by Devon Queer
Charleton Lake is tired of being judged, so he judges others.
|Charleton Lake was driving home when the idea came to him. He was driving again when he decided to act on it. It was dusk on a summer day, and the sky was just beginning to turn a reddish-purple color, which Charleton thought was quite lovely. He was admiring it when he turned onto Winchester Lane. His destination.
Licking his lips, flicking his curly black hair out of his eyes, Charleton drove to where the road dead-ended. Shifting his car into park, he smiled a tiny, tight-lipped smile. Finally. The day had come.
Winchester Lane had been his home for far too long. The sagging little green house at the end of the road felt more cage than home to Charleton. Everyone who drove or walked past the house, every lost person who used their driveway to turn around the dead-end, judged the Lake family for their saggy porch and chipped green paint and overgrown lawn, the same way they judged the monkeys at the zoo for smelling like shit.
Sighing, Charleton slipped out of the drivers seat, clutching his house keys in hand. He walked slowly across his lawn, ignoring the gravel path leading to the door. He trampled his own path through the weeds and tall grass, leaving behind a tirade of broken stems. He reached the door and jiggled the key in the lock until it came undone. Pushing the door open, he stepped inside, his confidence a weight on his shoulders.
He knew this house like the back of his hand. He knew where the safe was. He knew the code.
He opened the safe with a gentle creak. Inside was what he was looking for: its metal smooth and black, its body long. He took it in his hands, its weight bearing a pleasurable cold. Taking it into the kitchen, Charleton cleaned it the way he had been taught. When he was finished, the sky was a deep, husky purple. The street lamps had yet to flicker on.
Charleton stepped outside, taking a deep breath of the crisp fresh air. At the end of his trampled path of grass, he paused. Winchester Lane really was quite beautiful, if you ignored the small, chipped green house at the end. And really, it was quite easy to ignore that, wasn’t it? Especially when all the other houses had bright paint jobs and mowed lawns, and oak trees sheltering their roofs. The oaks around the tiny green house looked like they were overtaking it rather than protecting it.
His feet crunching along the gravel, Charleton began to walk. Here was his neighbor, Mr. Peterson. He could see the light of the television in the window, the silhouette of Mr. Peterson’s head a shadow in front of it. For once, he was watching TV rather than snooping on his neighbors.
Here was little Victor’s house. A friendly little boy with huge glasses and overbearing parents. His parents were fond of sneering at the Lakes when they dared pass their child’s bus stop. Charleton could see them sitting around the dinner table, praying before supper.
Here was the Fletcher property. The elderly couple could usually be found out on their porch this time of night. They weren’t there that night, however. This was lucky, the weight in Charleton’s hands reminded him.
Here was the Bell family’s house. The Bell family was a typical family of four, two parents, two sons, George and Andrew. He could see them moving about inside, doing homework and whatever else the night called for.
Lastly, here was the Thomson house. Mr. and Mrs. Thomson, along with their adopted daughter Sarah lived here. Charleton could see the three of them doing what they usually did: lazing about the house like tired moths, each ignoring the other.
Here Charleton had reached the end of the street. Turning, he gazed back down the lane, all the way back to the small green house at the end. How stunning was it to be gazing at his home, at the end of it?
“Let’s do this,” he muttered to himself, and thus he began walking back down the lane.
He stopped when he reached the center of the street, just in front of the Fletcher property. There, he smiled as their front door opened and Mr. Fletcher stepped out onto the wide front porch.
Mr. Fletcher hadn’t noticed Charleton when he heard the loud pop followed by the life-ending agony of a bullet entered his skull. He passed never knowing who it was who had judged him. Mrs. Fletcher rushed to her door at the sound, and she saw Charleton just before the bullet lodged itself between her eyes.
She fell to the porch with a soft thump beside her husband.
The rest were gotten fast, at random. Charleton didn’t really aim, he simply shot. He got Victor and family as they finished praying. He got Mr. Peterson when he got up to investigate the noise. He got George when he rushed outside in an effort to protect himself, and he got Andrew when he followed. The rest Charleton got in a spray of bullets at random, perfectly placed in sporadic ways.
When Charleton was done, he stopped to admire the carnage. There was George and Andrew, lying in a mural of their own blood. There lie Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher, like abandoned childhood dolls. There was the blood splatter on the windows; there was the houses riddled with bullet holes.
Satisfied, as sirens began to sound in the distance, Charleton turned the gun on himself.