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Backyard Skulls

Not Suitable for All Readers

By Christy MunsonPublished 28 days ago Updated 12 days ago 7 min read
Top Story - March 2024
Backyard Skulls
Photo by Ed Leszczynskl on Unsplash

February 2007

His blade slices through the fleshy parts with ease. It’s graceful, disgusting but graceful. How he holds that carved handle with equal parts purpose and delicacy, as if he’s painting a rummage sale art piece to hang over a fireplace.

I’d wager that knife cost him a third of a year’s salary—if his salary's anything like mine.

Forged by a master, that's one fine precision instrument he has himself. Balanced, sharp-sharp, branded. Earlier, perhaps an hour ago, whenever he unsheathed it, his blade held and reflected moonlight like a mirror.

I can’t take my eyes off of it.

It's also true that I can't bring myself to look anywhere else. For fear of meeting his eye. For fear of seeing something I shouldn't—although it's surely part of his terror tactic, making me watch.

He could look right at me. He’s close enough to smell me.

I’m like a present he hasn’t unwrapped, yet. A breathing object in a large dog crate in the middle of the room in the middle of -- wherever here is.

I’m next.

Thankfully, he’s preoccupied. Too busy to pay me any heed. He's doing what brings him rapture. Bringing pain. Ending life. Besides, he knows I'm no threat to him. Even out of the box.

Cutting is his calling. Everything else is incidental.

Even in low light I see the truth of him, how he focuses, how he gets when his dominant hand submerges into a cavity and comes out wet, splotched in shades of newly arriving death. His fingers drip, stickier, sloppier, with each successive cut.

I spot a slippery crimson-soaked wedding band on his left hand. I nearly spew.

I smell a tinge of new blood and long held urine. It could be mine. It could be a gift from his new art piece. The acidic notes hang in the air. I taste it on my tongue. I nearly sneeze—but quickly manage to swallow the tickle.

I hold my breath like it’s my last.

For now he ignores me.


In the darkness, I quiet three Euros too close to jangling in the deep pocket of my coal black winter coat. I’m terrified I'll make a sound. I'd give anything to be back there, in the Eurozone. Safe. With you.

But I find myself here instead. Low light and tight walls contain me. I’m reasonably certain I could move—I will move—when I have a plan.

Problem is, I only have enough space to release my knees so they’ll be a little less pressed into my breasts. There’s not enough room to turn around or sit cross-legged or raise myself a touch more upright. And my eyes itch and burn. No matter how hard I try to manipulate this space so that I can bring my hands up to my face, I simply cannot get there. My eyes sting and water, but they're adjusting.


I struggle to memorize details, to piece together how I got here.

Was I at a dinner party? I think so. With Morty and Mary. And that new kid. Or maybe that was last week. Friday. I can't be sure. It's fuzzy. And now's no time to be thinking about anything except how on earth I'm going to escape.


Overhead, approximately eight feet away, a shaft of moonlight slips in through a rectangular skylight. It animates shadows slinking across what must be his staging area. A dining room. Sizable. Fancy. Owned by one-percenters. Americans. Fans of overpriced art and too-high ceilings. I can picture it: his shoulder blade dips into moonlight, slips back into shadow, dips into moonlight, back into shadow, sawing slices with each successive cut.

I can hear it. He's nearly there. He's in up to his wrists: the wetness, the tiny snapping of forgiving small bones, the whipping of cartilage that dares to resist, the slow release of oxygen from a lung.

He keeps the bits he wants, tosses the rest.

The someone he carves breathes on his own. He passed out a while back.

Can't say I'll be any different.


He cannot not know I’m here. I don’t have that kind of luck. And no one could have missed a large dog crate just feet away.

I imagine he's helping me understand the rules. Telling me what I’m in for -- if I don’t cooperate.

But I will. Of course I will. Just ask me questions, mister, like a reasonable, civilized human being. I'll tell you anything.

But I have nothing he could want.

Nothing I wouldn’t die to protect anyway.


A shudder jerks my spine. I bite my tongue, holding back the guttural sounds of my wincing. My sneeze spots its second chance and takes it.

At that exact moment, fate intervenes. Someone else is here, and that someone else just mercifully flipped a switch in the kitchen allowing Miles Davis to pour through the walls. And this one goes to eleven! Even the neighbors—if there are neighbors—could not have missed it.

My sneeze goes unnoticed. A bottle snaps open and "ahhhhs" a bubbly hello. The metal clank of hefty keys skitters across long granite. A large hound barks in the distance—fanboying for old school trumpet.

I can tell that bark slides in through an open window. Outside. I am close enough to outside to hear him! There is somewhere I can run to...

At last I've caught a break!


When he takes a moment for snacks to fill his belly, the moonlight stays with me. I inventory shapes, objects, distances. I force myself to concentrate, mapping out the maze—doorways to rooms, rooms to hallways, keys to any kind of exit I might encounter.

There are passageways trailing off in every direction. And the keys I heard before have vanished along with stranger number two.

Dimmed halogens and under-counter task lights illuminate the surface where doctor carver leans, snacking on Doritos and slamming down a Dew.

He wipes his fingers on a cloth napkin. I read the initials cross stitched into it. Nobody's I know.

I commit the letters to memory, feeling optimistic for a change. I count how long it takes him to cross from view.


When he returns, he brings a different tool. Furrowed brows betray his growing frustration. I see his deep-set hazels track the motions of his blade, the mechanical precision, the craftsmanship and artistry.

He clenches and unclenches his jaw, irresistible dimples flashing in the night. Anyone shielded from his horror show would surely call him handsome, ruggedly so. But I've seen too much.

I struggle to commit to memory: His bare feet. His powerful legs. The khaki pants he wears. The shirt he doesn’t. The muscular shape of his athletic frame. The proportions of his torso. The ridges of his ribcage. The symmetry of his six-pack. The peculiarities of his angular face. His twice broken nose. His prominent cheekbones. His MMA ears, bunched like cauliflower. His nipple rings.

His eyes I can’t unsee. Fascinating green-gold harbingers pierce the darkness and trigger silent alarms in my head. I hate to admit that there was a time he would have sucker punched me, for a night.

They’re intense, those vibrant green gemstones fringed by thick jet lashes, flickering blood sport magic. His deep sockets are for brooding beneath heavy chestnut brows, dotted with perspiration and conviction.

That shock of slightly damp hair would have been enticing, in waves of chocolate, caramel, and chestnut, if I hadn’t been on his list—if there weren't a list to be on in the first place. That crash of curls waves down the length of his bullish neck, braising his shoulders. That's heat I wouldn't have known how to keep my hands away from.

He could sell hot sports cars to real housewives for the whole damned bank roll and leave them wanting for gas money beside the used car lot where they finally figured out that they'd gotten swindled.


I can feel it now.

My window's closing.

The ones who hesitate don’t survive.


Copyright © 03/19/2024 by Christy Munson. All rights reserved.


Author's acknowledgement: This fiction is inspired by the title but is thematically unrelated to evocative track #2, Backyard Skulls, which appears on Frightened Rabbit's brilliant 2013 studio album, Pedestrian Verse. RIP Scott Hutchison. The loss reverberates in my soul to this day.

psychologicalslashermonsterfictionCONTENT WARNING

About the Creator

Christy Munson

My words expose what I find real and worth exploring.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (9)

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  • Andrea Corwin 5 days ago

    Wow, what a thriller sort of like Dexter but not really. Your descriptions of him, his eyes, MMA looks, handsome - could sell cars - all so good!

  • Well-wrought! I like that you kept it open ended, and the fortuitous intervention of Miles Davis was an extra nice touch!

  • Ameer Bibi17 days ago

    Congratulations for top story "Wow, your creativity shines like a beacon in the night! Your work is truly captivating and always leaves me in awe. Keep dazzling us with your talent!"

  • ROCK 22 days ago

    I am soooo out of my element yet wanted to congratulate you on Top Story! Eeeek!

  • Anna 26 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • "Even in low light I see the truth of him, how he focuses, how he gets when his dominant hand submerges into a cavity and comes out wet, splotched in shades of newly arriving death." You have no idea how freaking much that turned me on! Hehehehehehehhe 🙈🙈🙈🙈 I loved your story so much! Congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Caroline Craven27 days ago

    Creepy as anything! This would make a great short film (that I’d watch from behind my hands!) Great stuff.

  • JBaz27 days ago

    I like how you included all the sense, this adds a beautiful depth to your piece. A quiet slow reveal adds that extra spice to your well crafted horror/ thriller story. Congratulations on a well deserved Top Story

  • John Cox28 days ago

    Holy crap, Christy! This is terrifying! REally well done!

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