What is horror? Any real monsters out there?
By: Edgar Luck
I’ll never forget Maggie’s smile that day, as she watched the children and I play from the kitchen window—round and round in circles, to the tic-ticking rhythm of the sprinkler pelting grass. She was a ghost of a reflection, behind an image the sun had painted on glass.
When Maggie was at her happiest, she had a self-conscious way of mock-covering her smile—parading more beauty than many smiles could ever dream of. I distinctly recall glancing up from the children and watching Maggie’s hands play in front of her teeth, neat diamonds showing through delicate bars of fingers.
Her smile was a waterfall.
I stood under the flow.
We had three children: Justin, five, Fawn was three, and the baby, Joshua, was fourteen-months.
The following day I received a phone call from the office. It seemed that, Grace, my secretary, was trying to access a certain client’s portfolio, and the computer had shown it was deleted. I told Grace just to calm down, that I would be over in an hour with a backup-disc…and to please have a pot of coffee waiting for me when I got there.
Thinking that I would be gone for just a few hours, it turned out that I was wrong. I left work at 10:30pm—long after my family had turned in for the night.
~ * ~
Exhausted by the time I walked through the door, I have to admit that the quietness of the house was something I was not accustomed to. I eased myself onto the sofa, propped my feet up, and ached for the forbidden cigarette that I could find in my study (if I really wanted one).
I laughed aloud and pretended to snuff out a smoke in an imaginary ashtray that would’ve been sitting by the couch if I hadn’t quit smoking, four-months earlier.
What I needed to do was march upstairs, check on Maggie and the children, and be in bed before I could start thinking too much about work.
As always I looked in on Maggie first.
The room was dark—the shades drawn. I could barely detect the outline of Maggie beneath the sheets. Just a small bulge in the bed that was my wife, and on the other side of the room was Joshua’s crib.
Down the hall, Justin and Fawn slept in the same room, with twin Snoopy-themed beds—pillowcases and sheets, tattooed with the famous dog and his little yellow friend.
The children were in the arms of sleep, covered to their necks, and lit by a solitary nightlight across the room.
Walking to Justin’s bed and placing a hand on his blanket, I smiled at the sight of his sleepy, half-lidded eyes, gazing up at me. I whispered his name, pausing for an instant at the touch of something damp on his bed. First, I thought that he had wet himself in his sleep: an accident. However, when I smelled a tangy, coppery odour coming from the sheets, a part of my stomach migrated to my throat, and I quickly pulled back his comforter.
His throat was cut.
From one side of his neck to the other, there was a deep red gash cleaved in his tender white skin: jagged-edged and seeping thick blood into the mattress. I retched and staggered backwards. My rear thumped against Fawn’s bed, as I clawed at her covers—not really knowing what the hell I was doing. An awful crimson smile flashed through my mind, and I collapsed to the floor.
Fawn’s blankets came down on top of me, and again, I was engulfed by the same ferrous, mineral-like, aroma that had been coming from Justin’s bed. This time, however, the stench was stronger—stronger blood. Making it to my knees, I wished for oblivion as I witnessed my naked 3-year-old daughter, split from her tiny vagina, straight up to the base of her neck. Small tendrils of glistening intestines shown through her open abdomen, while deep inside of her, I could just make out the pale bone of a miniature spine.
I cried! I cried for Maggie, as I lurched out of my children’s tomb and into the hall. My own room seeming a thousand miles to travel—the hallway was a tilted fun-house catwalk, in which I had no sure footing.
Flipping on the bedroom light, I was confused, at first, by what appeared to be a giant flower painted above our headboard. A red one—having small flecks of white on its large petals.
Now, at the foot of our bed, I could see Maggie’s inverted face, and the barrel of my rifle just below her chin. Powder burns made a sizeable “O” around the place where the bullet entered her head, sending up blood and brain matter to the wall behind her. Smiles no more, forever…
Joshua! My God, where was the baby? I vomited by the side of the bed and wheeled towards the crib. Empty…and empty.
That frantic feeling, it was all over me…it was me! Where… There was only one more room upstairs. The bathroom. Did someone take the baby? Please God, I thought, not Joshua too!
The baby was floating in the bathtub, face down, small limbs tenderly bobbing beside his limp body.
Hurriedly, I turned the baby over in the water, in the hopes that there was still some breath in him. But there was none. A small strand of yellow mucus was coming from his button-nose, and my heart cleanly ripped in half at the sight of his purple tinged lips—and those teeny eyeteeth that I was so proud of.
Carrying my dead son back to the master bedroom, I placed his wrinkled blue-gray corpse on the bed beside his mother.
Calmly, I dialed 911—and my heart disappeared.
~ * ~
It was close to a month later when I found out exactly what happened.
Between the autopsy reports and speaking with the Medical Examiner, we were able to piece together the sequence of events that night.
I just had to know.
It seems that Maggie had put the children to bed and waited for them to fall asleep. Then taking a knife from the kitchen, she went into Justin and Fawn's room and quietly slit Justin’s throat—spilling out all his hopes of catching a fly ball, any dreams of making sock-puppets in Kindergarten—all the memories of angels in the snow, and the times when he and I would sit in the La-Z-Boy and eat ice cream together.
Next was Fawn.
Forensics determined that unlike Justin, Fawn was awake and might have even resisted—there were small cuts on her hands, which indicated weak attempts to ward off her mother. What’s more, the rough nature of her abdominal wound meant that she had struggled. A cut like that, I begged the Doctor to tell me, surely didn’t kill my daughter right away…and I had to wonder what went through my little girl’s mind as she lay there dying. Did Fawn think about the time we made her a cat costume, last Halloween—how she laughed, and laughed, and laughed when her tail kept coming off? Did she remember the pony rides at grandfather’s ranch? Or was it the darkness Fawn thought of? She was always so afraid of the dark, my baby girl.
Then it seemed that Maggie took Joshua out of his crib and gave the baby a bath.
As for Maggie…well, her wound was self-inflicted, of course. She pulled the trigger and coloured her world.
~ * ~
People always ask me how I cope with my loss, and I simply tell them that it is not easy. The well-wishers want to know if I need anything; but I tell them, No, I’m doing fine. What I need was left perishable—stinking in the earth.
Detective Putnam asked me a dozen times if I had any idea why Maggie killed the children and then took her own life. What was I to tell him? It could have been anything—it could have been nothing. There were a million possibilities. Perhaps Maggie had a chemical imbalance in her brain. It was conceivable that she was stressed out in some way that was beyond her control…or even that she heard voices. There was even the chance that Maggie had been ill for years, yet she buried her pain the same way she veiled that enigma-smile of hers. I thought all of these things at some point or another, but I never expressed my opinion—not even when asked.
Perhaps Maggie had found out that Justin and I had a special way of touching one another, and that I had just started touching Fawn in the same way, last spring.
Maybe, maybe, maybe…Maybe said the crazies…
…Or maybe she was just another nut with a smile.