The Visitations: Horror Short Story by cam, 2/3
Links to Parts One and Three
As things stood at that point, the woman's eyes were wrapped in oilcloth and lay several feet below where my tulips grow. If I had called the police about them again, it may have implicated my involvement in some hideous crime even more than when I had previously called them. At least that was my thinking at the time. Her body was likewise wrapped and rested six feet beneath the wood floor of my garden shed. Her head was safely tucked away under the footing of a stone wall at the back of my property. Why had I kept them all separate? The issue nagged at me day and night like an abscessed tooth. Finally, at three o'clock one morning, I gave in to the incessant exploitation of my overly sensitive conscience and rolled out of bed.
Out on the deck, I was greeted by a star-spangled night sky and Tabby. Strange that he should show up on this of all nights. He sniffed around the yard and finally sat in front of a large patch of seedling plants that were just taking root after being started in the house for several weeks. Amaranth is a colorful, flowering plant, but of course, it was only late spring, so there were no flowers. To the ancient Greeks, amaranth was a symbol of immortality. Whether Tabby new it or not, he had helped me decide where to move the woman's remains. I could have moved the head and eyes to where the body lay beneath the shed, but I felt that her final resting place should be someplace with beauty and pleasant aromas.
By five a.m., her body, head, and eyes, lay at the bottom of a four-foot hole in the middle of my patch of amaranth. I had reassembled her parts as best I could. Pressing the eyes back into their sockets took all the emotional willpower I could muster. Tears dripped from my eyes into hers as I worked. I draped the body with the oilcloth because I couldn't throw even a shovel full of earth down onto her upturned face. When I did drop the first bit of dirt into the hole, I swear I heard a sigh in the silent treetops. It was a woman's voice, and she whispered, thank you.
Tabby shared two other characteristics with the big cats other than his striped tiger appearance. He also did not meow or purr. After I was finished with the new grave, he crawled through the amaranth and sat on top as if to keep watch and protect it.
Within three days, the amaranth seedlings were fully grown and bearing red and magenta flowers and foliage. I was admiring the plants in spite of the fear I felt. The body of a dead woman was having a direct effect on the physical world around her. I had never believed in life after death until the moment I saw the flowers.
The following day, I sat at my desk in front of my computer. If I wasn't going to call the police, then I owed it to the woman, buried in my back yard, to solve her murder. I began by searching the local paper for missing persons. I had to broaden my search which led me to the shore of Lake Michigan.
A red haired woman in her late twenties had taken off from her and her husband's small rental cottage on the couple's snowmobile this past winter. She had ventured out onto the ice of a Lake Michigan bay, a common practice of locals and visitors to the area. The husband had called the sheriff's office after two hours to report her missing. The deputies had found a hole in a patch of wind-swept ice which was thought to be the place where she had fallen through. Currently, the case was in the hands of a probate judge to decide when to declare the woman dead so her life insurance claim could be processed.
The article featured two photos. The first was the young woman's face. She was smiling, almost laughing. A small mole to the left of the bridge of her nose somehow added to, rather than detracted from, her natural beauty. I looked at the second photo. The same smiling woman was standing next to her husband. The couple looked happy together, each with an arm around the other.
I live on a ten-acre parcel. The land around me has been divided up in the same way. My closest neighbor's, and newest, live about a mile down the road. That's where Tabby lives. I've met the man and the woman who was with him. The man in the photo with his arm around his wife is my neighbor. The woman who had been introduced to me was not the woman in the photo. It seems the man had found new love even before his wife had been considered dead.
I shifted my eyes back to the photo of the man's wife. I saw the mole on her face and in my mind, I saw the decomposing face of the woman buried in my yard. My memory was clear. The dead woman had a mole in precisely the same spot. The woman buried in my garden was the missing woman in the article. Her name was Tracey.
It is now the night after I discovered the identity of the dead woman. I am lying sleepless in my bed attempting to recreate what might have happened. Clearly, Tracey did not die by falling through the ice on a snowmobile. Her husband made up that story as a cover for what really happened. Someone found Tracey's remains and brought them to me. But who? why?
I get up and go to the kitchen. There's nothing that a glass of milk and a package of Oreos can't fix. I twist the two halves and the cookie comes apart to reveal the secret inside. If only my mystery could be so easily solved.
I pick up a pen and paper and make a list of everything that has happened, of every person, every detail. The list contains all the obvious elements. Then I think of the amaranth, of how it had grown and blossomed overnight. And I recall how Tabby had drawn my attention to the spot that would become Tracey's new grave.
For the first time, I wonder why her eyes had been removed and her head cut off. Had her husband buried her as I had done, in three separate places? Why would he? Why had I? Then I had placed all the parts into one grave, mostly because Tabby had given me the idea to bury her beneath the amaranth. Tabby belongs to Tracey's husband? Had the cat been Tracey's? Was Tabby somehow involved?
I walk to the back door and open it. The night is silent, just like the morning when the last delivery had been made, and the birds had all gone silent. Now the crickets and the spring peepers had given up their tune. I step out onto the deck and walk into the yard. The amaranth is beautiful. The red is so powerful it stands out even in the dark.
I know I'm being watched. I can feel the eyes boring into the back of my head. It's the deliverer. It must be, but there isn't anything more to deliver. I let fear go and accept the fact that I am here now by my own choice. I could have gone to the sheriff again. I could have turned Tracey's remains over to the authorities. I take a deep breath and turn around.