So, I've kind of been slacking on the blog posts the past two weeks. Two weeks ago I was running late by several days, and last week's post was so poorly thought out and written that I ended up deleting it before the day was over. To be bluntly honest, I didn't have much for this week either, but I'll be damned if I'm going to make you wait another week. So, here's what I've got for you.
About this time last year, I found out a short story of mine that I had submitted to a writing contest, had made finalist. I had to travel to the convention which sponsored the contest to find out how it ended up placing and I was somewhat delighted to find I had earned an Honorable Mention. Still, it meant my work was included in the convention anthology, which, for those interested in checking out the other works in the small book, is available here.
However, if you're just interested in what I've written (for which I am immeasurably grateful), you can read my entry right here on my blog, today. So without further ado, I give you my Honorable Mention short story from the Crypticon Seattle 2013 writing contest. Enjoy.
On Tonight's Edition
By Shaun Horton
Jerry sat there, watching the news with a feeling of sadness and a slight degree of disgust. He held the fully-loaded Glock in his left hand, an almost empty bottle of Crown Royal in the right. The chair he sat in was decidedly uncomfortable and covered in a flower pattern he wouldn't have chosen for his worst enemy's living quarters. The television was all right though, a seventy-two inch plasma which showed every pixel in colors brighter than anything could ever be in reality. He supposed that could also be the alcohol, though. Jerry spat at the TV where the nightly news was on, falling well short of the screen. All they ever showed on the news anymore was death, murder, war and destruction, with a seasoning of weather and sports.
Jerry could remember when the highlight of the news had been a piece on the old lady that lived two doors up from him; she took in every stray cat that crossed her path. He had liked that old lady, though he couldn't remember her name and her house had smelled so strongly of cat urine it was almost painful to walk past. That had been when he was much younger. Jerry could remember when it really was big news that someone had been found murdered.
He had only been thirteen-years-old that first time. Jerry had been on his way home from playing baseball with some friends; it had been such a nice summer. Walking along one of the back trails through the local park, he had come across an older kid, sixteen the news had told him later, beating on some poor dog that had been left tethered to a tree. He didn't know why the older kid was picking on the dog or why he kept kicking it with such ferocity. Jerry knew the poor animal was in pain and was whining and crying for him to stop; the older kid hadn't seen him.
It was the laugh that finally did it for Jerry. The kid's laughter at the pain he was inflicting on the poor animal was like nails on a chalkboard inside Jerry's mind.
The kid hadn't heard Jerry put down his bag or even walk up. The first thing the kid knew was when the baseball bat took his supporting leg out from under him and he fell hard to the ground, clutching his knee.
The kid had looked up at Jerry, first in amazement, then in anger and rage. The older boy reached for him and the bat swung again.
Jerry remembered the satisfaction at the feeling and sound as the bat shattered both bones in the kid's forearm.
It was only then that the kid looked up at Jerry in fear, finally understanding he was in real danger. The older boy tried to ward off the next several blows, and Jerry had to smash in both of the boy's shoulders before he could finally get in a clean blow to the skull. The boy's face caved in with the first strike, splattering blood and brain matter across the ground. Jerry wiped his bat off on the ground before picking his bag back up.
Jerry started to continue on his way and stopped. The dog, still whimpering in pain and fear, looked up at him thankful but still terrified. Jerry untied him and carefully carried him home. After pleading with his father to help the stray he had found, they took the dog to the veterinarian, where they found the injuries were too extensive and quietly put the poor animal to sleep.
Jerry had cried when they went home without the dog, but the older boy never crept back into his mind until a few days later, when the corpse showed up on the news.
Luck had been with Jerry that day. Nobody else had been on the trail while he was there, or saw him exit onto the street with the dog. He had also been able to claim the blood on his clothes was from carrying the hurt animal home. The murder went unsolved. That one case dominated the nightly news for almost a week, the same story asking people to call in with tips. Unsolved murders, especially brutal ones like that, were very rare back in those days. Back then you could watch the news without being saddened or depressed by the cheerful newscasters; whose smiles never faltered as they panned from one brutal story to the next.
The bottle rose to Jerry's lips, giving him another sip as he reminisced.
The first murder had been enacted purely by chance, though Jerry still felt a twinge of satisfaction remembering it. He had enjoyed the news of his murder on television for a full week, even though he knew how lucky he was to have gotten away with it.
The other murders were more planned out and fun.
The second opportunity came when he was seventeen. Jerry's friend's girlfriend had left him for another guy, while seeing a third on the side. After careful observations, Jerry followed her and her boy toy out to a back road late one night.
The windows were rolled down and the radio was blasting through the woods while the two melded body parts in the back seat. Jerry had quietly snuck up to the car, reached through the window, and pulled the keys out of the ignition. This, of course, turned off the radio. Her “friend” ceased his thrusting to see what was the matter. After satisfying himself that the keys weren't on the seat or the floor of the vehicle, he stepped out of the car in just his boxers, and circled around, yelling about people playing pranks.
Jerry doubted the “friend” had even felt the pain of the impact as the baseball bat crushed the back of his skull. Jerry made sure to hit him a few more times, though, just to be sure, flattening the boy's head into the ground.
Once she noticed her partner wasn't answering her calls to come back to the car and finish what they had started, the young woman got out as well. Pulling her skirt down around her hips and holding her shirt to her chest, she only had time to see the masked figure for a moment before Jerry's bat shattered her jaw and sent teeth flying. She tried to scramble away; a single strike across the back shattering vertebrae and rendering her lower half immobile.
Showing her the bloody end of the bat before planting his boot between her shoulder blades; Jerry took off the top of her head in a swing similar to a golfer using his driver on a three-hundred yard straight shot.
Jerry had called her new boyfriend from a payphone on his way home, telling him she was cheating and where to find her. He had smiled as they had then passed each other on the road. Pulling into a gas station and calling the police, letting them know as well where to find the girl and her boyfriends, Jerry smiled again. The police spent the next week holding her boyfriend under suspicion, but then released him for lack of true evidence. By then, though, it was too late to accurately point a finger at anyone else.
Jerry had reveled in the news of the murder. Everyone was hearing about his handiwork, even if they didn't know it was his. The glory of it all was intoxicating.
That was many years ago, now. Jerry had racked up quite a number of murders since. But each one seemed to attract less and less attention as other people stepped up and murder had become more common. That just didn't seem right to Jerry. His last kill hadn't even been mentioned.
A man Jerry's daughter worked with, a creep that had made several advances on his little girl, was the latest to be discovered. Jerry had studied him in a bar; watched the creep throw back beers and shots for most of the night, until he had chased off every woman that had dared to come in. Jerry had slipped out of the bar and waited for him. The man didn't leave until well after last call.
The bat took out the bastard's right knee. The sound was a somewhat familiar popping as the kneecap dislocated from the impact. The creep dropped to his knees, then fell to one side, clutching the damaged knee and screaming. Jerry planted his foot against the guy's chin, forcing the creep's mouth shut while he lined up the bat with the man's head. Then took a full swing as the man grabbed and pushed at the foot holding him down. The bat tore off the front of the creep's head with a satisfying crunch. The struggling ceased, as did the noise. The metallic scent of blood filled the cold, night air.
Jerry reveled in the moment, reaching out with all of his senses. The feel of the bat in his hands, still remembering the moment of impact against his palms. The scent of the man's life fluids flowing out onto the concrete. The silence of the late night, devoid of the man's irritating, slurred speech. The sight of the large man's face, a void where the top half of his face had been and the beautiful red pool expanding on the black asphalt. Last of all was the taste, as he cleaned some of the red splatter from the back of one hand.
The coat covered most of the splash damage his shirt had taken, and his black jeans did well hiding where the streams had struck them. When he had time to revel in the act, he enjoyed wearing their blood like a badge of honor, but Jerry knew when to indulge and when not to. The extra set of clothes and box of moist towelettes which waited in his truck indicated which one of those options he had expected that night to be.
This last murder had been trumped by a shooting in some nightclub that had killed three and wounded fourteen others. Even doing what he did, Jerry still held every life as something precious. Each life was equal. It saddened him greatly to see that quantity was all the news cared about anymore. It wasn't just about seeing his work on TV, it was about each life snuffed out getting an equal share of time. There wasn't even that anymore. The news wasn't even listing the names of the dead from the club shooting, it was enough to just throw up a number. It was sickening.
Jerry held up his bottle to the light of the TV for a moment, gauging how much was left before sucking it dry and letting the empty vessel drop to the floor. He looked at the envelope on the coffee table, marked in his own bold cursive "For the Police". The letter inside listed every murder Jerry had ever committed. Even that first one when he was thirteen.
He wondered if the original owners of the house he sat in would mind. They were in no condition to answer even if he asked. Their bodies lay on the kitchen floor, along with his most recent bat. Their beatings had been short, but brutal, even by his standards. He had been in a hurry to get to the TV before the news started. The back door had just happened to be unlocked.
Jerry sighed and shook his head at the television, lifting the remote and turning it off. It was a realization that had come to him over the years as populations skyrocketed, technology jumped in leaps and bounds, and people became more detached from each other. Nobody really mattered anymore. Unless you had your name in huge lights somewhere, who you were didn't matter to anyone outside those closest to you. It was sad. Everyone should mourn every life lost, whether they knew them or not.
That was how Jerry felt.
He lifted the Glock and pressed the cold metal of the barrel against his head, nestled in the graying hairs just above and in front of his left ear. He knew if anyone deserved not to be mourned, it was him after all he had done, but still he pondered if anyone would. He wondered if the community would mourn the couple who lay beaten to death in the kitchen. Some neighbors might. Most would probably never know. A world where your neighbors could be brutally murdered and you'd never know was not a world worth living in.
That was Jerry's final thought.