Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2237510
A girl finds terror in her happy place.
|Becca had lost her mind before, but this was the first time she’d become violent. The funny thing about this time, Margo couldn’t really remember what brought the fight to a head, what had given Becca justification to slug Margo. Something about beer, that part she could remember. Much beyond that was a white flash as Becca’s fist connected with Margo’s cheek, the copper flood in her mouth, and the meaty sound of her head hitting the trailer’s kitchen floor. From there was a steady ringing sound in her head and the complete shock of being struck by the woman she loved.|
Becca kept up her shouting, near maniacal in volume and rancor; a situation common in the trailer community. When Margo removed her hand from her mouth, the amount of blood filling her palm surprised her, but not as much as the tooth half-submerged in the blood puddle.
Fourteen months into this relationship, five months into living together in Becca’s trailer were over. Done. So much invested, so much given and taken, so much shared laid about her like leaves of disinterest… the autumn of her failed attempts.
Becca continued yelling.
Margo stood calmly, though her hands shook. Into the bedroom, she collected her backpack, her hiking boots, and out to her old Jeep Wrangler.
Becca’s yelling was a torrent, an endless font of pent-up, society hating rage.
How did Margo not see this side of Becca? She wasn’t a psychologist, not her but this was also not her first relationship. Not her first go-around with a machismo-driven nut-ball that was as common in the lesbian communities as their heterosexual counterparts. In fact, Margo recalled reading somewhere that domestic abuse was more common for lesbian couples, if by no more than a percentage. Regardless of the statistical proclivity, Margo promised herself to never be a victim. Not after the first time.
The backpack, what she called her bug-out bag, was always packed, and barely fit in the front seat of the jeep. She rolled the ignition, blood sticky in her hand as Becca exited the trailer for a shouted farewell constructed of accusations and vulgar words. Margo didn’t hang around to hear more, and drove straight through the neighbor’s dirt yard, down and then up the trash choked gully and onto State 5. One unlit break light left, and she was gone.
She’d have to go back for her things. Later. Most certainly later. Becca, like any nut-strewn storm, would blow herself out eventually. A couple of days, maybe three and she would go back and reclaim those objects that constituted her identity. Those worthless tidbits and nick-knacks she’s been able to hold on to through one tumultuous love affair after another, each encounter spitefully dwindling the collection further and further. If only she could lock them up in her jeep, a mechanical impossibility, she’d have kept more. If only she’d gone to college as her mother had demanded, she would be the homeowner instead of a perpetual guest.
It wouldn’t have been her leaving every time.
The Great Ben forest and wildlife preserve rose like a veil along either side of the road. This was the only love that she’d never have to leave. Ben would always keep her, keep her, embrace her pains and triumphs in an inanimate but satisfying way Margo couldn’t seem to let go of. Alone time deep in the intermixed boles, in the earthy-moldy-pollen strewn air, drinking filtered spring water, and tent living always gave balance to her life. At that moment balance was what she needed, and as always, Ben would lend his immortal, immutable strength.
Dusk was falling thick when she exhausted the accessibility of the jeep and parked. At Great Ben Wildlife Preserver, it was not surprising that no one came to camp. Except for Margo. The lack of fresh water on tap and a source of electricity gave this type of camping the name ‘primitive’ and only practiced by the more extreme wilderness enthusiasts. Margo didn’t picture herself as an enthusiast, but that was secondary to the solitude. Ben always gave her privacy.
Twenty minutes of hiking later and she found her site, the one she returned to after each break-up. Though not prominent this late in the evening, the view here was wide and wonderful, serene, and settling. The lake was clear as glass in the foot of the valley, fenced in with sloping mountainsides displaying raw granite, like elderly nudists. All of this was speckled with evergreen trees standing nearly in rows mixed occasionally with oak and elm and spruce. This was her solid place, her happy place, her Margo place.
She set her tent up by touch. It was an ultralight, two-person cabin style tent that fit her, her gear, and all her self-dissatisfaction. It had been months since she’d been to visit Great Ben, and in the failing light, finding her fire ring was not easy. She splayed out her cooking gear and a package of ramen, that high calorie easily accessible carbohydrates meal that was itself ultralight and delicious by a campfire. She needed to fill her water bottles with filtered lake water and collect some firewood, then she could cook and brood, eat and brood, brood instead of sleeping… she remembered her missing tooth.
What had she done with it? It was one of her canines she thought and had a large part of the root still attached. A dentist worth his name would be able to reinstall the tooth like a tossed cog in the Margo machine. If she could have afforded a dentist. If she were at an emergency dentist instead of sequestered in a wildlife preserve. Would it hurt to eat ramen? She gently probed the new gap in her grin with her tongue. There was pain there in the socket, but not nearly as much as she had thought. There were also tendrils of flesh seemingly floating in the vacated space in her lower jaw, and that made her somewhat queasy.
Fuck it. She would find out when the ramen was done. First, wood.
A clutch of pines—a copes she supposed—grew on the edge of her favored campsite, and to one side of that were a mixture of spruce and oak and maple, all decent providers of kindling and sticks. Long fallen branches hid just beneath the years of leaves and debris, which were more substantial and log-like. Armloads of kindling and branches, and finally three or four lengths of more substantial wood, and she would have what she needed for the night. Tomorrow, she could make a more thorough attempt at collecting firewood, after a cup of freeze-dried coffee and a bit of appreciating the landscape of course.
As she skirted the clique of evergreens something closed violently on her left leg. A metallic snap, a savage agony climbing her shin, and a dislocated scream she had never heard herself make before. The ground rushed up to meet her, or her down to the ground, and the collection of twigs crushed beneath her. Her breath evacuated in a rush, and for no matter how hard she tried, she could not inflate her lungs. And the pain…
A grinding wrenching just above her ankle told her a terrible tale, her leg had broken, and broken in a bad way. Her breath was still fighting her, and spots swam in the darkness before her eyes.
In her fight for consciousness, one thought kept repeating itself over and again, ‘Alone.’ She hadn’t told anyone she was off to visit Great Ben. No one knew she was here. She’d fucked up royally.
Agony rode waves of pain in the bones of her leg, exploding in her hip as though part of her had come undone. In her head, she heard her father’s voice say, ‘Now you’re the limping lesbian.’
‘Who the fuck used traps like this anyway? There had to be laws against them, right?’
Breath became less bashful and the spots in her vision fewer, but the raging pain was relentless. She was loathed to try and move her leg; certain her foot would simply teeter and fall away. Groping around her waist she found her flashlight and drew it from its sheath. She clicked it on and directed it to the tragedy that was her leg. She knew instinctively it was bad. The pain itself told her it was bad, but the warmth and numbness told her it was terrible. None of this prepared her for how bad her leg was damaged. At the end of the blaring white light, she found her foot, her leg, and couldn’t grasp her continued ownership. The relationship between her and her right foot had ended, much like her and Becca’s.
Just above her ankle, there grinned a rusted, savage-looking trap, the kind she’d seen hunters use to catch small game. Only this one was much larger. Between the trap’s jaws was her leg, oddly bent and no longer in-line with the rest of her. Blood was scant, just minor punctures from the jagged teeth, but the grip was strong and ended all circulation to her hiking boot and the foot within. The image of her ruined leg burned in her mind a moment, and she heard herself scream again. This time harder, this time the spots flooded back into her vision, this time Margo gratefully passed out.
* * *
Cold. Her sleep was dreamless, senseless, but for the cold. It gnawed her subconsciouses, it teased her sense of self-preservation, it forced her to reconsider her painless existence and trade that darkness for another.
Pain replaced the cold as the most insistent demand, but it was not nearly as terrible as it had been before. She knew she was on her back, looking into a moonless night sky, the branches of the trees swaying and ebbing around the stars making them wink in and out of existence.
Her voice was dried and torn, barely discernible as hers. As she wondered at the quality of her voice, the night before snapped into focus. Margo knew she was a dead girl if she didn’t act to save her own life.
Her flashlight still burned brightly along her side, and she retrieved it focusing her attention on the thing around her leg. Thirst and hunger were waiting patiently for her attention, but she had to handle this problem first. ‘Make your list of tasks, organize them by priority, and get to work.’ She’d not done this yet, but the first task had to be to stop the pain.
The trap was an ancient design, a pressure plate released two equal jaws that snap down on its prey and held on for all its steely worth. The sickening thought that this was the kind of trap an animal would gnaw its own leg off to be free tore through her thoughts, and for some twisted reason, she chuckled. The whole story was a tragedy, not a comedy, but it was as though something in her mind slipped a little allowing her emotional circuits to cross briefly.
She placed the flashlight in her mouth, between her teeth, and gripped the jaws. The jaws moved only a little, igniting a new surge of agony which made her let go. The jaws snapped the bare millimeter she’d forced them open and the pain raged even further. She screamed again, in pain and frustration, and grappled the jaws again. She made little more progress with the same mind squelching pain. Her hands shook as the light tumbled from her mouth drawing spit along for company. She felt the darkness closing around her nearly blind vision and fought the merciful bliss of senselessness. There was no way she could save herself if she was not even conscious.
The pain eased eventually, and her vision widened along with it. Rolling her head around, she sighted what she thought was her camp. The starlight glowed on the surface of the lake just enough to supply a minimal contrast, enough for her to decide that was where her tent and backpack were. Gently, using her injured leg as an axis point, she rolled herself over and onto her stomach. Using her arms, she began to drag herself toward the dark mass she convinced herself was her tent.
After the first forearm of earth, she felt her leg begin to move, dragging with it a foot and boot she knew she could no longer claim. It was simply dead flesh no longer of Margo the limping lesbian. The drag of the trap torqued its grip, and pain seared her thoughts, ruining her determination. She growled through clenched teeth this time instead of screaming, and that gave her a measure of confidence.
She breathed for a moment, the rushed panting of the pain ensnared, and began again. This time she was aware of the pain and was able to force her way through it. The tent didn’t seem to be any closer, not nearly enough for the pain, but she gritted her teeth and tried again. The gap that had been her canine became obvious as she clenched, spoiling her confidence again, but she didn’t stop. She dragged herself forward, toward the tent until the chain pulled tight.
The numbness suddenly vanished, and the ruined dead flesh of her leg screamed pain up her leg again, and the twinkling spots returned to her vision as her upper torso dropped into the rotting leaves. Long moments passed as Margo fought the overwhelming desire to pass out again, to leave behind this predicament and let her life slip from her in blissful slumber.
She couldn’t. Margo had promised herself to never be a victim again. Not even to a long-forgotten bear trap such as the one refusing to let her leg go. At that moment, Margo remembered she’d let the flashlight fall, and lifting her head she could see it was a few feet back and glimmering in the dropped leaves. If this trap was attached to a chain, she had to see if it could be removed, from tap or stake, she had to free herself. The flashlight, however, seemed now an impossible distance away.
The pain continued its insistent barking as she began to take account of the items on hand. Little she was sure, but if anything could help… phone. Her cell phone was in her front pants pocket.
Her fingers seemed thick and numb, betraying her as she tried to work the smooth flat device free. Scrabbling and scrubbing at the thing, she eventually gave up. Her pants were too tight to extract the thing unless she was rolled back over. Using that leg as an axis again, she found little forgiveness in the trap. The chain bound stiff and forced the trap to twist around her leg, grating the broken ends of the bone together. Nausea joined the pain now as she grasped more clearly the damage to her leg. She couldn’t move back without forcing the splintered ends of the bone together. Dragging them apart was entirely different than forcing them together.
She lifted her torso as best she could with one arm and groped for her phone again. Eventually, she resorted to unbuttoning and unzipping the front of her pants to give enough slack to draw her phone out. Tight in her grip, she allowed herself to fall to the ground again, and she panted through the pain for a while. Never would she have described herself as a girlie girl, but this pain was something entirely awesome. The idea of letting herself die became more palatable with each rush of pain.
She put the phone before her face and pressed the wake button on the face. Light stole her vision for a moment until she could bear the light of the screen. The cracked illegible screen. Margo’s heart dropped when she saw it. Two splintered areas were legible, but the others were a white spiderweb on white. No characters were visible, and she could only see the first number of the time-date stamp, ‘5’. How was she going to call anyone if she…
“Stop it,” she said aloud. The bottom left of the screen was where the phone icon was. She didn’t need to see it; she just needed the phone to know she tapped it. ‘Unlock the thing, and tap the bottom left until the phone dial pad came up. Not hard, just not as easy as before.’
Running her thumb across the screen to unlock it, the glass sliced into the meat of her fingertip. Didn’t matter. She’d seen so much of her own blood today, a little more didn’t make a difference.
She began pressing where she thought the phone icon was, leaving bloody outlines of her finger and clear impressions of her fingerprint. Over and again she pressed, fighting her building frustration. She couldn’t give up.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The broken edges of glass grated together, much like the bones in her ruined leg. The urge to scream began to build in her chest.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The phone finally made a satisfying response sound, an auditory tactile response for the normally unresponsive glass screen. Margo knew she’d brought up the phone app, but there were no buttons visible on the fractured screen, but names. At least part of a name. ‘Tr’ over ‘Re’ was all she could make out and decided she didn’t care. She tapped on ‘Re’ over and over hoping Regan would be awake at this point. The girl liked to turn her phone off at night. If it went to voice mail, she would try Tricia. Tricia and she were not on great terms, and in fact, had not spoken since Margo had walked out on her over some argument which she also could not recall.
How something so unimportant had ruined so many relationships she could not fathom. Margo considered herself always a fine catch. Was she wrong about that? A bit short at five foot six inches, she was slim and… robust in her chest and bottom. Her times trolling the bars had always been fruitful. Was there something wrong with her that so many relationships had dry fired or been stillborn? What was so wrong with her that this kept happening?
The phone made a beeping sound, and the screen changed again. Decision made, she supposed. Regan was more grounded anyway, Margo decided as she tried to think through describing her location. How in the hell was she supposed to do that? ‘Hey Regan, I’m out in the woods, and would you believe stuck in a bear trap?’ The pain made the humor stale and lifeless.
“Hey girls, I’m not around. Leave it!” Becca’s voice shouted, and as realization dawned on Margo, the beep came. “Ah… I,” she began tapping the phone over and again, trying to hang up. The phone stoically refused her, its face broken and without emotion. “Hang up!”
The call continued. There was no way to end it, and she was leaving a questionable voice message at best. “Becca, I need help. I’m in the woods and…”
A double tone told Margo the phone had ended the call. “Fuck”, she shouted and began thumb-pummeling the phone again, trying to convince it to call Becca back, give her time to finish her message, “Hey girls, I’m not around. Leave it!” Becca’s voice said.
“I need help, I'm stuck in a bear trap, my leg is broken, and I can’t… I am at Great Ben, at my campsite? Do you remember it? We came here once a few months back. I’m hurt bad Becca. Please come and…” the double tones went off again, disconnecting the call. The thumb-pummeling resumed until the phone suddenly went dark.
Margo stared at it, unconvinced it was out of power, knowing full well it was. She needed her solar charger. It had a battery built-in and it might still have a charge. If not, when the sun comes up it will charge the phone. She glanced toward where she thought her tent was and started to see it. The sun was coming back to the world, and taking its sweet time reaching the floor of the valley. Still, she could see.
She looked down at the trap and found the chain was part of the trap. There was no shackle or bolt, it was a welded piece of the trap. The other end was still veiled in early morning shadows, but it looked from here to be pad-locked around a tree. Padlocked? Margo couldn’t understand why someone would padlock a chain… to keep someone from stealing the trap? This ancient, rusted thing? Her leg looked abysmal.
Forcing herself to look away, she caught sight of something, an incongruous right angle in the forest. Not fifteen feet away, there was a trail cam. A hunter’s trail cam, and by the grace of God herself, it had an antenna. The thing could be viewed remotely, over 4 or 5 G, or whatever. Someone could be watching her right now.
Excitement surged in her, and she began to wave her hand at the camera, hoping to grab someone’s attention. After a few moments, she realized she was being ridiculous. If the hunter who owned that camera was looking, they would see her here, caught in the trap. But how long? Days? She realized today was Saturday, and it was hunting season, and if there was a trail camera here, then a hunter had been here and would return. They had to.
Laying on her side, Margo drifted in and out of sleep. A pain driven nightmare greeted her each time as the day wound down. It hadn’t dawned on her, but she’d not gone to the bathroom all day. She had not eaten or drunk anything in some 20 hours, or so she guessed. Was her metabolism winding down like the daylight? Was her body shutting down or something? It couldn’t be. It was too soon. People could last days without water, longer without food. Maybe her body was going through phases of shutting down, like an old Mainframe computer?
Footsteps. She could hear footsteps in the detritus of the forest floor. She lifted her head and croaked, “Help.” This small effort made her dizzy. Perhaps she was still bleeding. “Help,” she shouted, and this time made a much better go of it. The footsteps did not pause or stop, but continued, and decidedly heading her way. The twisted ache of a sob rose in her throat, but the dryness there refused its passing. Help was almost here…
“Well now. I didn’t notice you were a redhead on the camera there. It’s black and white, you know?”
“Help me,” Margo pleaded.
The man, clad in dungarees and a flannel, and one of those silly hats with ear flaps knelt beside her. He lifted her gently and rolled her to her back.
Margo screamed with the new bouts of agony.
“Hush now, woman,” the man cut at her.
Margo forced her eyes open and found wicked black eyes barely visible in the bush of facial hair. He smelled unwashed and obviously, he’d been drinking. She felt rough hands grab her vest and tear the front open, letting a wash of chilly air in.
“You know what that red hair means, don’t you woman?” He asked through alcohol vapors.
“Please…” she said weakly, disappointed in herself. She was not a fucking victim.
Those hands began to explore her chest in mocking fashion, rough and hoary, and uninvited. Then her shirt tore open.
Margo screamed again and began to pummel the man with her fists. “Stop,” she pleaded. “I don’t want this.”
“Red hair makes you a trophy, woman, and ain't you going to look just sweet on the wall?”
A stinging burn ran the length of her torso, from pubic to throat, and as light fled her vision, she felt the violation of those hoary hands inside her.