Wrath James White
A Living Nightmare
It was still dark when Sarah woke up in her bed with the taste of blood on her tongue. Josh was snoring quietly beside her. The sheets smelled fresh, like they had just been washed. Sarah screamed.
She kept screaming even when Josh woke up and wrapped his strong arms around her. Even when he began to rock her back and forth and stroke her hair.
“It’s okay, Sarah. It was just a bad dream. Everything’s okay.”
Sarah checked Josh’s neck and chest. Then she checked her own. There were no wounds, no blood. She dropped her head onto Josh’s shoulder and began to weep.
“That sick bastard. You don’t know what he did to me. He killed us. You were dead. We both were. The new neighbor…that guy…Dale…he murdered us!”
“It was just a dream.”
“No! It wasn’t a dream!”
Dale walked slowly down the hall, yawning and rubbing his eyes as he tiptoed to his parents’ bedroom where the screaming was increasing in intensity, growing ever more shrill and agonized. He shivered despite his flannel pajamas and held his comic book clenched tight in his fist like a security blanket, rolling it up and squeezing it until the pages creased and wrinkled and the cover tore. He hadn’t slept yet. He’d been lying in bed reading
Just as he had every night, he’d lain awake listening to the wet smack of knuckles striking flesh, the roar of his father’s angry voice and his mother’s own shrill, defiant retort, not backing down until the blows began to fall without relent. Then, when his mother had been beaten into silence, that horrible sound would come. That squishy, rhythmic smack of flesh against flesh mingled with grunts and groans and his mother’s muffled sobs. A part of him had always worried that someday his father would go too far and he would wind up an orphan. A part of him figured it was inevitable.
When Dale heard that new sound, wetter, more violent, less rhythmic, cries and screams that turned into a gurgling wheeze, he knew that his mother was dead before he ever walked into the bedroom.
His mother was swimming in a river of blood. It poured off the bed as Dale’s father continued to stab her. He was still inside of her, raping her as he did every night, eyes glittering, high on crystal meth. The steak knife in his hand rose and fell over and over again, stabbing in rhythm with his own thrusts. Dale’s mother had stopped screaming. Still, she continued to struggle beneath him, trying to escape. But even her struggles had lost their urgency. Her arms and legs pinwheeled in slow motion, her fingernails clawing the bloody sheets as Dale’s father fucked her from behind and stabbed her in the back again and again, wrenching the knife free from her shoulder and flinging blood onto the white walls up to the ceiling before clenching the knife in both fists and bringing the blade down again with all his strength.
When her movements finally ceased, his father rolled her over onto her bloodied back. Her head wobbled loosely on her neck, which had been hacked and cut so that her vertebrae were visible through the back of her neck. Dale thought that this meant the assault was over and his mother would finally have some peace, but his father reinserted his erect penis into his mother’s blood-slickened vagina and continued stabbing her in her breasts, throat, and face until she was nearly unrecognizable.
His father didn’t say a word as he viciously unmade Dale’s mother. He grunted occasionally with the effort and exertion as he simultaneously fucked and stabbed her. His father finally ejaculated, his body hitching and jerking. His eyes rolled back in ecstasy. A grin ripped across his bloodied face. He looked over at his son and smiled wider. For a moment, Dale thought his Dad was going to hold up his hand for a high-five. His father was still breathing hard and smiling when he looked back down at the ruin he’d made of his wife. Blood and sweat ran down his father’s face and Dale watched as his dad wiped the sweat from his eyes with his forearm, replacing the perspiration with blood, looking pleased with himself, as if he had just painted a work of art or played some complicated piece of music. His father looked at the knife in his hand and the blood that covered his fist and arms, then looked back down at Dale’s mother and began to cut on her again.
Dale watched the entire thing without saying a word. He knew that this was much worse than the beatings. He knew that his mother was dead and that she would never be coming back, but he just could not connect with it all somehow. He felt as if he were watching a movie and not the sadistic murder of the woman who had given birth to him, who had been feeding him macaroni and cheese just hours ago, before tucking him into bed.
He walked into the living room and picked up the phone. He could hear tearing and ripping sounds coming from his parents’ bedroom. He gritted his teeth, wincing each time he heard the sound of skin ripping away from muscle. Dale finally began to sob as he dialed 911.
“Police emergency line. What is your emergency?”
“My…my daddy just killed my mommy and…and he…he’s cutting her up.”
He closed his eyes and tried his best to block out the sounds coming from the bedroom. He didn’t want to go in there again, didn’t want to see his mother butchered, reduced to meat. What he’d already seen and what he was imagining in his head was bad enough. Dale didn’t want to know what his father had been doing with that knife for the last twenty minutes. He waited on the couch with his hands clamped over his ears until the police arrived.
“Police! Open the door!”
Dale opened the door for the police and was whisked outside and into the arms of a female officer who placed him in the front seat of a squad car. The policewoman told him her name. Linda? Lydia? Lila? He had forgotten it immediately after hearing it. He was too busy thinking about his mom.
Everything was happening so fast. His mind was having a hard time catching up. Somehow, he’d gone from eating mac and cheese, watching
He watched the other officers enter the house, heard the shouts and screams and then the gunshots. He began to cry again, screaming for his mommy when he saw the officers stagger out of the house, ashen-faced, some regurgitating on the front lawn, others just staring off into space. A couple of cops held each other and wept. It was seeing those cops crying for his dead mother that broke him, brought home the reality of his mother’s brutal murder.
“Stay right here.”
The female officer climbed out of the police cruiser and walked across the lawn into the house. It was less than a minute before she came running back with her eyes wide and terrified. Dale watched as she leaned against the trunk of the car and vomited into the street while crying hysterically.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! He tore her apart! How could he do that to his own wife? How could he do that to the mother of his child? He cut off all of her skin!”
Dale quietly left the police cruiser. He walked back across the lawn and into the house while the other officers stood by their vehicles comforting each other, calling for the coroner’s van and the crime-scene unit, doing whatever they could to avoid going back into the house.
The bedroom was splattered red. The carpet was saturated with his mother’s blood. It squished between Dale’s toes as he crept barefoot toward the bed. What he saw splayed out on the sheets defied all sanity. His father had torn his mother’s body apart. Her nightgown was pushed up around her neck and the skin had been flayed from her torso and piled up on the floor. She had been stabbed multiple times in the face, neck, and chest, puncturing