Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Little Horror Story for Halloween

Just a little shiver for Halloween. Originally published in Jitter Press Vol. 2

©Ann Swann
            I watched the evening news, and then went to take my bath. My husband, Andrew, was in bed already. He’d had a very physical day at work. One of the drivers hadn’t shown up so it was left to Andy, the manager, to load and deliver his route. Our freight company was brand new. Andy said he couldn’t afford to let freight sit on the dock, undelivered, not even for a day.
            I loved that about him, that drive to succeed. I was a little worried about the stress—he didn’t handle stress well—but short of volunteering to drive the truck myself, I didn’t know what else to do.
            So I spent an inordinate amount of time in the bath, shaving my legs, exfoliating with the sweet new sugar scrub he’d given me on our first anniversary (because Andy adored sweet, smooth skin). "Just makes me want to eat you up," he’d said the first time I used it.
            When I came out of the on suite bathroom into the dark bedroom, I could hear him snoring. But it didn’t sound like my Andy. It sounded like a chainsaw beneath the quilts.
            Anyone could have been in that bed.
            I suddenly wished I hadn’t watched the news before going to bathe. I became paralyzingly certain it wasn’t Andrew in there at all.  The hump of covers was too large, too lumpy. The chainsaw snores were so loud they were nearly palpable.
            The news had featured a live report about The Lion’s latest victim. The media had dubbed him The Lion because of the way he shredded his victims. The reporter said the last girl was so torn up the medical examiner had to put her back together like a bloody jigsaw puzzle.
            I shuddered and glanced at the growly mountain of covers. 
            That was my Andrew. 
             Had to be. 
             I’d tucked him in myself. He was simply exhausted. 
             He always snored when he was exhausted.
            Seriously. Even if The Lion had somehow gotten in while I was bathing, I would have heard it. Besides, the room would be splattered with gore. The Lion is the perfect moniker. What he did could only be done by an animal. He must have nothing but an empty coldspot where his heart should be.
            My breathing slowed. 
            Silly me. I’m an idiot. Can’t even watch the late news without freaking out.
            I started toward the bed.  The shape grunted.  I’d never heard my husband make that sound before.  Never. 
            I stopped in my tracks.
            The shape began to rise. 
            I backed cautiously into the bathroom and accidentally struck my heel against the half-open door.  It crashed into the tile and the husband-thing rumbled loudly. 
            Without thinking, I hit the light switch.
            “Rosie?  What the hell?” The cover fell away and my Andrew’s tawny, sleep-squigged hair stood out in the stabbing bathroom light.
            I sobbed, rushed to the bed, and dove in beside him.  “I – I watched the news,” I admitted.  “Then I heard something.” 
            Should I tell him I was momentarily certain he was the monster?
            I placed my hand on his chest. 
            No coldspots here. His strong heart beat steadily beneath my palm.
            He folded me into his bed-warm embrace.
            I was so relieved I barely felt the claws when they penetrated my flesh.

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