knife-mdThe Taxidermist’s Only Son

by Caroline Smith

Part 1: Hunter

He smells the blood wafting into the air with its sweet, metallic aroma, before he feels the cut on his palm. “Careless,” he murmurs to himself as the sting spreads across his hand and the familiar crimson drips down. He sets the deer aside to focus on his present prey, a doe of the human variety. Her long blond hair pops in contrast to the pale of her moonlit skin. She is peaceful as her collarbone crests and recedes with each breath.

This stand out in the forest is his refuge and his palace. Here he is free to catch up on work and pursue his other hobbies, without the incessant chattering of others.

He watches her through his binoculars, and congratulates himself on this incredible feat of patience and restraint. But soon she will see and soon she will know.

Part 2: Prey

She thinks that she is going insane. The first thing she notices is that her pictures are missing. The rest of the family photos are still nestled in each frame. She accuses her brother of playing a prank on her. He teases her by saying that her parents threw the photos out because she is adopted. They both laugh, as she looks just like him and their father, but with a wig on.

Soon other things in the house are missing or rearranged. Usually they are trivial things, little things, or sometimes more important items, like the mail. She starts to take the family’s mail into town to send out, rather than relying on the postman to come to their little cabin in the woods. He was always complaining anyway about how far out the drive was, and if the mail truck were to break down how no one was around for miles to help him.

Her family doesn’t believe her when she informs them that they have a spirit that hides their pictures and their mail.

Part 3: Hunter

He has been so good for so long. For the last seven days, he has drawn near enough to her bedroom that he has fogged up the window with his breath at night. Still he lets her be. He wants her to be ready and he wants her to be ripe. The time will come when it comes.

Still, he trembles from the anticipation. He knows her breath will be sweet. In a pile on the floor of his hunting stand lie her photos and her mail. His lips are sticky from licking the envelopes she once graced with her tongue.

Part 4: Prey

Like a deer in the woods that senses it is being watched, she begins to pay careful attention to her surroundings. Before she leaves for school every day, she takes a picture of her room on her phone to see if anything has been moved. She can never fully relax and only smiles in rare moments. Her parents believe that she is just being a typical teenager.

She begins a nightly ritual of checking the locks on every single door and window. Even though everything is latched, it takes her hours to fall asleep. Lately, she stares out of her bedroom window at night. She knows something is out there, watching, waiting.

Circles appear under her eyes. Her teachers ask her if everything is “okay” at home. She nods but struggles to stay awake in class. This goes on for weeks until one day, after fourth period, Mr. Drummond, the science teacher, sends her home and tells her to get some rest.

Part 5: Hunter/Prey

A sky the color of a corpse has fallen over the town. As the bus drops her on the corner, the snow starts and is viciously sticking by the time she reaches the cabin. She is so exhausted that she can barely make it into her room and under the down comforter.

She is fast asleep when the key clicks in the lock.

He is in the great room by the time the unfamiliar footsteps startle her awake. She claps a hand over her mouth and grabs the knife that has been under the pillow for the past month.

She manages to slip behind the door just as he opens it. The postman strolls in with the confidence of someone who believes that he is all alone in a house. He explores the surfaces of her desk and dresser with his fingers like there is some sort of braille on these surfaces that will explain the secrets of life to him. With respectful reverence, he caresses each object on her dresser in turn. A stuffed cat, her jeans, a glass unicorn; these are religious relics in his eyes.

Her breathing is shallow but steady. Suddenly, the urge to cough. She tries to push it down, but her throat tickles and her eyes are watering to the point that she’s choking.

He knows.

He lunges at the door as she throws it open. They collide in a fit of disbelief. His eyes shine bright with the fevered delight of finally having her within his grasp. Her frenzied screams excite him.

They howl like wild animals as a spray of blood coats them both; dying her blond hair pink. He grabs at her ankle feebly as she crawls away, and they both moan and gasp. The slit in his throat bleeds out as the lust in his eyes turn to a blank stare.

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