Alice is kept awake by her husband's snoring...
|His snoring cut her to the quick. Every night the same, guttural noise escaping from the hollow of his throat, and there was nothing she could do. He'd struggled to sleep for so long and now finally, he'd found something that helped him drift off. She'd tried waking him up, tried throwing things at him even, but nothing happened. She had even started going to bed earlier and getting a few hours before he came to bed so that at least she was somewhat rested.
Alice flung her legs over the side of the bed, anger welling in her chest. It heaved violently and her breathing was harsh. She could feel her panic rising. She was anxious, she needed sleep and this bastard was keeping her up. Again. On the verge of hysteria, she stalked from the room and downstairs, found she finally escaped her husband's sleep disturbances. But now that she was awake, there was no chance sleep would find her. She'd had this problem many nights before and spend many hours in the grey light of the morning surfing through channels and finding herself watching shopping channels or poker games.
She had to get out, she couldn't sit there another night and let it grate on her. Walking had always calmed her nerves, always helped her settle, why should tonight be any different?
She threw her huge coat around her shoulders and wrapped her scarf around her neck. She chose her hiking boots: strong, sturdy and warm. Then she left the house. The cold air hit her a dozen times over as her breath fogged in front of her face and immediately, her spirits soared. She marched wide, her feet crunching over the frost, the only sound in the silence of the morning.
Her legs stretched and her arms pumped as she marched. Her chest heaved and her breath came out in a white misty plume, but still she kept on. The woods at the back of her property was like a second home to her. She'd walked through those trees a million times over and it was familiar and comforting. She pulled out a torch from her jacket as she plunged into the dense tree line, her pace slowing as she picked her way around a huge tree trunk, the twings underneath her feet snapping.
She kept going and going, getting lost in the trees as much as she was in her mind. Her anger was gone, the memory reduced to a tiny irritation and one she knew she could deal with when she got back. Just another five minutes. She made it to the clearing within two. Frost covered the ground in a white haze, and a little of the grey morning light filtered through the trees.
Something wasn't right. She could feel it the moment she hit the open space. Normally, it was her favourite place to be, but today, something felt wrong. Alice paused on the edge of the tree line, torch zipping around the clearing. Then she found it. A mound in the centre, piled high on the twigs, a thin layer of frost covering it. She hadn't been to the clearing in a few days so didn't know how long it had been there.
She stepped forward, twigs snapping underfoot. It prickled her senses and as she made her way forward, her eyes swung wildly, searching for something. She made her way to the pile in the centre of the clearing. A pile of rags, it looked like. She kicked it gently. The pile shifted and she screamed in the morning air as a woman's face stared up at her, eyes dead and skin freezing. Clamping her hand over her mouth, Alice stared down at the woman. She was dead, maybe for a day or two. Clotted blood remained at a huge dent in her head, skull visible beneath. Her clothes were ragged and torn, small breasts exposed. The flesh from her hand had been stripped clean, revealing the dull white bones underneath.
Her mind raced. What should I do? I need to tell someone. The police!
Just as she spun to head back to the house a twig snapped behind her. She whirled in the direction and found herself face to face with her husband. He was dressed from head to toe in black, his face pale. Everything dissolved just then as she rushed into his arms, her mouth an incoherent babbling mess. He squeezed her tight then held her at arms length, stooping slightly to look into her eyes.
"What are you doing, Alice?" he was serious.
"You were snoring and I came for a walk and I got here and I found this woman she's dead we have to—"
Without further hesitation he drew a rock from his pocket and smashed it across the front of her face. Alice dropped to the ground, stars flashing in front of her, skull throbbing. What the?
She managed to turn around and found him staring down at her, pity in his eyes.
"You should never have come out here," he told her, hefting the rock in his hand. "You didn't have to know what I was doing while you were asleep." His eyes flicked to the dead woman. He smiled. "They help me sleep."
They? Alice's mind reeled. She opened her mouth to sceam once again as the rock came down a final time.
Winner of "Invalid Item" 16th Feb 2014.