Trapped in Throes
A scream pierced the dead of night. I awoke and sat up in my bed. Listened.
Again, a howl. A man in agony. I recognized the voice, and Steve wasn’t beside me. I put my feet down on the creaking floorboards and looked at the ticking clock on the far side of the room. A quarter to one. Outside the draped windows the night was as silent as always. Pines heavy with freshly fallen snow. A single wind blowing by. Again, his scream cut through the calm.
I hurried out the bedroom, into the hallway. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It was hard to see the bruise by my left eye in the dark. Maybe it was better that way. I put on my boots without tying the laces, but paused at the door, by the framed photo of us. It must have been taken in a different time.
I forced myself to step outside, into the cold. Big white clouds escaped my mouth. The snow lay thick and pristine, glistering in the bright moonlight. His screams had diminished in strength and were more akin to the sound of a wounded animal. I exited the picket fence and went towards the sound. He started to say my name. I picked up the pace and entered the forest where tall trees rocked against each other.
There he was. Standing with his right foot in the snow and the left in a bear trap, dug deep in his flesh.
“Lucy?” he asked.
“Oh my lord, Steve. What have you done?”
“Please, Lucy. It hurts. It hurts so bad!”
He groaned and clasped his bloody leg. His eyes pleading. He hunched and leaned on his right leg. Whimpered with every wobbling move.
“I was just down at The Wishing Well, having a few…”
You goddamn drunken swine…
“Didn’t you set this one up yesterday?” I asked him.
“What? Yes, you know I did.”
“How much have you have to drink?”
“A few…” he started. “Why do you care, you hag? Just help me, dammit!”
The contraption was rusty. He had set it many times before. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
“But I don’t know how it works,” I said.
He took a deep breath and started to explain. All I could look at was his leg, thinking of all the times he had kicked me. Dirty boots and feet. How many? I’d lost count.
“Lucy? Did you hear me?”
He swayed, lost his footing and fell to the ground, the trap tearing at his skin. I had never heard him scream like that before.
“Don’t tell me that you’re just gonna stand there, you bitch! I’ll rip it off if I have to!”
I started to back away and his tone changed.
“What do you want? I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry!” His voice wavered. “I know I’ve never been the husband you wanted, with the drinking and all… But please, I beg you! Help me just this once!”
How dared he even ask for my help?
“It’s too late for your apologies. You’ve done this to yourself!”
“Oh, shut up! What have you done, besides screwing your boss? Nothing! Who gave you a home? Who gave you money, huh? I did!”
“You inherited this place, you unemployed bastard!”
“You ungrateful fucking bitch!”
He picked up a broken beer bottle and threw it at me. It landed at my feet.
I walked back.
“Lucy! Don’t you walk away from me, Lucy!”
Even as I was inside the cabin, he wouldn’t stop shouting. He went from obscenities to pleas. I paced the house for I don’t know how long. The cabin was cold, so I went out to gather some firewood.
“Please Lucy, I’m cold! I’m sorry!” he shouted with a hoarse voice.
I went inside and lit a fire in the living room. The flames cast my shadow across the room, even into the darkest corners. Usually, I daren’t look there, but this time I did. In the far corner stod a crib. A crib that had never been used. I pulled my eyes away.
Above the fireplace hung not only his most prized possession — a stag’s antlers — but his favorite rifle, a Winchester M1895. I had seen what it could do, the power that it had. I took it down from the fireplace and checked the cartridges. It was loaded. I could faintly hear him sobbing outside. I sat down by the fire.
I’ll do it. I’ll kill that bastard.
The fire was mesmerizing.
I swear I’ll kill him.
The rifle felt heavy. So did my eyelids.
Just as I started to doze off, I heard a roar from outside that shook me. I had only read about bears in this are before, but never actually seen one. I heard another howl, but it was a human one this time. Steve. It was a chilling shriek of terror that overpowered the bear’s growl.
I picked up the rifle and rushed out. My tracks from before had almost been covered by the falling snow. I slowed down as I got closer.
The otherwise so spotless snow was now soaked in blood.
I saw no sign of any brown, furry colossus. Instead, I saw the bear’s victim before me. I looked at what was left of Steve. He had been mauled beyond recognition, his skull crushed by a blow from the beast. It was a fitting demise.
Soon he would be buried under a blanket of white. The corner of my lips jerked and dubious tears welled up as I felt something that I had never felt before. The wintry pines stood as silent witnesses.
The winter had never before resembled a blank sheet even more.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed the story, please share or “recommend” it.
Sincerely, Oscar Hjelmstedt.