To hear violence night after night is a torment, and most neighbours will seek to stop it before someone gets hurt. What if protecting someone else meant you had to put yourself in the direct line of violence? A finalist from the 2013 Story Quest competition, John Claude Smith chilled the judges with this horror piece. SY
Screams crashed the shore of slumber, sonic flotsam that abruptly awakened Jesse for the fourth time in a week. He pressed his palms to his temples, audibly groaning. The screams, originating from the house behind the apartment complex he lived in, had been escalating over the last few months, but in the last week, the needle had been pushed into the red.
It’s only going to end badly, he thought.
He paused to gauge everything, the language not always clear, just the bulldozing audacity of the two voices that ripped him from his sheets. Two voices: Lisa, the wife or girlfriend (he only knew this because her husband’s or boyfriend’s bleats wrapped her name within the delicate embrace of “you fuckin’ whore, Lisa, fuckin’ twat”), and her throat wrenching cries, sounding like a rocket about to lift off; and Mike, the husband or boyfriend (only known because his name was hurled with equal ferocity by the loving wife or girlfriend, Lisa, she of the “fuckin’ whore, fuckin’ twat” designations), growling like the world’s meanest pit bull, slobbering and rabid.
Christ, this was getting ridiculous. He called the police on two of the three previous occasions this week, beaten to the punch once when police sirens derailed his dialing, much to his delight.
Cammie sucked hard on the rolled cigarette, the smoke threatening to warm her frigid innards, but failing.
The sky was bright and white and vast—infinite—though charcoal curled the distant edges.
Winter came and owned their souls. Took root in the marrow. Froze their dreams like arctic lakes that never thawed.
Ragged threads scratched spider-like at her fingertips, the home-made fingerless gloves meant to deter calluses on the palms, but the grip of flesh, of strong fingers, was deemed necessary to swing the axe.