Filled with such terrifying curiosity I could finally understand how it was that men got themselves onto boats to sail the unknown sea, fully aware and half expecting it might be the last time they see the land they know and the people they love.
He pulled the car out of gear and turned off all the electrical as it coasted down the road. He clearly knew the road well enough, even in the dark, to hug a slight turn at the correct moment and in doing so revealing much about him. Regardless if his intentions were to impress me or frighten me, he managed to achieve both and in abject defiance I said nothing.
All the colourful fall leaves were gone and instead lay brown on the ground, leaving the trees bare like skeletons swaying in the breeze. He turned the key and the lights came on as we took a path only he knew off the road. I felt a butterfly in the pit of my stomach, the kind I used to get when my dad drove really fast down the country road as the white house came into view. The kind of house that haunts most horror movies: a lot of character and possess charm in the daylight but downright scary at night.
We walked through the poorly lit garage, the walls adorned with a long history of hunting, fishing and life out in the woods. I stepped over a pile of rusty chains and steadied myself on what was by all accounts a surgery table. Two chainsaws lay on the table, their limbs carefully placed by their side waiting to be put back together by a mad scientist. I had to let out a giggle at the cliché and wonder if I would bump into a wood chipper next.
And then we stepped out of the manmade shelter into one of earth’s most chilling construction projects – the wild. The water’s edge was no more than forty feet from where I stood and I was so taken with the sight that it took a few minutes for the sound of water to register. The water was lightly slapping the face of the rocks on the beach and somewhere off in the distance I could hear people talking. My breath was visible and I let out a huge puff as if it were smoke and watched it disappear into a perfectly clear night sky.
If ever there is a place that is to be my last and they find me cold, it would be a place like this.
“So what do you think? Do you like it?” he said as he wrapped his arms around me from behind. My second thought, after the image of my body lying naked on a private beach, was to make a face thinking to myself ‘as if he made this himself’ and then I realized there is no way he would leave me on a beach in such close proximity to his house – he probably has a hole already dug up someplace, the brilliant bastard.
“It’s a glorious spot” I did not lie. He then walked me up some hand crafted staircase that wound its way into a massive room all adorned in wood. The water facing wall was all windows of course and from up here I could see the owners of the voices I heard. Three bodies sitting in the dark by a fire just far enough out of reach to save me should I need it. As he handed me a glass of wine, which I graciously accepted, he disappeared into a room and I took the opportunity to put my hand on the window.
My hand looked out of place, floating and detached – similar to putting your hand on a classical painting, completely out of context and bizarre. The water looked like mercury in the dark slightly lit by a moon and radiant light off in the distance. I pressed my palm flat on the window thinking ‘CSI will find at least a finger print or two. I hope’ and my eyes looked past my hand to notice the outlines of trees hugging the shore that had been twisted by winter winds. Steve Burton would love this place, should I survive I will write him about it I thought to myself as I turned from the window and touched a few more things, with great intention of leaving perfect evidence that I was at one point here.
He reappeared with a box and his smile was so warm and friendly I felt how he could not be a murderer. I followed him outdoors as we talked casually about this and that, I flicked on my flashlight and he led us to the wood pile behind the house. I kept the path lit somewhat ahead of him so he would not trip with the box in his hand. I walked under a low hanging branch and moved to correct the beam of light when I saw the wood shed. I froze in place and pulled the light off him and carefully moved the beam over …
It was a wood box on stilts, aged and unsteady attempting to stand on four broken legs. Should one good wind come along this shed would fall onto its side, surely it has not been sitting crookedly all this time, has it? The windows were now all gone and instead stared back at me without reflection – just deep dark black holes. I waited for some movement, a raccoon, a possum, any sign of life other than us two but nothing, not a sound. The voices and crackle of fire that were off in the distance were no longer audible, there was no breeze here, and the silence was making my body tingle.
“This is the dismemberment shed” he joked but turned to realize I was now strategically standing behind a tree, giving me, or so I convinced myself, a split second to run right or left opposite him should he make a move. “It’s not, I was just joking” he said putting down the box. As he moved towards me I put the flashlight in my hand as a blunt tool, the way a monkey would a stone about to crack open a nut. My heart was beating fast enough I could hear it in my ears but strangely I felt a comforting warmth all over my body. Is there a moment of peace before the end, when all pain and awareness is removed and we are truly alone?
His hand reached for mine around the trunk of the tree and I refused to bow for another low branch, instead choosing to walk right through it as it snapped back in place. “The dismemberment shed…” my voice barely sounding like my own. “Bad joke, it isn’t really, it is just the wood shed now” he explained walking me from around the rest of the tree. He looked scared, his eyes wide but attempting to sooth me, an odd smile mixed with an acknowledgement of my own fear – or so he thought.
“It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this … I mean in movies and real crime shows yes but not like this” I whispered, trying to not disrupt the quiet. “Can I go in there? Is it safe enough to go in there?” my questions were quick and he had barely any time to readjust from his initial reaction of disbelief to my glee. “Yes, it is safe” he said carefully, as he let go of my hand and put some distance between us.
The doorway on the side of the shed was open and like most nightmares some old curtains hung to it. I let my flash light beam wander inside but it was so dark that I could barely see anything and then his voice shook me out of a dream when he said “can I have some light over here so I can get this wood please?”
I could barely keep the wood pile lit or him for that matter, every time my lamp lit a corner it was more rotten than the last. The smell filled my nose and my belly like a good meal and I took it all in as a part of the experience as would a chef to a meal.
He turned with a box full of wood and I moved back to let him out of the shed but I must have been expressing myself clearly because he stopped right in front of me and put the box down at my feet. I looked at him and he looked back at me and not a word was said – I simply turned off the lamp and let everything around us get even darker.