“God damn it, don’t run from me, Susan!” Jake shouted. It was no use. She would never be able to hear him over her incessant shrieks. He followed his wife through the house, pursuing her down each darkened corridor. All the while he gripped his shotgun firmly.
“Stop! Please,” Susan begged. “Why are you doing this?!”
“Just let it happen,” he called. “There’s no way out, now.”
At last he had her cornered against their sons’ bedroom door. “You can’t,” she said between panting breaths. “You won’t do it in front of the children. Not when they’re right there.”
Jake sighed. “Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
She began turning the knob.
“Susan, don’t go in there!” Jake shouted.
She didn’t listen. She threw open the door, tumbled inside, and screamed. Jake followed and found Susan trembling, on her knees, weeping before the now familiar sight of their two children, or rather what was left of them after the shotgun had done its work.
“Why?” Susan cried out. “Why are you doing this?”
Jake came around slowly and lowered the shotgun’s barrel to her forehead. “Because I need a do-over,” he said, calmly. He pulled the trigger.
At long last, silence fell over the house. For the first time since his early-morning plan had been set into motion, Jake realized he was sweating. He was practically soaked. Adrenaline is a hell of a thing, he thought.
Before heading to the shower, he traded his gun for his phone. Unfortunately, there was nothing yet from Lara, that sweet piece of ass he’d been having “after work meetings” with. Oh, well, Jake thought. It’s early yet. I’ve got to play it safe anyway. Can’t do anything suspicious.
His shower was long and luxurious. He had so much time now, so much freedom without a family in the way. He stood there for a long time, just letting the water run over his neck, his back, his aching shoulder muscles….
A loud, rapid banging startled him from his peace. What the fuck? He waited, motionless. The banging came again. Someone was knocking on the bathroom door.
“Daddy,” came a muffled voice. “Are you done yet? I need to pee.”
Jake’s chest tightened. He couldn’t have heard that. There was no possible way.
The banging came again. “Daddy! Please? I gotta go!”
It was the voice of Alec, his oldest. There was no mistaking it. No. No, this had to be a trick. Somebody must have seen. They must be fucking with him.
Jake didn’t bother to rinse before stepping out of the shower and wrapping a towel around himself. He stepped toward the door as if it were a live cobra, swaying and ready to strike. He pulled it open, and there stood Alec, a strong and healthy eleven-year-old.
Jake felt the wind leave him as the boy pushed past with a quick, “Thanks.” He soon found himself on the outside of the closed bathroom door. Chills climbed over his wet skin as he stood there, stunned. It was then that another sound rose to his ears.
“Eat your breakfast, honey,” Jake heard from the kitchen. “You don’t want to be late for school.”
“I don’t like this cereal,” came another voice.
“Well, it’s what we have right now.”
Jake rounded the corner and stepped into the kitchen. Damien, his youngest, sat at the table, stabbing at his Cheerios with a spoon. His wife stood at the counter, slathering peanut butter onto a slice of bread.
Susan looked up and scrunched her face. “Jake!” she scolded. “What the hell are you doing? You’re soaking wet!”
“What’s going on here?” he asked, softly.
“What do you mean?” Susan countered. Her expression softened into worry. “Are you sick?”
“Sick,” Jake repeated to himself. “Yes, I must be. This must be… shock or something.”
Susan approached him gingerly. “Why don’t you call out today, and go lie down?” She reached out to place a hand on his shoulder.
Jake recoiled from her touch, startling her. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I will.”
Jake retreated to his bedroom. Try as he might, he could not stop shaking. His wife and sons were alive. How was this possible? It couldn’t be! He had blasted them all to hell himself!
Unless… it was a dream? It must have been, Jake thought. That was the only explanation that made sense. And there was only one way to put things right.
Jake stormed back into the kitchen. His wife and sons now sat around the breakfast table. They had barely enough time to look up before the first shotgun blast rang out, spraying Susan’s blood all over the wall and stove behind her. The children screamed and pleaded for their lives, but to no avail. Two blasts later, silence fell over the house once again.
Jake heaved a sigh of relief. He messed up, but perhaps not badly. The more he thought, the more he realized that the plan didn’t need to be changed. He still had time to get to work, where he would go about his day normally. Then, he would come home, discover the horrific scene, call the police and report it. “Someone must have waited for me to leave and then snuck in,” he would theorize. They’d have no reason to gainsay it. Then that would be it: case closed. The thought filled him with delight.
The delight remained through Jake’s work day, working almost into a kind of nervous excitement by the time five o’clock rolled around. All throughout his drive home, he texted Lara, describing in detail all the things he would do to her when next they met. He was riding high and pressing against the inside of his trousers by the time he pulled into his driveway. A cheery whistle escaped his lips as he tripped up the walkway and opened the front door.
A warm, spicy, meaty smell greeted him. A sense of dread poured into his stomach. It was then that the voices began.
“I’m the best at drawing dinosaurs!” said one child.
“No, you’re not!” said the other.
“Come on, boys,” Susan said firmly. “Eat before your dinner gets cold.”
Jake stepped slowly toward the dining room door and peered in. There they were---Susan, Alec, and Damien---all seated around the table, plates of meatloaf and vegetables laid before them.
“What the fuck?!” Jake shouted.
The mother and her children whirled their heads around. “Jake, what is wrong with you?!” Susan demanded.
“How is this happening?!” Jake was shaking now. “You’re supposed to be dead!”
“What are you talking about?” Susan asked, her eyes widening.
“I killed you!” Jake insisted. “I fucking killed you all! With my own two hands!” He stretched his hands out before him as if presenting his family with evidence, reasons why they should all be dead at this very moment.
There was a pause. Susan was the next to speak. “Boys,” she said, while keeping her eyes trained on her husband. “Why don’t you go to your room? You can take your plates with you.”
Wordlessly, the children picked up their plates and utensils and made their way toward the door. Jake watched them as they came near. At last, it came time for Alec to pass him.
“No!” Jake shouted. He grabbed the plate and hurled it against the wall. Next, he lunged at his son, seizing his neck. Jake squeezed with all his might while screams erupted behind him. Hands began to beat at his back, but he paid them no mind. His focus never broke until all the life had been choked out of Alec.
Jake then whirled around and grabbed hold of his youngest. Before the boy could even dodge, his head met the floor with astounding force. Jake pressed and punched and slammed until all that remained of Damien’s head was a bloodied mass.
A sharp pain suddenly skewered his shoulder. Jake turned to see Susan brandishing a steak knife from the dinner table. The blade now ran with his own blood. He grabbed her wrist and the knife fell. Her screams never stopped as Jake wrestled her to the floor, grabbed the knife, and plunged it deep into her neck. Screaming died down into gurgling, and soon even that had stopped.
Jake tried to stand, but failed. His knees were weak. All he could do was roll over onto the floor beside the body of his wife. His shoulder wound was bad, he knew. She had gotten one good shot. He was losing blood…. If he didn’t get help soon… he might… not….
The steady beep of a heart monitor was all Jake could hear. He slowly opened his eyes and immediately closed them again, shielding himself from the searing light that surrounded him. Pain ran up and down his body, but pooled more horrifically in his shoulder. Memories came flooding back. As his consciousness grew stronger, he began to fear where he might be, or who might have brought him there.
Another sound mingled with the machine. Footsteps scuffled quickly toward him. Jake forced his eyes open just in time to see a man move in above him.
“Well,” the man said, pleasantly. “Good morning to you! Do you know where you are?”
“No,” Jake croaked out. His voice was a hoarse whisper.
“That’s okay,” said the man with a chuckle. “You’re in the hospital. You’ve had quite a hard time of things, it looks like.”
“Hospital,” Jake repeated. Fear now seized him fully. Who had brought him here? The police?
The man smiled down at Jake’s agitation. “Hey there, relax, buddy. You’re going to be okay. Besides, there’s someone here to see you. She’s a very pretty lady.”
Lady? Lara? Calmness washed over Jake as the man left the room. If Lara was allowed to see them, then the police could not have been the ones to admit him. He must have remained conscious long enough to phone for help. Yes, that must be what happened. He heaved a sigh of relief and closed his eyes.
A lighter set of footsteps approached. Someone gently wrapped at the open. Jake smiled and opened his eyes.
There stood Susan. She frowned at him, holding a large, heart-bedecked floral arrangement in her hands.
“Susan?” Jake choked out.
“Hi,” she said, coldly. She set the flowers down on a nearby table and kept her eyes focused on it. “So… um… this thing is apparently a gift. From a woman. Someone by the name of Lara.” She turned and made eye contact with her husband. He felt the bile rise in his throat.
“Jake," Susan said, "is there anything you want to tell me?”
Written by Jdeschene