by Eric J. Krause
Becca stared down at Geoff's body--the body of her husband, lover, best friend--and tried to scream. It wouldn't come, but babbling words, murmured in a low whisper, pushed up her throat and out her mouth. "Wake up, Geoff, not funny, not funny at all, open your eyes and start breathing, the joke's over, you aren't dead, you can't be."
But it wasn't a prank. Her Geoff, her beloved Geoff, lay dead. She'd left him on the bed, quite satisfied and very much alive after a vigorous love-making session, to take a quick shower. As she dried off, she felt that frisky itch and headed to the bedroom to initiate round two. Instead she found him like this.
Now that scream threatened to tear through her, but she couldn't afford to lose it. 9-1-1. Yes, that's who she had to call, and she couldn't be hysterical during it or the operator wouldn't understand. Calm, cool, and collected, that's what she needed to be.
Before she grabbed the phone, she reached for Geoff. He'd had a physical for work just last week. The doctor pronounced him in excellent shape for a man of 43. Maybe a bit too much of a bulge around the middle, but his cholesterol and blood pressure were at acceptable levels, and his heart was strong. No sign of any diseases or defects. Keep it up, the doctor said. So how was he laying here like this?
Becca had often heard the term "dead weight," but never having handled a dead body bigger than a hamster, she'd not grasped the concept. She struggled to roll him to his side, and once she succeeded, a gasp escaped her lips and she leapt back. Geoff flopped face-down on her side of the bed. A small pool of blood, about the size of a quarter, congealed on his pillow. On the back of his neck was a small round wound, already festering. But that was impossible. She might not be in the medical profession, was, in fact, merely the manager of an independently-owned games and hobbies shop (The Game Room--"we cover all your gaming needs"), but she knew there was no way either the wound or the blood should look like that. Not yet. It hadn't been there before her shower. She'd wrapped her hands around the back of his neck during their intimate act, and they'd come back clean. No, as inexplicable as it was, this happened while she was in the shower.
Which meant, among other things . . .
Terror replaced her grief, and she lunged for the phone. Dead. As dead as poor Geoff. That almost brought down the dam holding the tears back, but somehow she managed to keep herself in check. Hysteria could, would, come later, but for now she had to keep her head so she could survive. Someone was in the house, and he was dangerous, deadly.
She tried to ascertain if there'd been a struggle on the bed, but she knew very well there had been--quite a pleasurable one that she'd been involved in. Other than that, besides the spot of already congealed blood, she couldn't tell. Should she dash out and run for the neighbors, or was unknown death waiting for her? The window? This was the second story, and her two landing options were rose bushes or concrete. She preferred neither choice. No, she'd sneak downstairs and bolt out either the front or back door, whichever proved safer.
Nothing seemed disturbed in the upstairs hallway. She tiptoed to the stairs and stood silent for a few seconds, listening for anything out of the ordinary. When only the regular sounds of her house came back--the ticking of clocks, the whir of the dishwasher, the hum of the computer--she hurried down the stairs. Once at the bottom, she had a clear path to the front door, to freedom, and took it. She twisted the handle and pulled, but it didn't budge. Damn deadbolt.
As she moved her hand to unlock the door, something thudded behind her. She whirled around and finally allowed herself to scream. Geoff stumbled towards her, no life existing in his eyes. But that wasn't the worst part, not by a long shot. The worst stood at the top of the stairs behind him. His new puppet master pulled the strings, and it wanted her in its collection.