. She almost forgot about her attacker until she felt a hand in her hair, wrenching her upright.

“You’re unarmed now, sweetheart.” He said, casually, dragging her across the kitchen. Stunned by pain, she reached for his arm, hoping to alleviate the tension on her hair. Her efforts were rewarded by the sharp reminder of the glass lodged in her palms. Stumbling along as best she could, the only part of her attacker she could make out was dark clad legs and boots.

She whimpered as she was jerked upright. The man wore a ski mask, but she could see through the openings that his eyes were a frightening, steely blue. There was no compassion there. Just cold, feral delight.

She cried out as she was thrust up against the wall, a hand at her throat. Grasping at his fingers, she attempted to loosen the grip from her airway. “Look at those great, big, brown eyes...” his voice was appreciative, “like a felled deer, rolling with fear...”

His eyes left hers, and slid down her thigh. With a swift movement he pulled the glass embedded there loose. She cried out, a deep guttural cry, the sight of the blood coursing from the wound the last image her mind registered before everything went black.



***



When consciousness returned, nothing but dark greeted her. She was weak, the blood loss making her faint. Pain seared up her thighs, and she realized she was bound, forced into a kneeling position. The shards of glass in her knees made it excruciating. She could hear footfalls above her, and then, “Belita!” Her name.

It was Reah, her roommate. The other woman’s voice was frantic, desperate. Normally protective, Belita could only imagine Reah’s reaction to the blood that surely painted the kitchen floor.

“Reah!” She cried out, and tried to struggle to her feet. She was rewarded with kick to the ribs, and crashed to her knees, gasping as the tiny fragments of glass ground against tissue and bone. The room was suddenly flooded with light.

At first she wasn’t sure if it was the pain that caused everything to go white. The sound of footsteps on the stairs told her it was light from open doorway that had illuminated the room. Her long legged, redheaded friend pounded down the stairs. The older girl’s body language screamed determined fury, a knife in hand. The knife Belita had dropped earlier in the kitchen.

“Belita!” Reah cried, as she caught sight of the brunette, bound and kneeling on the basement floor. She hesitated briefly, and Belita was taken aback the look of rage and distress that painted her friend’s features.

“He’s still down here!” Belita cried out in warning. The man had moved into the shadows along the stairs. Her warning seemed to call the attacker into action. She watched in horror as a black mass of a man hurled himself into her friend, knocking the redhead off her feet. Reah fell hard, tumbling down the last few basement steps.

Belita, bound as she was, was a helpless spectator as her friend’s painful decent came to a halt at the bottom of the stairs. The slender woman lay sprawled before her, the knife still clutched in her hand. The seconds progressed agonizingly slowly as she watched her friend blink, and begin to rise. Her view was soon obscured as the black clad man pounced upon the fallen woman. Shortly, he had Reah pinned to the ground, working to pry the knife from her fingers.

Though the redhead projected fearlessness, there really wasn’t much to her. Belita’s heart seized in despair as she realized how much larger their attacker was than her spunky roommate. She stood no chance against this man.

He seemed to have the upper hand. Reah lifted her head and flung it forward, cracking her forehead against his face. He muttered and cursed, coming back at the redhead more fiercely. There was another scramble of movement and a muffled cry from Reah. Belita twisted pulled at her bindings, praying for her friend, unable to make out much from her vantage point.

Reah managed to bring her knee up, and shoved the man off of her just enough to allow her to twist out from under him. The crushing weight of the man no longer pressing her down, she kicked again, catching him in the stomach. Belita heard a satisfying grunt of pain from the man, and grinned as she watched her fiery haired friend climb to her feet.

There was a metal pipe in reach, and Reah grabbed it. Before the man had fully recovered himself, the slender woman and swung the pipe upward, catching him in the jaw.

The crack of metal against bone was a sickening sound, and he stumbled back. Before Belita could fully register what had happened, the flash of silver swung through the air once more. This time, Reah had caught him in the temple, and he dropped, a crumpled, broken heap. Belita cried out in relief, “Querida! You saved us!”

Her roommate didn’t look up, didn’t acknowledge her friend’s exclamation. Belita stared, in stunned silence as the pipe slammed again into the man’s face, turning his mouth into a bloody, gaping maw. He choked and sputtered, and the redhead straightened, staring down at her handy work.

She kicked him hard in the ribs, her body rigid, as she watched for his reaction. He coughed and choked, groaning. Belita glanced from her friend, to her attacker, horrified. “Reah, stop...”

The woman’s head jerked in reaction to her name, but she didn’t turn. There was only the briefest moment of hesitation before the pipe came down again... again, and again. At first, basement echoed with the cracking, snapping sounds of the bones in his face shattering into ever smaller pieces. Soon, though, there was only a wet, thwap, thwap, thwap.

Eventually, the strikes slowed, then stopped. The slender woman straightened, panting. She turned, a stiff marionette, and dropped the bloodied pipe, the metal clattering on the cement floor. “Bell.” She uttered the name, a husky, pained sigh, at the sight of the brunette bound and whimpering in the corner.

Tears streamed down Belita’s face, horrified at the scene which had just unfolded. Reah rushed to her side, her hands like ice as she swiftly unbound the smaller woman and caught her up in her arms.

“Bell, you’re okay now.” Reah’s voice was brimming with emotion as she spoke into her friend’s dark, thick tangle of hair. “You’re safe now.” The redhead’s embrace was frantic, tight, and her hands trembled as she stroked Belita’s hair. “You’re safe now.” She repeated, and Belita began to wonder which one of them she sought to reassure.

Images of the man’s face, beaten into a bloodied pulp burned into her mind’s eye. “Reah,” Belita’s voice quavered as her friend clung to her, “what have you done?” She was stunned, aghast at the demonstration of such a lack of restraint from her dear friend, her querida.

Reah pulled away, searching her friend’s face, raising her hand to lightly touch the trail of dried blood along Belita’s cheek. “He hurt you,” her voice was flat, cold. “So I broke him,” she said, as if it were the most logical explanation.

Unable to meet the disquieting void that seemed to lurk behind Reah’s gaze, Belita found herself mesmerized by the trickle of blood that traced its way from the corner of her friend’s pale lips to pool at her chin. The droplet fell, landing on the canvas of her shirt, joining the pattern of crimson. The blood of the man, their attacker, she realized.

Belita shook herself out of her trance, the view of the gruesome painting splattered across friend’s clothing obscured as Reah raised her hand and coughed. She then became aware of the fact that her friend’s breathing was laboured, a congested sounding rhythm of gasps. Reah pulled her hand away from her mouth, the palm slick with a glistening coat of red. She stared at it momentarily before looking down. Belita’s gaze followed in suit. There was the kitchen knife, the
wooden handle sticking out at strange angle.

It took a moment for it’s odd placement to register. With a gasp, Belita realized it was buried deep between Reah’s ribs. Before Belita could move, could think, Reah’s pale hand caught the knife, and jerked it loose in one swift movement.

The blood flowed freely, and Belita choked out, “Oh my god, Reah.”

Reah slumped forward, grasping desperately at Belita. Belita wrapped her arms around her friend, catching the gasping, panicked utterance. “You’re safe now.” Reah began to tremble, her words a shuddering, choked sob. “You’re safe now.”

***

This story was written as an entry to the editorsUNITE horror contest, which ended on November, 30, 2011.

 Copyright © 2011 by Marie Chavez

All rights reserved. This publication contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author.

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