A short story. *Tales of Terror 2nd Place 02/10 / Twisted Tales Honorable Mention 03/10*
Braden pressed the pillow hard against Heather's face, bracing for a struggle that would never come. Freshly out of the operating room, anesthesia still coursing through her veins, not even a sudden lack of oxygen could startle Heather Geld from her slumber. When Braden first approached Heather's bed it was compassion, he convinced himself, that justified the act. But as he crept closer, eyes wide, peering over a white pillow, Braden felt his compassion slip, eventually surrendering to the bitterness and anger that had been his true motivation from the onset. Braden thought about the things Heather had done to him over the years and pressed harder on the pillow. The pillow hid Heather's dying face and that was good. The face reminded him too much of Katie, who sat in a room across the hall, waiting for Braden to do what needed to be done.
Katie Geld was Braden's greatest pursuit. She was the love of Braden's life and she was Heather's twin sister, older by only minutes. And while the sisters might look identical to the untrained eye, Braden could easily distinguish their differences. Most people never noticed the small mole under Heather's right eye, but to Braden the mole was obvious, and in his opinion, an appalling deformity. But it was far more than a tiny mole that set them apart. As far as Braden was concerned, the Geld sisters were the epitome of opposite, a model of contrast, mirror images of purity and corruption. And for as much adoration that Braden held in his heart for Katie, an equal amount of red hot hatred did he harbor in his soul for Heather.
Since childhood, Heather had mocked Braden, teasing him for a slight stutter that seemed to manifest itself only when Braden was under extreme duress.
"B-B-B-Braden!" she would tease, "You're not n-n-nervous are you, Braden?"
Heather tormented Braden often, never missing an opportunity to laugh at him for his stutter, or poke fun at his relentless want for Katie's affection, or later in life for his repeated failed attempts at landing a serious acting job. The twins were actors. Famous actors, at that. It was Katie that had landed Braden his first real audition.
"B-B-Braden thinks he's an actor!" Heather joked. "To b-b-be, or not to b-b-be!" she said, throwing her head back in a fit of laughter.
When he was twelve years old (the girls, thirteen), Braden had arranged to meet Katie at the town's annual Log Lane Parade. The event had become more of an arts and crafts fair than a parade but there was indeed a small procession of floats that kicked off the three-day event. People would line up along the street waiving flags and catching candy as it was tossed from passing floats. Braden found a spot near the middle of the parade route and watched the parade officials finish barricading off a section of the street while he waited for Katie to arrive, waving her hand to get his attention, smiling her beautiful smile. Braden waited for what seemed like decades, though his watch would admit to only ten minutes. Instead of Katie, it was Heather who took the spot next to him at the parade. And it was Heather that delivered the devastating news.
"I hope you're not waiting for Katie", she had said. "I just saw her holding hands with Jimmy Sullivan down by the creek. They're quite an item now, so I hear."
"So what? I don't care." Braden lied.
"You mean to tell me you're just going to sit back while Jimmy Sullivan takes away that which matters most to you?" Heather asked with one hand on her hip and the other pointing a finger in the direction of the creek.
Braden tried to swallow back a lump that had risen in his throat.
"Katie and Jimmy are on the other side of town doing God knows what right now," Heather continued. Then in a lower voice, "Jimmy's bike is parked in the shed behind his house, Braden. Wouldn't it be nice to show Jimmy what it's like to lose something dear to you? Wouldn't it?" And at the time, the answer to Heather's question was an emphatic yes. Jealousy bit hard at Braden's heart. Without a word to Heather, Braden jumped the barricade ran across the street , and headed toward the Sullivan house.
The bike was in the shed, just as Heather had said it would be, bright red frame, chrome shining from fender to fender. The bike had been from Jimmy's parents --a gift for earning a First Class Rank badge in Boy Scouts. In the shed, leaning up against the wall next to the shiny red bike, as if someone had anticipated the need for it, stood a sledge hammer. Braden picked up the sledge hammer and began destroying the Sullivan boy's bicycle. He wasn't concerned about the noise he was making. Most of the town was busy at the parade. 'Or at the creek.' Braden thought, setting off a fresh surge of anger that gave him the adrenalin-induced strength that it to took to finish the job well.
Braden returned to the parade intent on being seen so that he would have an alibi should someone feel compelled to finger him for the twisted mess of metal he had left in the shed. He had re-assumed his position at the edge of Log Lane when he noticed the approaching float. The float was lead by two young boys dressed in full Scout regalia, each holding opposite sides of a banner that read "Local Troop 652". Braden didn't recognize the boy on the left but the boy on the right was Jimmy Sullivan, smiling proudly and waving at the crowd. Braden's jaw dropped. Heather had lied.
"You didn't think I was serious did you?" Heather said from behind him. "I was just joking with you earlier. Katie sent me here to tell you that she can't come to the parade today. She's in bed with a fever." Then, placing her arm around Braden's shoulder she leaned in and whispered in Braden's ear. "Don't worry, B-B-Braden. I won't tell them what you've done."
The twins, now in their twenties, had had a fairly successful career as child actors, both of them far more successful than Braden. But it was Katie that had blossomed from a child starlet to a prolific and respected thespian. Unlike the growing success that Katie had enjoyed over the last several years, Heather's career had dwindled significantly. She would carry herself well in public and smile when she met someone for the first time, but Braden knew that her smile was no more than a product of both her acting skills and the bottomless pillbox of Prozac and Xanax that she kept in the side pocket of her purse. With Heather receiving fewer and fewer acting offers, Braden saw her jealousy and hatred toward Katie grow at a rapid pace. And it was that jealous hatred that Heather would often seize upon, allowing it to fester before turning it on Braden.
"Maybe you should give up acting and just b-b-bag groceries for a living, B-B-Braden!" she would say before firing off machine-gun bursts of laughter.
Pressing the pillow even harder on her face, Braden spoke to Heather through clenched teeth.
"Yeah, you're a funny girl Heather" Braden said from his side of the pillow. "A real j-j-joker!"
When Braden had first arrived at the hospital, he found Katie sitting alone in a small waiting room across the hall from where Heather lay resting. Braden had never seen her in such distress. Eyeliner and mascara lay in ruins under Katie's eyes, running down her face in watery, black streaks. Her red lipstick was smeared from one corner of her mouth halfway to her ear in a lopsided grin. Through uncontrollable sobs Katie had briefed Braden on the accident. Braden couldn't make out all of the details but between gasps of hyperventilation he understood enough: steep hill, failed brakes, pickup truck, broken glass... It had been a terrible accident. It was no wonder that Katie was so upset. Though the girls had grown apart in recent years, they were still sisters and Braden assumed that they shared a bond that held tight in spite of Heather's jealousy, and hate, and widening streak of jet black meanness.
In the waiting room, Katie had pleaded with Braden to end her sister's life. She had begged him, through tears, and heaves, and snot, not to allow Heather to be subjected to the indignity of being bedridden for the rest of her life, a helpless living mass that needed to be fed and watered like a houseplant. Katie had desperately implored Braden to save Heather from any more suffering, begged him to to kill her brain dead sister.
"If Heather is still alive when the doctor returns, it might be too late." Katie said. "They might take her someplace else. You have to do it! If you love me, Braden, you have to do it now!"
Braden agreed to the task. He would do it in the name of compassion. For although he hated Heather with all that he was, he would never wish death upon her. No, never that. But for Katie...for Katie, he would do it. For Katie, Braden would do anything.
Braden left Katie, still sobbing, and made his way across the hall to Heather's room. He slipped inside and shut the door softly behind him. Braden stood motionless for several minutes staring at Katie's sister from across the dimly lit room. It had been a bad accident indeed and Heather's face was left swollen and bruised. She had a black eye from where her face had connected with the steering wheel. Heather's blackened eye cradled the hideous mole beneath it and from where Braden was standing he could make it out clearly --small, yes, but repulsive to Braden, even from a distance. Braden grabbed a pillow from a cabinet that served as the room's linen closet. He sucked in a shaky breath, and with each end of the pillow clenched tightly in his fists, Braden made his way across the room to smother Katie's sister to death.
Braden held the pillow over Heather's face until the ever-escalating tempo of the heart monitor's beep...beep...beep finally gave way to a steady beeeeeee sound that indicated that Heather's heart had finally stopped its tenacious march onward and had, at long last, 'perhaps in a final act of kindness' Braden thought, ceased beating. As he watched the green dot on the monitor take a final bounce before falling to the bottom of the screen in an unwavering line, Braden exhaled a breath that he hadn't realized he had been holding. He removed the pillow, not daring to look at Heather's face for fear that she might be staring back with wide, accusing eyes. Pillow in hand, Braden took a seat across the room, pretended to cry at the loss of his dear friend, and waited for a stampede of doctors and nurses to arrive.
The staff worked desperately on the dead girl, keeping their collective composure while they labored to restore her pulse.
"What happened here?" the doctor asked no one in particular. "It was just a minor procedure! She should've been fine! I-I don't understand!"
'Should have been fine?' Braden thought. 'Minor procedure?' He looked across the room as nurses unhooked a web of tubes and wires. Between moving arms and gloved hands Braden caught a glimpse of the dead girl's face. Where the mole had been, just moments earlier, there was only a faded smudge. His heart sank. 'It can't be' he thought. 'I would have noticed her mole in the waiting room!' Then Braden remembered the mess of dark makeup on the girl's face. 'Heather's acting skills would have helped her pull it off too' he thought. Braden looked down at the pillow. The smudge of eyeliner that had fooled Braden into thinking that it was a mole stared back at him from a white canvas. Braden put his head in his hands and began crying in long howls of grief. Heather had lied.
As he sat crying in the dark hospital room, a hand fell on Braden's shoulder and gave a consoling squeeze.
"Don't worry B-B-Braden", Heather whispered in his ear. "I won't tell them what you've done."
"Liar" was written as a contest entry. The prompt was Heath Ledger and the mysterious events surrounding his death. While I did stray miles away from the prompt, there are key elements in the story that quietly touch on it. The twin sisters were modeled after Mary Kate and Ashley Olson (Heath and Mary Kate were close friends). Katie Geld's first name was borrowed from Mary Kate and turned into Katie to soften the character. Katie's sister, HEATHER GELD, is an anagram for HEATH LEDGER. All three characters had to be actors in order to keep with the Heath Ledger theme. The smear of lipstick across Heather's face as she is "crying" in the hospital waiting room is a reference to Mr. Ledger's last on-screen character, The Joker, as was the Braden's comment as he suffocated Heather/Katie--"Yeah, you're a funny girl Heather" Braden said from his side of the pillow. "A real j-j-joker!"
The story was also written as a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe and his classic story, "The Tell-Tale Heart." You can find references to Poe's story in the beeping of the heart monitor, the hideous eye (or in this case, mole), and the suffocation of one of the characters with a pillow. The town's annual LOG LANE PARADE was also an anagram.--a final nod to EDGAR ALLAN POE.