Charlie always lived out of the way. That might have been what had kept him safe for so long. No one bothered with much out here. It used to be an awful long way to get to work but now he was grateful once he escaped the noise and felt a little peace.
Except today something was wrong. Someone was coming up behind him. A quick glance didn't show much but he knew there was trouble. It was payday. The factory paid on random days to keep their employees from getting robbed. So far this new rule had been working but now he had cash on him. Who knows when he'd get more to buy food for the family. Charlie had a wife named Shelly and two little girls. All the more reason to panic as the sounds got closer.
He looked back once more. Now it was getting louder. There were people here. If he went too much further he might lead them back to his home. The trees and random wildcat helped keep people at bay but now there were people here. If he went around trying to lead them away they might beat him and take his money. He could get killed anyway. Each step took him closer to his happy home. It was not in such great shape but that was good. You didn't want to look like you had anything someone else might want.
"Please help me!", a girl cried.
Charlie took a long second and smacked the girl as hard as he could. He ran as fast as he could back home tried hard to ignore the yips and yells that he heard along the way. Soon he would be home.
Grace stirred restlessly and opened one eye. The other was swollen shut and she felt like a tender slab of meat on the cold ground. Now she couldn't go back to the sleepless rest but stared out into the night. Trying to move was a painful mistake. She had been there a long time. Not just on the floor but in the exact position she was in now. Hot urine made her cry in pain from the soreness of all the horror her body had endured.
Still she stared out, not really registering what she saw until a much longer time when she finally began to lift herself up. The quiet air was disgusting and she felt slimy and dirty all over but now she couldn't remember what it felt like to be any other way. This was how it was now. So she staggered along and soon kicked off her one show. All she had on was a t shirt but even that felt scratchy. She didn't take it off but stood and stared. These trances were longer and longer and she no longer knew what time it could be. Only dark and darker.
The first was a small animal. Could have been a rabbit but she didn't even remember killing it. Only sinking her teeth into the chewy meat and trying to gnaw on it. She saw small things and would kill them. Some with a big branch and when it was stunned she would tear into it with her hands or her mouth. Once she beat it with a rock until it was just a big pile of mush. A big pile of mush! That was funny. That was really funny and she found herself making a laughing sound.
It wasn't until she came upon a small house that things changed at all. She would watch the house. Sometimes in her standing trances and sometimes looking at what was there. A little girl came out with a doll. Not really a doll with a face or clothes. Just a figure that she played with like a doll. It reminded Grace of the mush and she almost gave in to hysterics again.
Then a man came out. She pursed her lips and thought about what it would feel like to get a big animal. Bigger mush. He was bad. Not as bad as those other...no she brushed that away but still he kissed the girl. Grace grimaced. Oh, he really was very bad and she could get him.
She watched him walk and tried to go after him but her vision blurred and before she knew it. She had been standing there again. Just standing there like she did sometimes. He would come back. Now she had to find out how. How to get him and maybe the big girl too.
It was all a tangle of images and blurs as she tried to think. Grace remembered things as she thought. A pretty dress she used to wear. It had waves in lots of colors. Only inside she wore her nice dress. Never outside.
Then he she heard him. Coming closer. Stopping to look behind then walking again. When the little girl ran out with her doll, Grace ran and grabbed her bony arm. She clamped a hand on her mouth and ran away with her. It was a game and she tried to get the girl to play but all she would do is cry. They were far away that her cries wouldn't bring him out right away. This game made a lot of noise. Soon there was hollering and all kinds of sounds. Funny sounds.
Grace covered her mouth and when she took it off and the girl yelled, she would get a hit. Pretty soon all trying to cry stopped. Then she went back to the house to see if everyone else wanted to play. She wanted the man and the big girl but the little one might be easier to get.
Walking on the hard floor and she saw her. The big girl was walking and yelling. The same word. Over and over again. Dumb girl. No noise. Noise is bad.
Shelly walked through the trees and called for her daughter.
The first time a loud gasp escaped her as she got shoved into a tree hard. It knocked out a tooth and the blood gushing from her mouth garbled her sounds. Then she felt slid. She slid and slid across the floor and felt her back scraping on the floor. Her screams were bumpy and when she fell soon her body was heavy. Megan was out here somewhere and she had to try to get up. More dirt kept getting piled on her until she couldn't move. Only scream and even that was getting harder. She cried for Megan and for Charlie. Then she felt more dirt on her face until it was all she could taste.
Charlie felt his heart beating so fast and so hard it might knock him down. The air was thicker and he thought maybe those men had found his house after all. It was a chilling thought. They took his Megan and when he went back to tell Shelly not to move, he found little Janie all alone. He hid her in the closet and ran out to look for his girls.
There were three of them, Charlie thought. Those men and he was going to die fighting them off.
Until he saw her. The same girl he had sacrificed before was standing in front of him staring straight ahead. Standing there and staring until he couldn't take it anymore and fell to his knees. He begged for forgiveness. He cried out for her to just forgive him.
Janie sat in the closet and hugged her doll. Then the door shut and she kept waiting for her daddy to come and get her. She listened but all she heard was laughter.