Gunnar Garisson – A Crimson Sunrise

The sun was just peeking up over the tallest row of poplars on the edge of the farmer’s two acre yard. Beyond the deep irrigation ditch lay row upon row of apple trees, shaking in the warm summer breeze. I rose up out of the tall grass and shook my head, trying to focus on things as I began to feel a sense of urgency seeping its way back into my mind.

Where was I? Moreover, who was I? The last thing I remembered was hiding in this place as the day turned to night; letting the sounds of the world around me slowly grow silent as I became part of the landscape… safe for now. I awoke with a renewed sense of vitality and near euphoric painlessness, but it was tainted with this overbearing sense of urgency. I think I was being hunted. I looked down at my own hands and saw the blood for the first time. For God’s sake, what have I done?

I stood tall for a moment, peering from the safety of my hole out towards a colonial style farmhouse. It appeared to be nearly vacant, and there were no cars parked outside, which gave me enough confidence to carefully approach, keeping an eye on the county road leading to their driveway. With no dogs present, I quickly deduced that intrusion would be fairly easy.

Still on high alert as I crept inside, I noticed from the sound of water in the pipes that someone was in the shower upstairs, and there was even a plate of steaming food sitting on the breakfast table. An antique television was on in the breakfast nook, and a live newscast was being displayed; so I watched intently, never completely taking my attention off of the person in the shower.

The newscaster was obviously distraught, going on and on about a missing local girl. Feared to be the latest victim in a gruesome string of serial killings in the area was Christina Anne Cahill, the daughter of the town’s Sheriff, and a beautiful young blonde in the prime of her life… 17 years old and the Captain of the local High School’s Cheerleaders. Thus far, all that was known for certain was that the murders had been perpetrated by someone who used a hatchet as their means for killing, and sometimes decapitating, their victims.

All that was found was her necklace, an unmistakable golden locket given to her by her father. It was found outside a local pub where numerous witnesses had seen her waiting for her boyfriend, but she never made it home that night. According to the newscaster, her older boyfriend, a local lumberjack named Billy Gene Tharp, was prone to jealous fits in public, and had been arrested numerous times for assault. He was currently the prime suspect in the case.

I couldn’t be sure exactly why, but I immediately found myself in defense of this man and felt as if I knew him quite well. Her picture seemed so utterly familiar to me; staring at her beautiful likeness on the television, I almost lost track of where I was, and was surprised as the bathroom door at the top of the stairs started to open.

I panicked! Bolting for the same door I came in through, I nearly tripped on the table, and noticed a number of newspaper clippings and photographs strewn about. Several of the pictures I didn’t recognize; but as I stepped away from the table, I noticed an open yearbook with the young girl’s picture circled numerous times in bold marker. I bolted out the door, trying to make sense of all of this as the feeling of being hunted deepened in my psyche.

I quickly sprinted across the field toward the county road. I knew I couldn’t have killed her. It just wasn’t in my nature. Was it? I became dizzy and tripped on something, sprawling across the loose gravel on the side of the road. As I started to get up, I got another very close look at the blood on my hands, and I was sure of it… I had to have killed her! But why? This whole thing was like a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. I ran without looking back.

Broken memories started flooding into my head in small, segmented pieces… a chase in the dark… someone right on my heels… a witness. Would I be able to keep myself from killing again? According to the news, I had already killed four others in the same manner! I had to find the time and solace to piece this together.

I paused for a moment, nervously looking back toward the house I had just left. There was someone emerging from the front door carrying something in his hand. I squinted, but from this distance I could not make out what it was… something fairly long, perhaps a pistol or hatchet. He slipped it into some sort of sheath, and opened the giant padlock to his garage; an old, dilapidated out-building beneath a large oak tree with a double door that swung outward.

I felt a momentary tingle of redemption as it became apparent that this might be the actual killer; but it was very quickly replaced with terror as I looked about for a place to hide, and only saw a long building down the road a stretch… much too far to run before he reached me. I watched from the roadside as he walked in, and soon the sound of a very large motor being started echoed in the morning air as a plume of black and grey smoke burst outward from within the garage. A second later, a police car emerged.

I looked around, then noticed a particularly large tuft of weeds and tall grass next to the roadside and dove in, trying to bury myself completely and stop moving before the man gained line of sight. The car seemed to take eons to pass as I held my breath for all I was worth. He finally passed with nary a glance in my direction; and as soon as it was safe to do so, I jumped from my hiding place, vomiting repeatedly as I staggered for the building up the road.

I walked up there, realizing it was a pub, already bustling with locals, in spite of the hour. I quickly washed my hands under a leaky spigot before entering, and looked around for the Sheriff’s police cruiser. It was nowhere to be seen. I collected my tattered nerves and walked inside.

There were people all about the place, drinking and making merry in spite of the horrible news. I came to the realization that these people had to be the patrons from last night. They simply never left, probably due to the dangerous situation brewing in this tiny community.

I looked about, and recognized every single one of their faces. The ostrich-like Mr. Anderson, recently divorced… Caroline McCormick, the pathetic, wannabe psychic who had been scamming the town’s most insecure people for decades… her husband Phillip, who had been cheating on her with the bartender, Miss Chloe Davis, the local-girl-made-good aspiring actress who came back from Hollywood with her tail between her legs two years ago after a couple of commercials and a small part in a failed pilot… the list went on and on. Why can’t I remember who I am?

“Chloe, get me a boilermaker!” I yelled in a husky, demanding voice, starting to get upset in a whole new sort of way. She kept on wiping the countertop and joking around with Earl Tolbert, an out of shape Journeyman Carpenter, who everyone liked, but no one trusted to hire for a remodel. “Chloe!” I yelled again.

She turned her head toward me quickly; but just then, the front door swung open and the Sheriff started walking in. The sun was shining brightly from behind him, making him appear nearly as a silhouette. I cringed, slowly turning back toward Chloe, who was sliding an open beer toward me with a saddened look as she nodded at the Sheriff. She set it on top of a coaster in front of me and turned back around toward Earl. My eyes followed her as she passed in front of me, directly between me and the back mirror.

“Chloe, I said a boilermaker… not a–” My jaw dropped open as I suddenly caught my own reflection in the bar mirror and saw the deep vertical gash in my forehead, splitting my skull open right below the part in my long, blonde hair. I barely recognized myself as I reached for the beer, only to have my hand pass right through the bottle, and nearly hyperventilating, screamed to no avail as the Sheriff sat down on my stool, passing right through me, and gasped to himself as the cold air permeating him turned his breath to fog.

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