I awoke this morning head pounding, stomach turning; most likely from the copious amounts of Whiskey I had consumed hours prior. I stumbled from bed wearing the same clothes I had worn the previous day: a heavy winter’s coat, thick gloves, waterproof pants, and snow boots. I made my way to the den where the fire sat, blazing from last night’s use. I rubbed my temples and focused hard on the roaring flames. It was as if the dancing orange inferno was aching to tell me something, undoubtedly about how disturbing my actions were the evening before. My eyes widened and began to water as I held them open in a futile attempt to win this staring contest with the combustion reaction of elements and water vapor. Liquid began to pour from my eyes, yet I couldn’t make out what the fire was so desperately trying to tell me. It’s murmur in too soft of a pitch for my hung-over ears to detect. How I envied that fire, able to see what crimes I had committed in my intoxicated state, able to listen to my incomprehensible rambling of inebriated solitude, and able to watch as any ethical percentage of human decency I had left shrink into nothingness.
I turned from the whispering flames, eyes glossy and thoughts as unclear as they always are the morning after my monthly rampages, which had recently come about more often and closer between than 30 day intervals. I grabbed a few pain medicine tablets that I had strategically placed, at some previous time, near the empty glass bottle that encased the liquid version of my personal downfall. I popped the pills and thanked my former self for being so thoughtful and well prepared. My bloodshot eyes shifted toward the ground of the foyer, moments later my brows furrowed in confusion. My blurry vision focused on the shiny surface of the large dining room candlestick which sat on its side a few inches from the front door. Its golden shaft stained with red as it lay motionless in a puddle of blood, as if it had been murdered.
This wasn’t the most unusual thing I had observed the day after a drunken stupor, an inanimate object falling victim to the unspeakable crime of homicide. In fact, I had previously woken up to witness much worse: broken glass from every mirror scattered across the cold, hardwood floors, blood oozing from some self-induced gash that insisted on immediate medical attention, even to ex-partners screaming of abuse and fits of psychotic rage. The last of which happened to be the main factor that led to my condemned state of isolation deep within the mountains, divorced and alone. But women never made me as happy as booze did, so carefree and comfortable in my own skin. Regret was only felt the morning after, and it lasted only as long as it took to pour myself another drink.
I examined my clothed skin. No sign of an exit wound where the blood on the floor could have expelled from. I felt no stinging beneath material that rubbed at my flesh as I walked. I glanced at the doorknob leading to the frigid temperatures of the outside air. It, too, was masked with dry blood and not fully latched. The entire door sat crocked on its hinges and open several centimeters. This was truly the only occurrence that struck me as odd. My curiosity about the death of the candlestick was quickly exchanged for alarm. The door had been slightly damaged since I bought the cabin a year before. It had to be lifted into its deformed wooden frame to latch shut. As far as I knew I was the only one who could properly do so, due to endless attempts when I first moved in, being that I was both too cheap and drunk to fix it properly. Yet, after each blackout I would awaken with the door not only shut, but locked. Even deep within my own frightening oblivion I knew bears were a serious danger. This led to a question that sent chills up my spine, was somebody else here last night?
I grasped the door handle and flung open the large hunk of wood. Last night’s snowstorm had blanketed the ground for as far as the eye could see with the purest shade of white. I stepped onto the front porch while plumes of carbon dioxide became visible from each exhaled breath. I looked down. Small footsteps led from my porch to a wooden shack that sat thirty feet from my own. This wasn’t an unusual sight. My cabin was only a fourth of a mile from a popular trail and stragglers came and went as often as the wolves. But these were different. They not only came obviously from within my home, but had minuscule spots of blood between each light footfall.
I traced each previously laid step. The drips of blood slightly melted the snow from their warmth and grew in size as I progressed towards the shack. My footsteps sunk much deeper into the snow and sat closer together than the first set, making me think the individual who had left them had been running. In twenty seconds I stood at the shacks door. My heart began pounding. I felt beads of sweat being birthed from each pore on my forehead and stream down my face. I could feel my palms begin to clam up from beneath each glove, and every worst case scenario cascaded through my thoughts. Bears, monsters, aliens, serial killers, all flashed before my mind’s eye. Fear established itself deep within my gut, and then ran through each vein until I was filled with numbing adrenaline.
I swung open the door of the shed. I gasped in horror. An unconscious woman, half naked and spotted with cuts and blood, lay sprawled across the floor. I ran to her side and knelt before her. I spoke harshly to awaken her from slumber and shook her aggressively, but to no avail. I pulled off a heavy glove to check her pulse.
Dried blood crusted over the epidermis off my hand. My eyes flew to woman. I held my hand above a bloody hand-print on her arm, it belonged to me.
At this moment I only knew two things for sure: one, the footprints leading from my door belonged to this woman, and two, I had killed her.
Shaking my head, I stood and walked to the woman’s feet. I bent my knees slightly and gripped her left ankle. Leaving the shack, I began to drag the limp body behind me. Her dead-weight sunk into the fallen crystals, exchanging snow white for blood red as I heaved.
Looking down I knew one thing for sure: I’ll have dinner for at least a week.