I stood in disbelief of what had just happened. One minute we're talking, and the next I'm standing over her with blood on my hands. Not figuratively, but literally. Warm blood steadily dripping onto the floor between the webs of my fingers, not even spilled long enough to have yet turned cold. My hands are shaking, and my entire body is numb. My brain feels as if it's slowed down to the point that processing anything beyond the extreme shock I find myself in would be impossible. I can't even find the strength to speak, as the gasping words I search for struggle to climb up from the bowels of my throat. I have been made both motionless and speechless by the horrifying sight that lay out in front of me. The lifeless body of my girlfriend, Grace. Whom with which I'd exclusively shared the last seven years of my life with, and with whom she'd reluctantly share with me her last.
But if I'm being honest, I should confess; we weren't talking, we were arguing. And I also hadn't exclusively given her seven years of my commitment. At best, she had only four months in the spotlight of my attention before I strayed off path into the beds of multiple other women. Which of course, was the topic of our heated argument, brought on by the foolish loose end I'd left un-knotted, in form of a text messages sent to one of the other women in my life, which I'd absentmindedly forgotten to delete.
It took Grace only a quick glance at my lit-up phone screen to arouse her suspicion, and from that point on we were locked into an debate of accusations, excuses, and whenever possible, attempts to turn the tables around on her. Though each attempt to divert the blame only managed to intensify the swelling of our emotional boiling points, leaving the tables thoroughly un-turned and pointed towards me.
I've shamelessly chosen to blur out the memory of the events that followed, and began the difficult task of rewiring my brain into believing that everything had unfolded differently than they actually had. The brain can be a powerful weapon if you allow it free reign of creative thinking...
Not long after, thoughts slowly started to trickle into my spinning head, and I was left with a choice to make. But as soon as deep thought had manifested, I had already decided on what I was going to do; I was going to pretend that the whole thing never happened. I was going to hide the body, the evidence, and then never tell a soul about it. It was going to be my secret and I would never let anything expose my secret.
It didn't take long to hammer out the details of how I needed to remove Grace from my house without being seen. The outcome was surprisingly simple, requiring no more than a few sturdy trash bags lined with layers of absorbent pads around the inside.
I payed special attention to her phone, pulling it out of her back jean pocket to inspect it for anything she may have sent out that might have compromised my secret. And luckily, there was nothing to worry about. No recent calls or text messages. So I shoved it back into her jean pocket and tied the bag tightly shut.
My extroverted neighbor even managed to catch me in the act of hauling some of the bags into the trunk of my car. But I just told him that I'd finally gotten around to cleaning out the clutter in my garage (or more like cleaning out the skeletons in my closet, I thought to myself), and he bought it. He even responded with some advice on maximizing storage space by adding wooden crossbeams to the above area. I pretended to be deeply interested in his neighborly chit chat so that I didn't come off as suspicious. While on the inside I was imploding with the fear of being caught. The worry soon passed though, as before I knew it, I'd loaded up every bag.
I eased down on the trunk door, feeling it softly press against the pile of bags sprawled out across the trunk bed as I shifted my body weight onto the latch. I heard it click shut, and in my hunched stance, I also heard the sound of a low jingle, barely audible under the sound of the latch. I tilted my head slightly against the surface of the trunk for a better listen, and recognized it as the ringtone on Grace's cell phone, which I pictured tucked away safely in the back pocket of her jeans.
I lifted my head in spontaneous paranoia that I was being watched, but soon concluded that her phone wasn't nearly loud enough to be heard by anyone more than three feet from the car. Not to mention that the battery would eventually die (no pun intended) in the pocket of whichever bag her limbs were stuffed into.
After concluding that the phone call was likely from her sister, Amy, who's frequent calls to Grace were common, I rushed back into the house, where I begin a marathon of obsessive deep cleaning, burning anything that couldn't be violently scrubbed away.
It must have been at least eight hours later that I finally felt the reluctant reassurance that the area had been fully cleansed, and by then the sun had gone down, and with it all the exposing light that day brings. So it was now time for the second step of my plan to begin.
Wearing a fresh set of clothes, I casually strolled out to my car and began the long, dark drive to the far outskirts of town. Once I arrived, I turned off the road, onto a beaten path shrouded by an overhang of thick tree branches, hiding the turn-off completely. Then I trudged my car through miles of rocky, uneven ground until I found a fitting location. A spot where the dirt was soft and the environment was cluttered, making it unappealing to visitors.
I pulled over and retrieved the shovel I'd stashed in the trunk, reaching between the bags to get a grip on the handle. And just as I pulled the shovel closer with the tips of my fingers, I felt vibrations against my arm, followed by the familiar jingle of Grace's cell phone.
The reoccurring sound mustered a slight panic with every ring of the incoming call, worrying me that someone was trying to get a hold of her because they somehow knew what had happened to her. I panicked for the next few moments until my inner monologue convinced me that it would be impossible for someone to know what had happened. It was my secret and I wasn't going to let anything happen that would expose it. I repeated the thought in my head until my sweating stopped and I could breath normally again.
The next hour involved nothing but endless digging, shoveling deep and tirelessly piling the loose dirt into a giant mound, tossing it anywhere I could swing once the hole became too deep to stack any further. I must've dug at least ten feet down before feeling confident enough that no amount of exposure to the elements or acts of god would unearth the body. I then grabbed each bag one by one from the trunk and dropped them in.
It wasn't until I carried one of the last remaining bags over to the hole that I felt the vibrations return, humming against my wrists as I lugged it towards the fresh crater. I tossed it in just as the jingle sounded off and watched the screen light up from inside the thick black trash bag, sat atop the heavy pile.
All I could think about as I stood over the sunken bags that made up the components of Grace's body was how much quicker her phone's battery would drain from the incoming calls. The thought brought me a slight comfort as I picked the shovel back up to begin moving the dirt once more, feeling the pain in my hands as I gripped the wooden handle tight.
I could still see the light of Grace's suddenly popular phone illuminating through the bag for the third time, before being covered by the dirt that rained down onto it, until dirt had reached the very top and been compressed down by the intermissions of compacted beatings brought down from the shovel head. It was the last shovel thud that allowed the thought of Grace's ringing phone to vacate my mind.
The absolute silence in the air became much more noticeable after the last shovel hit smacked onto the flat surface of the dirt. Nothing but the wind blowing through the trees and the orchestra of crickets in the near distance could be heard. I shifted my eyes between the surrounding tree lines, silhouetted by absolute darkness, in another bout of the paranoid feeling that I was being watched. But I again shook it off by the reminder that no one could possibly know what happened. And from above the freshly packed mound of dirt, I assured myself that I wouldn't let anything risk my secret getting out. No one could ever know what I'd done.
When I returned home, I gave a discomforting stare towards the spotless corner of the house that looked so uncharacteristically clean. Even though I was so exhausted I could barely stand, I grabbed a few of the nearby items and draped them throughout the area to provide more of a lived-in look atop the meticulously put together corner, knowing I would never be able to relax otherwise.
I spared one last nervous glance out the front window at the early morning sunlight shining behind the neighborhood before heading to sleep. I practically pour myself into bed, sinking my guilty conscious into the soft sheets.
I closed my eyes and instead of seeing the black of my inner eyelids, I see the red of my regret. Staining my thoughts with its blaring mental reenactment, playing over and over again. I see my hands covered in a mountain of blood, endlessly pouring onto the floor, swirling around me in an increasingly large tide.
My eyes are forced back open by the sensation of drowning as sound fills the room. I pull myself up and find it to be my phone ringing on the nightstand beside me. The teasing sound of an incoming call instantly sends panic down my spine, with a hundred different scenarios of how I'd been caught going through my pounding head.
The call was from Grace's sister, displaying "Amy" on the screen.
This didn't help simmer down my paranoia since I'd only ever received one previous call from Amy, years ago, while Grace was taking a daytime nap. It wasn't uncommon for the two of them to talk on the phone on a weekly basis, or often text each other throughout the day.
The phone continued to vigorously ring as I contemplated whether it would be less conspicuous to answer it or not. I couldn't imagine what she could possibly need to talk to me about that didn't involve Grace's direct input, which made me fear engaging in any sort of contact with Amy.
The ringing sounded as if it was getting louder, though I knew that it really wasn't. Then before I'd decided if I should answer it, the ringing stopped.
Amy's name disappeared from the screen as it switched to display the now missed call. Then after a short pause of trying to calm myself down, my phone went off again. This time with the chime of a new voicemail, which I wasted no time pulling up to listen to.
"Hey Sam, it's Amy. Just calling to see if there's any chance you're with Grace right now? I just got a call from her that I think was pocket-dialed, but I figured I'd check in with you anyway and make sure everything's alright, since she isn't answering her phone. So give me a call back when you get a chance. Thanks. Bye."
My heart dropped. I quickly realized that I must've leaned too hard against the bag when I was getting the shovel and accidentally pressed the speed dial on Grace's phone. I kicked myself for not being carefully enough with protecting my secret. But in my defense, it had been a very long day and I was both mentally and physically exhausted. So I just crawled back into bed, deciding to call Amy back to put any suspicions she may have at rest after I was well rested myself. I couldn't trust my half awake brain not to say anything incriminating in the state I was in.
Though I should've expected that falling asleep with a guilty conscience could promise only one thing;
Endlessly terrifying nightmares.
I later woke up feeling as if I hadn't slept at all, with visions of the constant torture still circling in front of me. It was the same as before, where an ocean of rampaging blood chaotically swirled around me until I drown in its crashing waves. No amount of rubbing my tired eyes could clear the red from my sight. And once I gave up on trying, I noticed that my phone was brightly lit up on the nightstand.
I swiped it open to reveal seventeen missed calls from various different numbers. The first few being additional calls from Amy, with the next seven in a row from Grace's mother. I scrolled further down to a few calls from some of her friends and even one from her boss' work phone, and then at the end of the list were numerous unknown callers who's numbers I didn't even recognize.
I could feel my heart rate increasing and my face heating up as I contemplated what all those people would need to get a hold of me for. I went into a full on panic at the assumption that it had to be about Grace. It's not like she's really missing yet, it hadn't even been a single day, I thought. And she wasn't scheduled to work today so her boss shouldn't be calling, right?
I worked myself up into a dizzy mess worrying about all the ways the people who were close to Grace could've found out so quickly. Then I turned my attention back to my phone, where I noticed that a few of the callers had left me a voicemail. I clicked into the first one. It was from Grace's mom.
"Hey Samuel, I'm sorry to be calling so late, but I wanted to ask if everything is okay at home? I got a weird call from Grace last night that seemed odd to me... I'm sure it's nothing, but I'd like to hear back from one of you if you could give me a call back when you get this, okay? Goodbye."
Then another voicemail left by her mom.
"Hey Samuel, it's me again, still haven't gotten a call back from either of you... I'm starting to get pretty worried. So please call me back as soon as you can. Thank you."
Then the next one was from one of her friends.
"Hey, it's Becka. What's the deal with all these crazy texts Grace keeps sending me? Maybe you can tell me what in the world she's doing? It's getting pretty annoying and she isn't responding to me... Thanks. Bye."
The tone is Becka's voice conveyed severe irritation, leading me to believe that whichever bag Grace's phone was inside must be pushed up against another one of the bags and pressing against the keyboard. And if it had stayed in that position after being covered in dirt then there's really no telling how many hundreds of messages Becka could've gotten from Grace's phone.
If that really was the case, then I could understand her frustration, and it would also mean that all these concerning calls I'm getting are from everyone that her phone had been pocket-dialing.
I let out a sigh of relief at the probable conclusion that all these worried people are just confused by the random phone calls and text messages of illegible gibberish they had to of been getting from Grace's buried phone. Though it may have made me feel a bit safer, I still felt an overwhelming paranoia that my secret was going to get out if these calls and texts continued sending out to all the numbers saved in her phone. I knew that I needed to put a stop to it immediately. Which meant the one thing that I hoped I would never have to do, especially so soon;
I would have go dig her body back up.
I was on my way out the door by the time I received another call. It was from Grace's sister again, and I knew that the longer I avoided contact with her the more suspicious she would get. So without second thought I stepped back into the house and answered it.
"....Hello?" I said hesitantly.
"Finally!" She exclaimed. "I've been trying to get a hold of you guys forever now!"
"Really?" I said, attempting to mask my nervousness. "What did you need fro--?"
She cut me off mid-sentence without even acknowledging my question. "Can you put Grace on please?"
My heart-pounding fear suddenly returned. I had no idea what I could tell her that wouldn't end with her more suspicious than she already was. I knew now for sure that I was going to get caught just by how adamantly she spoke, persisting to speak with Grace.
"Uhh.. she's actually in the shower right now, but I can have her call you back?" I asked, hoping she'd take the bait.
"That's fine. I'll just wait on the line. She's acting really unlike herself and I just need to check-in with her and hear her voice."
She spoke with a sense of urgency that heightened my level of panic to the point that I began to sweat. What did she mean that Grace wasn't acting herself, I thought. I tried to drag on any excuse I could come up with to get her to hang up.
"I'm sorry, but I'm actually on my way to a doctor's appointment right now. So I'm gonna hav--"
But I was again cut off by her abrupt interruption. "Why hasn't she been answering her phone? What's going on, Sam?"
I pretended that I didn't hear what she was asking me and continued my plea. "Well, I just got to my doctor's office, so I'm gonna let you go now, okay? Goodbye, Amy."
I could barely finish my sentence through her interruptions demanding to know what Grace was doing. Then I forcefully pressed my finger against the "end call" button as Amy's interrogation went on, and in the heat of the moment subsequently pressed the power button on the side of my phone to turn it off completely.
The relief of severing Amy's ability to harass me over the phone was still far outweighed by the fear of her investigating the ongoing flurry of underground pocket-dials sent out from Grace's phone. God forbid anyone should go so far as to track its location, I thought.
It was all too clear that I needed to dig up that phone as soon as possible.
I drove back to the burial site under the watchful eye of broad daylight, riding alongside my powered down cell phone on the lump of the passenger seat. I could hardly navigate myself back to the exact location in the contrast of day, but eventually managed to get through.
There wasn't a soul in sight, just as it was before. I retrieved the warn-in shovel from the now empty trunk and got straight to it. Only this time I sensed an energy behind me, as if someone was quickly tip-toeing towards me. I couldn't count how many times I suddenly felt overcome by the terrifying sensation and swung my body around with the shovel raised above my arms, ready to strike my attacker. Each time I snapped back with beads of sweat flying off my wet hair I felt further and further away from sanity.
My hands soon started to bleed from the anxious grip I tightly twisted onto the chipped wooden shovel. I couldn't help but reflect on the incident that caused all this mess whenever I glanced down at the blood dripping into the loose soil. My vision turned red again, with flashes of Grace's unthinkable fate exploding in front of my face, no matter where I turned.
The inability to look away drove me mad, causing me to thrash myself into the dirt walls of her grave. I tried to smack the delusions out of my head but couldn't remove the image of Grace's corpse from my eyes. In fact, every smack to my temple from my bleeding palms seemed to warp the intensity of how I remembered what had actually happened.
By the fourth or fifth replay Grace's dead body was becoming more animated. At first I noticed her slightly turning her head back to look up at me while she lay on the floor. Her rolled-back eyes struggling to look directly at me, or rather straight through me, it felt. Then eventually her body would staggeringly pull itself up to stand in front of me, faced away at the wall she'd been slammed into. I stared at her slouched body as it swayed from side to side like a drunken teenager.
It must have been at least the twentieth replay when she turned completely around and dragged herself up to stand practically on top of my feet. My ability to react from inside the chains of my visions were next to impossible at this point. I was left to relive the nightmarish version of my actions until Grace had decided it was done.
I can't describe the piercing look she gave me through her glossy eyeballs and ghost-pale skin. It was a look of passionate hatred, twisted by the heat of hellfire and then shot into my chest. Her bottomless gaze filled me with pain that made me shiver uncontrollably, while at the same time, being unable to move at all. Which caused my entire body to throb with the feeling of extreme heat and pin needles.
Grace was doing this to me and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The pain was so incredible that I began to scream, clawing my fingers down my face, leaving bloody tracks across my skin. Grace pressed her skull against mine, her gaze still locked into my soul. The room felt as if it had raised to a thousand degrees. I clenched my teeth together, growling in agony through my closed mouth. I must've clenched my full body, because I suddenly felt the grip of tattered wood in my fist. It was the shovel's handle and it served as an awakening snap back into reality, where I found myself returned to the surrounding sight of the dirt walls I'd dug myself into.
I took a moment to catch my breath and then continued to dig down the remaining two or three feet to the trash bags. When I felt the tip of the shovel hit the top of a bag, I dropped to my knees to dig with my filthy, red bare hands.
I slumped down and peeled my fingers into the dirt, quickly uncovering the first bag. After a nervous look up above the hole, I pulled the bag out and scanned it for Grace's phone, but it wasn't there. Then as I bent back down I heard the jingle of my own cell phone go off. I patted my clothes in wonder of where I'd last put it, then noticed the screen blinking, barely within my peripheral vision. It was sitting half buried in the dirt beside me with the number of another unknown caller displayed.
I plucked it from the dirt and fearfully answered it, slowly raising it to my ear without speaking, waiting for a sound to come through the other end. I could hear white noise loudly crackling through the receiver. Then a voice poke up, muffled yet audible enough for me to cringe upon immediately recognizing it.
It was Grace's voice.
She said "Everyone knows your secret..."
I sank low above the thin layer of dirt partially covering the pile of bags that the phone call would have to be coming from. Then I froze in place, listening in shock with my ear still up against the phone.
"You're going to get caught... because everyone knows what you did..." she said in a flat tone.
I sat quietly with my eyes fixed widely on the exposed part of the trash bags, as I succumbed to a paralyzing numbness. I knew that her body was buried directly in front of me, along with her phone. There's no way this could be happening, I thought.
"They will find me" She said aggressively, her voice suddenly sounding far less muffled. "Everyone knows your secret."
"No they don't" I finally said under my breath.
"No they don't! No one knows!" I blurted over her, getting louder each time. "I've been too careful for anyone to find out what I did to you!"
I was hyperventilating now and threw down my phone. I then began tearing the bags out of the ground, ripping them apart as I pulled them up. I could still hear Grace mocking me from my phone.
I found the bag that had her phone inside and quickly tore it open, spilling out severed pieces of Grace's limbs all around me.
The moment I grabbed her phone I felt the last remaining percent of sanity I had left dissolve into nothingness. Then I shrank into myself as I witnessed the terror-inducing sight that shone off of the four inch screen.
I scrolled through a continuous thread of outgoing calls with conversations that lasted upwards of hours, as well as text messages sent out with every little detail of what I'd done gruesomely described. Everything was included from time frames to directions to the exact location of her body, leading to the hole I currently stood in. And just as I'd feared, these messages were shared to every contact saved in her phone, along with some sent to manually entered numbers. I dizzily scrolled up and down the list of people Grace had contacted, feeling my bones quiver when I passed by a series of calls to the police.
Her voice grew louder on my phone, droning the same phrase over and over again, sounding as if her voice was coming from inside my own eardrums.
"Everyone knows your secret..." She repeated endlessly.
Police sirens slowly blended in with her voice, burning at my ears while I attempted to hastily cover up the shredded trash bags with the surrounding dirt.
But it was of no use. The sound of spinning tires speeding through the uneven road grew louder as the sirens did. I knew it was all over, even as I continued to dramatically shovel dirt.
I heard the police cars pull over on the road above me, followed by the car doors flying open.
"Freeze!" The first officer yelled into the hole "Show me your hands now!"
I remained unmoved, gripping the shovel tighter than ever before, forcing droplets of blood to ooze from the cuts on my hands.
"I'm not gonna ask you again, drop the weapon and show me your hands right now!" He yelled incessantly.
I didn't turn to face him. I loosened my grip until the shovel slid from my fingers, clanking onto the dirt. Then I slowly raised my arms up above my head. The officers continued to shout orders at me from above the hole, where now four of them stood all around its edge. I mindlessly followed their instructions at gunpoint, as they soon commanding me to climb my way out of the hole.
I threw my arm onto the flat surface of the ground above to pull myself up, getting assistance from two of the officers. As my head raised up to see the base of the tree line, I saw a fifth set of legs standing before me.
It was Grace.
She stood victoriously with a grin of redemption painted on her pale face. I was placed into handcuffs and moved into the back seat of one of the squad cars, where my view from out the window was that of Grace's piercing stare, stood just inches beyond the glass.
And for the first time since her death, she smiled at me.
It wasn't until much later, during the process of my trial, that after I shared what had happened, lawyers would accuse me of lying to withhold evidence. Claiming that not only was my phone found to be turned off on the passenger seat of my car, making it impossible to have received any phone calls from the burial site, yet alone one from the woman I'd been accused of murdering, but each of the witnesses I'd also reported to have received detailed explanations from Grace claimed that they did in fact receive calls and text messages from Grace's phone, but that it was all inaudible mumbling and texted gibberish.
The lawyers mistakenly suggested it to be my own sick method of confessing my guilt to Grace's loved ones. None of what they said was true though. I know what I saw in her phone and I remember each of the phone calls vividly. Grace did expose my secret. But she also neglected to tell them about the nightmares she'd be giving me, which made it easy for them to believe that I'd lost my mind.
But overall, the part that shocked me the most was when the cops re-bagging Grace's limbs, making it seem as if I hadn't ripped and open to looked through her phone after digging her body back up. They even went so far as to bring in photographs they'd taken of her staged phone as they unsealed the fresh bag.
The crooked lawyer went on and on about my "countless lies" and "signs of extreme guilt", describing in court how not only had I tortured her loved ones with a barrage of insulting calls and messages, but that I had the audacity to uncover her body for the sole purpose of planting her phone inside the palm of her cold right hand, which had been detached from her body, with her thumb carefully placed onto the keyboard, where the rigor mortis had set.