The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 30
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief chapter 30 Miss Beal (II)
It was surprisingly easy to hide away in the store. The staff was horrendously deficient. Add to it Constance was a cagey old woman. Hiding away in one of the bathroom stalls. Couching on one of the toilets. Not one of the Save-Mart employees ever checked the bathroom’s stalls, just a quick glance to see if the room was empty. The humming lights were switched off with a loud click. Switching to the dimmer nighttime lighting throughout the store.
She wanted to wait longer. To be sure they were all gone. If she waited too long the beast might struck whilst she was hiding, she’d miss her chance. Her fear of getting caught outweighed her fear of not stopping it. So she gave herself five minutes. The store’s heating system came creaking to life as she hid there. Startling the old woman. There was another sound, sudden, barely audible over the heater’s rusty hum. A loud crash. Glass breaking. The wolf was here.
Stepping out of the stall, her hands trembling as she drew the gun from her jacket. Despite her age and the weariness of her body, there was a certain excitement pumping through her system. Out of the bathroom the sounds of violence became more distinct. Somewhere on the other side of the store, a man screamed in pain and terror briefly before being silenced.
She’d been convinced the attack would come in the parking lot. That it would try for one of the staff as they went home.. A fortunate miscalculation. There was a better chance of getting it in here. Not so fortunate for the beast’s victim. She’d hoped to stop it before another was killed. Yet if one more life had to be sacrificed to end the beast’s murderous rampage for good, then so be it.
She moved slowly away from the restrooms. Towards the opposite side of the store. Pausing, she looked towards the front of the store. The large main glass window and the world on the other side of it. A part of her wished to be out there, away from the terror inside Save-Mart. Fingers of darkness crept from the shadowed areas. A great fear in her belly started to make it’s presence known. Is this how The Lord felt on the way to his Crucifixion?
She could. Just go. Her parents were long gone. She had no friends. If she wanted to go there was nothing in town holding her. At the same time where was there to go? She had nobody. Had no idea if her brother Reggie was alive or dead. And she was too old, too set in her ways to start over someplace else. How could she go and leave. Knowing it was free to take more victims. Befouling Frostwood with it’s unholy presence. Worst of all she’d have forsaken her sacred mission.
No. Constance could not run away from her duty. She was old. She was alone in the world. Both could weigh heavy on one’s soul. She could live however long she had left with those. Casting aside her holy mission, there would be no living with that.
She went forward. Moving down an aisle of pots and pans a repellent smell drifted towards her. A sicking odor. The smell of blood and death. Making her think of the slaughterhouse her grandfather had worked in. Her hand tightened on the grip of the gun. Feeling the metal edges dig into her skin.
Her arm brushed against a shelf. Then there was a loud metallic clank as something to the floor. Constance stopped dead, her heart racing. A large metal pot lie in the center of the aisle. It’s shiny underside catching a glimmer of the dim store light. Damn fool! She’d been careless. Caught up in her fear. Her jacket must have caught the handle of the pot.
She stood there paralyzed, listening. Waiting for some sound that would confirm she’d been heard. The silence that greeted her was more terrifying then any rush of actively could have come. There was only a stillness. The only sound her beating heart and labored breathing. It was warm inside the store. Her jacket felt like an oven. Sweat making her palms wet, the gun harder to hold.
Exiting the aisle, there was a wide gap till the next one several feet away. Looking up and down the large center aisle there were displays spaced up and down the aisle. Casting shadows this way and that. Making knowing what lurked there impossible to see. She’d be exposed. Standing there indecisive for countless seconds, till finally forcing herself to move. Someone had been more then likely killed. Constance couldn’t allow anymore deaths.
She stopped halfway across the center, pausing behind a large display of pillows. Neatly stacked in a large plastic bin. Her heart was beating even faster now. She prayed it would hold out. To die of a heart-attack now would seem foolish. To be helpless before the thing. To lie there dying at it’s feet. She took a deep breath. Followed by another. Focus on the mission. Arthritis stung her hands and knees. She used it to center her fear addled mind.
Part of her welcomed what death would bring. To pass on. To have the mysteries of creation revealed. To stand before the creator of everything and be at peace. Soon there would be rest. Soon. First she must play her part in his plan.
She was moving again. Making her way to the next aisle. Shoes. Getting closer now. Were the scream of terror had come from. Nearer to it. Movement just ahead stropped her. Raising the pistol and instantly felt foolish for doing so. It was just her reflection in a mirror by a bench for trying on shoes. She’d seen herself in the faint light. Past the shoes was Boy’s Clothing. Darkness was king here. A large wall of shirts obscured much of the light. The shadows were ripe with horrid prospect.
Surrounded by the aisles and racks, she felt like a rat in a maze. Except there was no cheese at it’s end. Only the beast and the death it brought.
Walking past a rack of hats she became aware of a feeling. Breathing. Not hers. Too late she realized. Turning, seeing the baseball bat. Cursing herself for being too old and slow. The beast stood there. Grinning ear to ear.
Bringing the gun around. Not fast enough. The bat hit a glancing blow and the darkness folded in on her.
Constance looked up at the store ceiling. She was floating. No. She was being dragged. The cold floor burning against her back. There was something warm on the side of her face. Blood no doubt. Her body wanted to go back asleep. She could feel a rough gloved hand on her leg.
“Wakey, Wakey.” The beast mocked. Pulling her along. In their other hand they held the baseball bat. Resting that on their shoulder. The snout of the mask poking out from behind the red hood.
Trying to reach out, grab something, A weapon or a shelf. Constance found she couldn’t reach anything as she was being dragged down the center of the store.
“Keep your hands to yourself or else. Your a resourceful old bitch. Can’t have you trying anything now can I?”
“Abomination. Who did you kill?”
It chuckled. “The old shit that runs this dump.”
Hendricks. That made sense. She’d heard a man’s scream. And he’d be the only one that would still here after the rest had left. If only she had the gun. She had no idea what had become of her father’s gun. She been holding it when the beast attacked. No doubt it had fallen. Or this foul creature took it.
“You should have left it alone. You had to follow me around town didn’t ya? Still it was a fun game. Seeing if you’d keep after me.”
Constance tried kicking at her captor with a free leg. Missing by quite a bit. It laughed. Letting go of her leg, dropping it roughly to the floor. Kicking Constance in the side with a sneaker covered foot.
Her good eye teared from the pain. Looking up with blurred vision she saw him. A terrible effigy. Hendricks hung there upside down. Strung up by Christmas lights, he was tied to the front of store’s big Christmas tree. The lights blinked on and off, casting red, green and blue eerily over the scene. This thing pretending to be a human must have considerable strength to haul the dead weight of the store manger up like that. She’d never cared for the man. He was arrogant and greedy. Yet he didn’t deserve to be hung there like a slaughtered deer.
“Dear Lord.” Constance said. “Dear Lord.” She crossed herself.
Lying at the tree’s base like an opened present was a large syringe. Traces of blood still within it. What manner of twisted sickness had transpired here?
“You disturbed my dinner. Hope I don’t get indigestion. Makes me cranky.” Pointing at her with the bat. “Get to your feet soldier.”
Constance rolled over onto her front, bracing herself on her hands and knees. She inched forward toward the tree on all fours.
“Crawl then.” It laughed. Kicking at her backside.
She turned and spit at it. “I’ll send you back to Hell, hideous filth.”
“You think I’m a demon? Or a devil?” It chuckled. “Your wrong. I never asked for this.” There was a wistful tone to it’s voice. “I do what I have to. Need to do, to live. Would you deny another being that right?”
“You need to slaughter to live?”
“I don’t want to, they make me. I have such hate.”
It choked back a sob. Bowing it’s head. Could that be remorse? No. The beast was a deceiver. Constance saw her chance. While it tried to fool her with it’s fake emotions. She realized it could be a trick. That it knew what she was thinking, that was a risk she had to take. The gun was lost. Her only other choice was to wait to be killed like Hendricks.
“Seek another path.” It was close. If she could just grab the needle lying there.
The beast looked at her. Eyes blazing in the darkness under the hood. “What path?”
“The path of redemption. No being is without the possibility of finding the chance to change themselves. The Lord sent me a sign once. Showed me purpose at my darkest, lowest point. It’s never too late to heed the Lord’s call.” She held out her left hand. “Take my hand child. You live. You breath. Are you not one of his children as well?”
With It’s free hand it took her’s. “Will you help me?”
“Of course child. Pray with me. We’ll seek his guidance.” Her other hand reached out. The tips of her fingers brushed against the plastic of the needle. She strained, trying to roll it just a bit closer. Just a bit more.
“Kneel with me child. We will pray.”
It knelt down. Inches from Constance. The beast’s foul breath was overpowering. It smelled like a putrid animal carcass. She’d had a big tomcat when she was little. It would bring all manner of small animals home that it killed. Leaving them on the front porch for her. When the bodies had started to rot, they’d smelled like this thing’s breath.
The needle rolled into her hand. “The Lord is here with us.”
Constance brought the syringe up. Plunging it into the thing’s neck. At least she tried to. The beast moved too fast. Instead, the needle slammed into it’s shoulder. The beast howled in response.
“Bitch!” Pain and anger rang in it’s voice. Dropping the baseball bat, it jumped on her, eyes blazing, baring a mouth full of fangs the beast tore into her.
Constance felt her strength ebbing as her blood flowed across the polished floor. This would be her end. She wasn’t scared, wasn’t sad. She’d confronted it. Now as a great blinding white light filled her vision, engulfing everything Constance came to a realization. She in some way was a catalyst. She’d prepared the girl for it. Anne was the one to kill the beast. Constance felt the pain leave her body. At last she could finally rest. Her mission over.
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