When he turned off Red and closed the garage, he noticed the clock on the wall next to the door. 12:06 A.M. The door from the garage to the kitchen gaped, ajar. When he pushed it open further, a pungent smell assaulted him.

 Sharp. Combined with the citrus scent of their cleaning supplies, he couldn’t place it. From the street, it’d looked like every light in the house was on, which was maybe why he glanced at the clock. Mother preferred to keep the house dark. It had to do with her depression and her constant belief that life wasn’t fair.

Those were reasons she’d given him before. But, he’d always figured it made the evil she flung at him seem less real. So his coming home and seeing the complete opposite gave him pause, made Michael worry. He didn’t know what to expect:  A drunken rampage or worse.

One way to find out.

“Mother?” 

Typically, when she stayed up late, she either watched TV in the den or her bedroom. Michael checked the den first. The television blared some late-night talk show. A couple of the cushions on the couch were scrunched, like they’d been used, but she wasn’t there. With the remote, he switched off the TV. Then he went into her bedroom. An empty glass sat on the nightstand. Next to that, a bottle of wine, opened and half full. Normal. At least twenty squished cigarette butts lay in a glass ashtray. The burgundy comforter and sheets on her bed were pulled back.

“Mother,” he called again. No answer. He switched off the bathroom light after checking it. His letterman’s jacket, with the hole in the shoulder, had been moved. Where’d she put it? In his closet? He had no idea with her. It could’ve been thrown in the trash. As he moved toward the living room, the rock in his stomach nearly sent him to his knees. The stench became stronger. He had to check it before heading upstairs. 

When he entered, it was as if his mind went on pause. He forgot how to think, how to do anything but stand there, frozen. For how long, he had no clue. He knew the images that flooded his mind would haunt him forever. 

Blood. Death.

Everywhere. 

The odor burned. A physical assault from every angle beat his senses.  Large blotches of blood stained the walls, with streaks running toward the floor, like they were racing to see who got down first. Blood had been flung all over the furniture, the closed curtains, and the carpet. It covered the lampshades, too, giving the room an eerie red glow.

“Mom,” he yelled. She lay on the floor in front of their wood coffee table, hands tied at the wrists. Michael ran and fell to his knees at her side.  

Disgusted. Horrified. Terrified.

Bile rose into his throat. He stood, ran to a corner and puked. When he finished, Michael realized he’d touched a wall to hold himself steady. More blood. His mom’s blood, covered his hand.

 “No. No. No,” he cried, wiping it on his pants and rushing back to her.

 She’d been laid on her back, eyes wide open. Terror plastered on her face. Her lips were cracked, dry blood crusted over them. Her skin looked odd in color, a grayish-black, but that may have been because of the light shining through the bloodied lampshades. Each cheek and her forehead had strange cuts in them. Her sweatshirt had been sliced opened and her stomach had a large carving in it too. It reminded him of a weird shaped eye. Blood had pooled into the center of the carving, creating a red pupil. As though whoever had done this tried to cut art into her body. A huge black-handled knife protruded above her left breast. 

Her sweatpants had been sliced away as well and there were carvings in her thighs. The murderer had hacked off her legs below the knee. Rage as he’d never known coursed through his veins, filling him. Michael searched the room, but couldn’t find the missing limbs.

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