The Anniversary

October 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been a decade now since I brought the wife out to these woods so I could bury her and get her out of the way.

Don’t ask me why, but here I am on the tenth anniversary of that night, trying to find the very spot. Stumbling around among the fallen leaves and broken twigs.

Ten years ago…

It feels like some kind of weird dream now. My whole life has been like that ever since that day. Like a dream. No real substance to anything I experience.

When I eat food, it remains tasteless on my tongue. I breathe air and there is no oxygen in it. I sleep but I’m half awake. I wake but I am still half asleep. Every day the darkness seems to close in around me and people become more distant. All my memories blur into one, focused around that fateful day ten years ago when I disturbed the fabric of creation by taking the life of another person and burying the proof.

I know, I don’t need telling – this is guilt calling.

The woods are dark this afternoon, like they were back then. The weather is chilly, the leaves crunch under my boots. Naked branches point at me accusingly. Through them I watch a raven swoop against the grim sky, ruling his kingdom. I notice I have stopped so I pick up my pace before night falls.

It’s so hard to pinpoint the exact place. But I left a marker at the time. Nothing conspicuous, just a chop in the trunk of the nearest big tree. But all the trees look big tonight and I can’t find the grave.

We’d finished the job, Sam and I, the big fuel station robbery, and the wife had found out about it.

Corrine and I had been separated some time and she had no claim on me, but she wanted a slice of the action. Trouble was, I knew it wouldn’t end there. It never did with Corrine. She would want more and more and would squeeze me dry till it was all bled out of me.

How had she found out? I didn’t know, but what I did know was that she had to be removed from the equation.

The way to remove Corrine from the equation was to take her out to the woods and shoot her.

Needless to say, first we made her dig her own grave.

She was a mess, crying through her mascara and making her face an ugly pattern of black streaks. She was covered in the soil and mud that clung to her sweat-stained clothes. Her nose ran and her mouth dribbled as she sobbed.

But I didn’t care. I’d done bad things before, I was hardened. And besides, I hated the bitch. She was getting her just desserts in my book, so her crying and pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears. And Sam, well, he was an evil bastard anyway.

But he was my brother and I loved him.

I suppose that he’d always led me astray, all my life. A bad influence, my mother used to say. But he was a loose cannon and I had to be there for him whenever he went crazy. I was the only one who could cool him down, the only one he would listen to.

I knew he’d have no qualms about killing Corrine because he simply didn’t give a damn. Human life meant nothing to Sam. I was the only one he ever cared for, I think. I like to believe he cared for me, anyway.

After all, we were blood.

So there I was, ten years ago, holding a gun and watching Corrine dig her own grave as the skies grew dark.

Once or twice she looked into my eyes, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get the odd nostalgic twinge for our long lost love. A pining for better times, before the rot set in. But not enough to change my mind. I was holding the gun and I would do the killing – because it was necessary and because I wanted to.

“Jim,” she said to me. “Jim, you’re not really going to do this, are you? It’s just a sick joke, isn’t it? Come on, it’s gone on long enough.”

“Just dig,” I said.

Sam said nothing, he just stood watching, expressionless, like a damned zombie.

“I’m so tired. Please, Jim.”

“You’re talking like I care, Corrine. After all the things you’ve done to me. I think you’re getting off lightly with a quick death.”

“You call this lightly?” She was on the verge of hysteria. I thought I’d better watch what I say till the grave’s finished. I didn’t want to have to shoot her and dig it myself.

But she wouldn’t be quiet. Corrine kept on at me and I had to remind her of a few things. Sam kept quiet through all this.

“You think what I’ve done is worse than the things you do?” she cried. “You’re a thief. You’re a killer. I’ve never done anything like that!”

I waved the gun at her. “Sam’s the killer, Corrine. And anyway, I never did any of those things to you, did I? I always treated you right. And how did you repay me?”

“That was a stupid mistake! I told you that. You’re the one I love Jim, you always were.”

“Which, I suppose, is why you slept with Don.” Don, my cousin. Now dead – guess why? Sam’s a good brother – he couldn’t bear to see me hurting.

I kicked some soil back into the hole, for spite. “No,” I continued. “You only ever loved the money I could make. Which is why you want half of it now. But you know what? I’m sick of giving you my money. You’re getting nothing more off me except a bullet in the head.”

“Jim…” and she sounded so pathetic.

“For five years you bled me dry, Corrine. You used me to get what you wanted and when you left, you left me with nothing.” Yes, she was a great manipulator. She was smart and she always got the better of me. She could talk me around every time. Not this time though.

I looked over at Sam. He was leaning against a tree smoking a cigarette, watching our drama unfold with apparent disinterest.

“So, it’s all about money…” Corrine began.

“No, it’s all about getting you out of my life for good. How did you find out about this, anyway?”

She looked at Sam, and for some reason alarm bells rang in my head. Something was amiss here. She noticed my expression.

“He’s not as smart as you, Jim,” she smiled, and I hated her dirty smile. “He probably doesn’t even know he let on.”

I turned to Sam, who was looking at me without knowing what had just transpired, and then I stared daggers at Corrine. “Bitch.”

*

I stumble over a hole hidden in the leaves and land on my hands and knees amongst the soft damp mulch. As I pull myself to my feet I notice a V chopped out of the base of the nearest trunk, weathered now and almost indistinguishable from the bark.

“I’ve found it,” I call back, and my companion’s footsteps crunch closer toward me.

The grave. The grave where I hid my sin, so long ago. I feel a comforting arm around my waist as I close my eyes, tears trying to escape the emptiness in my soul. My throat hurts as I remember the shot echoing through the woods, tree to tree.

The shot had taken me by surprise. The loudness of it, the bone-jarring force of it. That sound seemed to change the world.

It took some seconds to comprehend the situation. Sam was lying among the leaves, blood splashed up the trunk of the tree beside him. The gun in my hand, pointing at him. My mouth hanging open.

And then Corrine had spoken, her voice shaking. “Oh God, Jim. Oh Jesus.”

I looked at her. I let the gun fall from my grasp. She let the shovel fall from her hands, the shovel she had swung at me without warning, knocking the gun towards my brother. My finger squeezing at precisely the wrong moment.

My brother falling.

My brother dead.

I stared at him. He didn’t move. At all.

Corrine clambered out of the hole and touched my arm. “Jim…”

We held each other, watching the body, shivering as darkness fell.

Some time later, Corrine spoke. “We have to bury him.”

I turned to her, but all my anger was gone. I felt only cold and alone. We watched each other, faces like stone.

She passed the shovel to me.

*

Corrine rests her head on my shoulder over my brother’s final resting place. We do not speak. Now I’m here, I don’t know why I came. I still feel the same empty guilt I’ve felt for ten years. Corrine and I hold each other as we did that day.

Then we turn and find our way back to the car, forever entwined, for good or bad.

I feel so cold. We hug each other for warmth, but there is no real love. There is no hate. No words to say.

There is nothing, really.

Just darkness all around.

© Chris Young, 2010

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