The sky was charcoal. The skeletal arms of trees cut through the hazy fog in ribbons of dark brown, nearly black. Without their leaves they were a little less comforting than she remembered. She tugged her coat tightly to her shoulders, hating herself for crying. In the wintry wind, it made the tears clinging to her cheeks in transparent droplets burn even worse than they did on their own.
She had just come to grips with the fact that Dennis had dumped her. It wasn’t something that Samantha really wanted to consider. Just as she didn’t want to face the music that this sky was eerie and haunting. She shivered again. The sooner she got into her car and left Dennis’ the better.
Weeks past, even months. Samantha convinced herself that she felt better. It was hard walking by the Deputy’s office every day to work, but the court stenographer did it with her head held proudly. She would not let something like a heart wrenching, messy break-up ruin her entire image. She had an image to uphold, after all.
She made her way into the courtroom, and made her way to her desk. She crossed her legs, trying too hard not to tremble.
The monster that would be in the courtroom today was accused of killing his own son.
She couldn’t believe animals like that existed in a world like hers. She had always seen the world through rose tinted glasses until she started working here. Then she saw the nitty, gritty underbelly of some of the town’s celebrities.
It was always embarrassing when it was someone she went to school with, no matter how small the infraction she always felt like it was a personal reflection of her.
After the rather exhausting delegations that day she was able to go home. She was always grateful that she had a place of her own where she could relax after a tough day at work. Not people could fathom that her job was hard, but she didn’t argue with them anymore. She just smiled politely and nodded. She would let them think what they wanted. No, it wasn’t working hard in a mine all day or protecting the citizens of her country from terrorists. Yet, it could be draining all the same. She didn’t see why that was so hard to believe.
She checked her messages on the answering machine. She paused as she heard one from Dennis. He was asking for her back. Maybe a month ago she would have said yes, but she wasn’t so certain that he was what she wanted anymore. Still, she thought she could go — just to make sure. For the sake of old times.
Samantha called him, made arrangements, and then went out into the stinging cold. She paused as she heard a loud crunch beneath her high heel. She frowned at the body of a dead sparrow. Where had that come from?
It was probably one of the neighbor’s cats trying to bring her presents. She wrinkled her nose. It was for that exact reason that she never liked cats.
She sighed as she looked at skies as charcoal as the day Dennis had broken up with her. Another evening of snow, she surmised. Which meant she would be freezing her butt off when she got home. She cursed her luck, hopping into her car. Anything to get out of this accursed weather.
When she knocked on the door, Dennis answered with a rose held between his teeth.
“Cute,” she laughed.
They made the usual polite chitchat that all people seemed to make.
“So, Dennis, what made you change your mind?”
“I realized I’d been an idiot,” he frowned. “I realized that you were the best thing that ever happened to me — and I’d kill myself if I let some other guy get in between us.”
She smiled. “That’s sweet, Dennis, but —.”
She was cut short when there was a sudden banging at the door. Then without warning, the door was blasted off it’s hinges, by a man that resembled something out of a horror novel. He was tall and heavy set with long, greasy hair and teeth sharp as the jagged ends of seaside rock.
Dennis protectively stood in front of her. “Who the hell are you?”
Samantha thought the man looked familiar, but she could not place him. She clutched Dennis’ arm painfully tight. She could see the half moon of crescents her fingernails were rending on his arm, even still she couldn’t force herself to let go.
“None of your business. Now I have a business transaction for you. One of you can live, but the other has to die. Which one is up to you. So who dies?”
“Are you insane?” Samantha snarled, in spite of herself.
“We’re not going to play any stupid games,” Dennis added.
“I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation,” the man argued, firing his gun at the refrigerator door. It was blasted off its hinges, the lights in the fridge limply lit in defiance on and off before fizzling out for good.
“Who are you?”
“Doesn’t matter.” He picked at his teeth, pulling out something rather foul looking in appearance.
Samantha didn’t even want to know what that had been at one point.
“So who’s it going to be?”
At first they were both strong, they refused to sag no matter how much pressure this psycho applied. They both held onto one another like the brackish tempest of the sea and it’s salt. They were not strands to be severed in some string.
However, the minutes ticked by in their annoying mantra. She looked at Dennis. Someone had to make a decision. She was so sick to death of hearing her voice rasping ‘no’ over and over again at varying decibels.
“KILL HIM! KILL HIM!” she shrieked with a maniacal gleam in her eye.
Dennis’ eyes widened. “What, Sammy?!”
“If it has to be me or you, I choose you. You’re the man, be brave for once in your life,” Samantha barked, finally snapping under all the pressure like a twig ripped off the arm of a tree in a tornado.
Dennis closed his eyes. “Me,” he agreed.
“Are you sure?”
“JUST KILL HIM ALREADY!”
Dennis felt tears stream down his cheeks. He knew that she didn’t mean it, but that didn’t stop it from hurting. Her betrayal cut more than he imagined the blade in the man’s hand would. It flashed silver anxiety in a room full of white noise.
The feral looking man stabbed over and over and over again. He only relinquished the blade when Dennis had been stabbed at least seventeen times. She tried not to watch the carnage, but a morbid curiosity made it impossible for her to turn away.
A twisted smirk crossed the man’s face when he finished. “Now it’s your turn.”
“This was a test, Samantha, and you failed.” With that, the man raised his bloody knife and plunged into her torso. She screamed, choking up blood, but her cries soon fell silent. She laid inches away from Dennis. Ironically, their hands were twined as lovers, their unseeing eyes almost glancing in the direction of one another — as if they were having a conversation after death.