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Of Lovers and Serial Killers.

a short story

By Z.K. MonningerPublished 2 months ago 7 min read
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We drove up the snowy, winding road toward the cozy A-frame cabin: you, me, and the blue paper bag you kept in your lap the whole time. You wouldn’t tell me what was inside.

You looked at me and said, “You know, there are only two types of people who go to remote cabins in the woods: lovers and serial killers.”

I said you listen to too many true crime podcasts, which is true. Then I parked my ancient Kia, which had not liked the altitude climb, or the dirt road, or the snow, and we got out and spent a good twenty minutes in the cold trying to find the correct rock where the hide-a-key was stashed.

I complained about it, trying to make you laugh in my rant, but you weren’t having it and remained about as quiet as you’d been for most of the trip.

When victory was finally had, you disappeared inside and closed the bathroom door behind you. You took that blue bag with you. You didn’t even comment on the explosion of plaid that covered every inch of the place. It wasn’t near that bad in the photos, I swear, but I guess it’s amazing the decorating sins that can be hidden by the correct angles and a wide lens.

“Alright, yeah, sure, go ahead, leave me here in the plaid,” I mutter to myself and to the stuffed – what was that? A wolverine? Seriously, what the actual…

That’s how I realize that you are so, so mad at me. As if I could do anything about the vagaries of my great-uncle’s directions for after the cell phone reception cut out or the fact that the flat gray rock was actually a round brown one covered by snow. The man’s seventy-two. What can you do?

And yes, I know. I admit it. The lack of cell service is maybe not the best idea. And there is no wi-fi. And no TV. That was all part of the point, though, wasn’t it? This is meant to be an escape, a way to reconnect and remember that we are, actually, friends. We’ve been friends for thirty years, since second grade when Tyson Sanders pushed us both down at the same time and we hit our heads together and you threw up and we both ended up in the nurse’s office for the rest of the day.

And yes, this whole thing was my idea (most things we do are, lately, which has been part of the problem), so, I’m sorry. But you didn’t have to agree to this. Remember, you actually thought it would be pleasant. What a nice break from reality, you said; I’d love a chance to get away from LA, you said; we can reconnect and catch up, you said.

I do accept that was before 6 hours of traffic and how many miles of back country road, but you knew that was all coming so…

You’ve been in the shower a while so I stand, grab one of the bottles of red wine I brought – some kind of blend that is not pinot because I know you hate it and I wanted to be a generous friend and host even though you said you don’t care what the wine is (I know that was a lie because, again, we’ve been friends thirty years and in what universe and what setting do you not care what the wine is?) – and I search the kitchen for a wine opener.

None. Nada. Not a single corkscrew to be had and the nearest store is all the way down the frickin’ mountain. Because of course it is.

This was a bad idea. I don’t have many of them, you know I don’t, but this might be one.

“Hey!” I call. “Do you have a wine opener?”

Nothing. You ignore me. I begin to worry you might have found one of those serial killers you were talking about. I imagine some dude in a striped shirt jumping out of a hidden trap door and pulling you down into his kill room underneath the house…

I knock on the door. “Hey. You okay?”

The water shuts off. There is silence. And then a “Yeah.” Which, yay, you’re talking to me, but also that yeah sounds, let me tell you, decidedly not okay.

“You want wine? I can figure out the shoe trick.”

“How many times have you tried the shoe trick?” you ask. Your voice is muffled by the door and the whatever emotion was not okay in your voice. “It doesn’t work.”

“I did it that one time in college. Remember?”

“We were both pretty drunk. I think we hallucinated it.”

“Nah. I still have the cork. Why would I keep the cork if it weren’t an epic bottle of wine?”

“I don’t know. Don’t you always keep the cork?”

“Sure, but most go into that giant wine cork wire doodad your mom got me. Not into my Box of Phenomenal Epicness.” I pause and tap at the door. “Come out. Watch me do this.”

“Don’t you have a corkscrew on that army knife in the car emergency kit?”

My turn to be silent because yeah, duh, of course I do, and I’ve never actually been able to use it, and this is going to be another one for the BoPE and I’ll have to tell Dad about it immediately after I pop the damn cork. Tell him using the frickin’ landline because I’m a moron who thought this would be fun and not awkward as all get-out.

“I’m going to go get it. I’ll be right back. Don’t… get eaten by a serial killer or anything.”

“Take a flashlight.”

“Sure.”

So I wander outside into the snow and realize that yeah, it’s gotten pretty dark out, and as I close the door of the cabin the buzz of silence washes over me. A little dusting of snow coated my car while we were inside, making it look cleaner than it’s looked for ages I’ll tell you what, and I sigh out a breath that turns to a puff of steam that reflects against the encroaching evening.

There probably isn’t another soul for miles. And for a minute, I let your cautions wrangle into the back of my mind. But why would anyone lie in wait in some random backwoods cabin just on the off chance some middle age adjacent women from LA would happen upon the place?

“Too many episodes of Criminal Minds,” I mutter, and find the red Swiss army knife in the emergency kit, exactly where I put it years and years ago.

You’ve come out of the bathroom when I make my way back inside. You’re sitting there on the sofa, surrounded by plaid – there is so much plaid, and none of it matches, and it walks that line between hilarious and utterly nauseating – and that blue paper bag is back in your lap. You look very serious. I haven’t seen you look this serious since you told me you were going to grad school on the other side of the country. It makes my stomach clench.

“I was going to wait,” you say, but then hand the bag toward me.

“What is this?”

“It’s… open it and see.”

“It’s not a hand or something, is it?”

“A hand?”

“A head wouldn’t fit. But I’ll help you bury the bodies, all you need to do is ask.”

“What? No. Please be serious. Open it. I’m nervous enough.”

I look at you skeptically as I take it. It’s light. Like there’s nothing but tissue paper in it. “Why are you nervous to give me a present?”

“You’ll see.”

“It’s not another good-bye, is it? You’re not moving to New Zealand or something are you? This isn’t a hobbit keychain and some Lord of the Ring magnet to remember—”

“For the love of GOD just open it.”

I sit across from you in a chair that is as comfortable as it is ugly as sin and set the bag in my lap. I open it and find a little square box. Slowly I take it out and set the bag down on the floor.

Okay. Here goes.

I lift the lid.

At first, I don’t know what I’m looking at. It’s black and white and square. A picture. A blurry picture.

Wait.

Tears fill my eyes. I get choked up. You’ve wanted this for years.

And you ask, “Will you be the godmother?”

familyLoveShort StoryMystery
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About the Creator

Z.K. Monninger

Writer. Traveler. Sewist. Cosplay dabbler. Film industry wonk. Geek. I typically write sci-fi/fantasy, but dabble here and there in other things.

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