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Death's Just A Sick Joke
The house on the hill sat alone, desolate and abandoned, weathered by years of neglection. The faded shutters hung haphazardly by one nail, some of them thrown to the ground by harsh gales; their weak wooden planks splintered on impact, miniscule stakes shot off like bullets from a gun. Crumbling bricks lay in piles where they had fallen from the face of the building. Tall elm trees towered over the property, their trunks thin and peeling, while sick, shriveling leaves clung hopelessly to the brittle branches.
A lone car sat rusting in a pile of miscellaneous parts, clumps of grass intertwined through the bare, rusting spokes, the only form of vegetation in an otherwise infertile lawn. The passenger side door had been ripped off its hinges and thrown carelessly aside. The window was shattered, broken shards of glass scattered everywhere. In the back of the truck, a black tarp was tossed over a large, lumpy pile in the exposed trunk.
While the sun remained high in the sky, casting its rays of light on the lonely two-story house, all was quiet. Anyone who happened to cross paths with the building would assume it was merely an uninhabited, ramshackle home. Nothing more, nothing less. But as night broke through day, caliginosity slowly overcoming the last surges of daylight, things took a twist for the dark side.
One by one, candlesticks were lit in the windows, a petite silhouette barely visible lighting each with a burning match. The rooms in the house were bathed in a warm, incandescent light, revealing old, creaky floorboards and dusty, moth-eaten furniture. As the silhouette swept through the house, a little girl’s voice began to sing.
The song was dark and twisted, a haunting melody sung by a troubled young girl. Her voice was eerie, lilting harmonies ringing through the air. The sounds echoed through the house, discordant verses repeating themselves as the child moved onto new lyrics.
Before long, all the candles were lit, including every last stick in the tarnished chandelier above the kitchen table. The girl smiled, pleased as she set each seat at the table with a cup, plate, and the appropriate silverware, each piece covered with a sufficient layer of dirt and grime. Finding all of the necessary preparations complete, she pranced over to the back door and unlocked the dead bolt. Before she left, she turned to the figure at the head of the table, a shape indiscernible in the thick darkness the flames’ wide berth could not burn away.
“I won’t be long,” she called over her shoulder, and then rushed out the door.
As she stepped outside, she noticed the sky had begun to cry, weeping for reasons unknown. Big, fat droplets fell a million at a time, beating like drums on the house’s shingled roof. Dirt turned to mud in the downpour, a slippery, hungering mess that sucked on the girl’s bare feet and ankles until they were covered in the mucky filth.
The rain fell powerfully, pounding its victims mercilessly. It was enough to shift the tarp on the truck, pulling back the covers to reveal what lay beneath.
Maggots feasted on the rotting tissue until all that remained were opaque, yellowing bones that fell apart without anything to hold them together. An arm was attached to the decomposing hand, and a body was attached to the arm. Bodies, each in its own state of decay, surrounded the hand and its body, some of them young adults, teenagers at the least, others fully-grown adults. The one thing they all had in common was a stab wound, and X carved into the flesh to mark the spot where their life had escaped from them.
The girl pushed through the mud until she approached a row of hastily made wooden crosses stuck into the ground. Grave markers. There were three of them, all in a row, two of them tall and skinny, the other short and wide. She grabbed the shovel beside them and began digging in front of one cross, digging until the shovel hit something hard. The girl threw the shovel behind her and reached through the mud for what she had hit. Smiling obscenely, she pulled the object up.
The stench was horrible, but she was used to it. The smell was inevitable, the first indication that the decomposition period was drawing near. That was her favorite part; watching the skin rot off and the organs wither away was intriguing to watch, and when all the remained was a skeleton, she had to use her imagination to figure out a new way to keep the bones together.
The body was heavy, but not too heavy. Brandon had starved to death, so his body was lighter than the others had been. As she pulled his body from the ground and began to drag him back to the house, she thought back to when she had found him dead. She hadn’t cried; tears were for wimps, and she was strong. How else had she outlived her entire family?
By the time she had Brandon settled at the kitchen table and returned back to the makeshift cemetery, she was tired, but the next two were easy. Daddy and Lucy were both a pile of bones held together by duck tape, easy enough to carry in her red wagon at the same time. She ran all the way home and dragged them by the hands into the house.
“Daddy, look!” she squealed when Lucy and her father were propped up stiffly in chairs. She placed party hats on their heads, including the silent figure in the corner. “I made hats for everyone!”
Smiling, the girl placed a piece of moldy bread on each plate. She was the only one who ate, so she snatched the other pieces inconspicuously off each plate. She didn’t want her family to get mad that she was eating their food again. Father was always mean to her when she did something only bad girls would do, and she wanted him to remember her as his good little girl.
She kept this up, talking to her long-dead family and the figure in the corner until a ray of light crept through the musty windows. Dawn was approaching, and it was time to go to bed. So she rounded up the three corpses and hauled them back to their graves – or, as she called them, their underground beds. She was done just as the sun rose above the horizon.
“Wasn’t that fun, Mamma?” she asked the figure in the corner. There was no answer, but the girl smiled anyway and proceeded upstairs, extinguishing each candle before falling fast asleep in her bed.
Downstairs, Mamma fell to the ground as a strong wind swept through the open window. She made no move to get up or even reposition herself. It was only made clear when she was bathed in light why she made not a sound or movement.
The skeleton’s mouthed gaped open, almost like she couldn’t believe she had been dead the past two years.