Harlan still loved the man kneeling before him despite the four dead bodies at his side. Sobbing and heartbroken, he’d forced the muzzle of his gun against the worry lines scoring the man’s forehead. The still lake beyond them reflected the moonlight, the whine of cicadas crisp but far away.
“I killed them, Harry.” The kneeling man, Eddie’s, face streaked with filthy tears. “I cut them up.”
Both men shook, one with rage, the other despair. Harlan could not blind himself to the jackknife in Eddie’s bloody hand and that subtle glint of madness in his eyes but not the tender memories of Eddie’s family—Paula, daughter Sadie, and twin boys, Cody and Colby—rising in his thoughts around a red streak of vengeance.
“But I didn’t like it,” Eddie said.
“They loved you, Eddie. How the hell could you?”
“I don’t know.”
“And what about me? Did you invite me up here to carve up, too?”
The gun came down hard on Eddie’s teeth, stifling his cries. His head rocked back, his mouth a broken dam of blood. He slumped forward again and spat two jagged kernels of broken teeth into the mud.
“I just…I got angry a few days ago,” Eddie said. “Just woke up with a bad headache, all pissed off.”
Harlan licked his lips as Eddie struggled to compose himself.
“Me and the twins came down here to fish while the girls made lunch.”
Eddie looked to the cabin where the family would go during long summer weekends.
“I took a nap here at the lakefront while they ate, and something got into me. I woke up full of hate. I wanted to hurt things. And the damn headache. It told me to…”
Harlan jammed the gun into his friend’s face so hard that Eddie collapsed beside the muddy water.
“Just do it, Harry.” Eddie pleaded. “Please. For Paula and the kids. For you. Do it. Save me from this…”
The gunshot split the stillness of nightfall and sent a looming flock of birds from their unseen perches. Eddie jolted backwards, his ruptured skull smacking the ground with a wet thud. He jerked once before his body went still.
The messy lakefront made Harlan weep. He’d loved Eddie beyond words. Paula had been like a sister, and the kids had always loved their Uncle H, but now, they were just body parts and painful memories, taken too soon by the monster his friend had become.
Eddie bucked with enough force to roll his body and shift his death glare to those he’d loved and butchered. Harlan pointed his gun at the settling body, his heart hammering.
He spied the bloody crater where the bullet had puckered Eddie’s skull. There, within the black blood, the shattered bone moved, slightly at first, but then, with zeal.
A translucent serpentine thing, a narrow eel made of glass, popped its head out of the break in Eddie’s skull and struggled out of the corpse, the moist squelch of its wriggling turned Harlan’s guts. It slithered free, its maw buzzing around a sharp proboscis.
Franklin Charles Murdock is a fiction writer from the Midwestern United States. Though most of his work is harvested from the vast landscapes of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, Franklin strives to spin tales outside the conventions of these genres.
His work has appeared in Dark Fuse, Under the Bed Magazine, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, MicroHorror, Liquid Imagination, Yellow Mama, Heavy Hands Ink, WEIRDYEAR, Phantom Kangaroo, PrimalZine, and various other publications. Most recently, he’s been coauthoring the serial epic BEARD THE IMMORTAL on swordandportent.com and maintaining franklinmurdock.com.
Featured Photo Credit: @pauljacksonlives