mouse larisheva


It was getting dark and we weren’t there yet.

The road stretched on forever, a hollow carved through towering evergreens, with jagged potholes that jostled my old truck. My thermos rattled and the windshield wipers squeaked as I fought to see through pouring rain. I looked over my shoulder at the tarp-covered truck bed and cringed as another pothole made my bones rattle. The tarp sagged with water, creating its own little lake. The trunk must have been soaked, and I stepped on the gas to shorten the journey.

“We’ll be there soon, don’t worry. Look, there’s the sign. Aren’t you excited?”

I turned down a dirt path as the sky faded from orange to navy. The trees were overgrown, and my headlights did little to illuminate the way. Mud kicked onto the sides of my truck, and I slowed as we approached the clearing, where the trees opened to a vast expanse of black water. There were no other cars in the makeshift lot, and I drove right up to the edge of the dock. As I cut the engine, I took a moment to stare at the lake.

The water was still and dark, covered with algae and clumps of pine needles. Underneath, it was infested with leeches, which was why it was reliably deserted. Crows hopped around the slimy shore catching frogs, and their caws were the only sound for miles, save for the pitter-patter of rain. I smiled, feeling welcome.

Keys in hand, I stepped into the mud and walked along the dock. The crows scattered, to my dismay, but they perched in the trees nearby. The first few times I’d come here, I found the birds to be a nuisance. They were loud and curious, and they disturbed my state of mind. But with each time I returned, I started to see them differently. They had learned who I was and why I was visiting, and we developed a mutually beneficial relationship. They stayed nearby, ready to alert me to any danger, and when I was finished, they were the most well-fed animals in the forest.

Except for the leeches.

At the end of the dock, I crouched beside a trunk and fitted one of my keys into the lock. It opened with a creak, and I checked its stock. Several yards of strong, nylon rope. Four rusted steel weights. Handkerchiefs, carabiners, disinfectant—and at the bottom, a loaded pistol. I took out the rope, cutting equal lengths, and looped them through a hole in each of the weights. Then, I attached carabiners to the loops.

Always meticulous, I tested each of them, standing on the weight and pulling on the carabiner with all of my might. I felt stronger than last time. The jobs were getting tougher, and I wouldn’t let weakness get in my way. I didn’t want to use the gun again. I still had nightmares about cleaning the mess.

I shut the trunk and a shiver ran up my spine. My throat was dry and my fingers were trembling, so I took a few deep breaths to calm my mind. I closed my eyes, feeling my chest expand, grounding myself. The nylon rope was soft on my fingers. The dock was slippery beneath my boots. The air was filled with a damp mist, and I breathed it in. I was ready.

I walked back to the shore and circled around my truck, then drained the water from the tarp and unlatched the tailgate. Immediately, there was movement and sounds of distress, and I unclipped the flashlight from my belt loop to check on my cargo.

“Is everyone okay? Sorry about my truck, I know it’s a bumpy ride,” I said in a soothing voice, smiling at the four pairs of eyes that stared back at me. The poor things were all wet, and it smelled like some of them had pissed themselves. “Are you scared? I’m sorry, it won’t be too much longer. Now, who wants to go first?”

They writhed even more, and I scanned the bed to find the one that seemed the most agitated—a middle-aged woman with sopping, brown hair, who was bound and gagged just like the rest of them. I put my flashlight away and grabbed her by the rope around her chest, heaving her to the edge of the tailgate and cradling her in my arms. She fought even harder, trying to roll like an alligator, but her energy soon dwindled and I was able to carry her to the end of the dock.

There, I laid her down and attached one of the weights to the rope around her waist. It was quick work with the carabiner, and I watched as she used the last of her energy to cry and squirm.

“Shh, I know. You’re ready. We had a lot of fun together, didn’t we? I’ll miss you, but I won’t make you wait any longer.”

I kissed her on the forehead while she cried, and then I rolled her off the edge of the dock. She disappeared into the murky depths, bubbles popping on the surface. I waited until they stopped.

One by one, I emptied the truck. As I knelt on the dock with the last one—a teenage boy with bright, green eyes—I stopped to admire him. The jobs were so fleeting, and when they were over, I felt so lonely. I brushed wet hair out of the boy’s eyes, staring down at him with a soft smile.

“You know I care about you, right?I wish I could stay with you. When you’re gone, I’ll cry too. It’s strange, but… I can’t help it.”

I wiped his tears away. The crows were restless, fluttering their wings and cawing, and I motioned for them to be patient. When I looked at the boy again, his eyes were glazed-over and blank. I put my hand on his chest to make sure he was still breathing, though it seemed silly on second thought.

“Alright, I’ll let you go now. Your friends are waiting for you.”

Like the others, I kissed his forehead and slid him to the edge of the dock. My heart was heavy in my chest as I nudged him into the water, and he fell in like a rock.

Just then, I felt something around my ankle. In a blur, I fell into the water with him, kicking against his grip, but he held tight as a vice. Everything became oppressively dark, and the surface looked miles away. My chest started to ache. Cold water filled my lungs.

I came to rest on the pile of bodies and thought: At least I’m not alone.

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