The Killing Place

Bill went back into the cabin, put the key to the car on the table where the stacks of papers sat, and then sat in the chair by the window and looked out at the forest. Bill loved seeing dirt and pine needles scattered over the ground, so much more beautiful to look at than concrete. Then Bill shot himself.

Mostly, they didn’t want to kill, but that was their fate. Life must eat life to survive and sometimes kill to protect itself, and they were killers.

Terrell

Terrell saw him in the tall grass, 200 yards upwind and drinking from a small creek. The air was soft and warm. The sun’s intensity made the colors unusually bright, the azure sky, the surrounding green jungle, patches of dark brown earth, and the crystalline reflection of the stream where David was drinking. Terrell was big and powerful, but a lack of protein had made his mind slow, and he was physically weak. The abundant plants and fruits did nothing to keep Terrell alive, he needed protein to survive, there was no other way. How life worked and why, he didn’t know. Movement alerted his brain, and his eyes blinked into focus when David lifted his head to look around. Had David seen him? Heard his thoughts? Terrell slipped lower down into the tall grass and stilled his movements as he prayed he hadn’t been discovered.

David felt fantastic today, such a beautiful day! He had finished all of the small fish that he could find in the cool stream, the sun was warm but not too hot, and he had finally come to accept himself. This had been a struggle for all of his life, and it was a huge relief. He lifted his head to take in the beauty of the place and smelled the soft breeze with all of its scents and other beautiful things. Life couldn’t be better than this.

Terrell watched as David lay down beside the stream. Now was his chance, he could overtake him while he was laying down, even though his speed would be much slower than David’s. He must get closer though. Crawling low on his belly, over the cool dirt, Terrell felt the insects as they scurried down to their homes or got crushed beneath his weight. He didn’t mind the occasional rocks that scratched his skin or the branches and twigs that jabbed into his flesh, instinct had taken over, and he was in an altered state with only enough conscious awareness to stay quiet and move slowly. Carefully lifting his head above the weeds, Terrell saw that David had turned on his side and was now facing away from him! God was smiling on him today, and his luck wouldn’t change. He would be successful.

David was lulled by the sound of the creek and turned to watch the gentle movement of the water as it cascaded over the rocks. The different colors were amazing, and he marveled at how a colorless substance could have so many colors and textures. The water seemed to change with its surroundings, transform itself to move around any impediment and remain invulnerable to all of the objects it encountered. Surely, it must be a different life form, advanced beyond anything we currently know. David heard a rustling in the weeds behind him, was it the wind, or a small animal? David was so relaxed he convinced himself it was nothing and didn’t even bother to turn and look.

Terrell was twenty yards from David and could hear the creek and smell David’s faint odor. Should he try to get closer or make his move now? If David got any head start, he would never catch up, but if he tried to get too close David might hear him, it was now or never. Terrell slowed his breathing and allowed his heart to rest, then he stood up and charged.

David heard a loud grunt and quickly turned over to see Terrell coming at him not more than ten yards away. He jumped up from his slumber and slipped on the bank of the creek just as he began to sprint away. Too late, Terrell had grabbed him from behind and was pulling him to the ground. David desperately attempted to tear himself away but couldn’t escape and was pulled off his feet and landed on his back facing Terrell.

Terrell looked at David and knew he had his meal. Finally, he could revive his life force. Terrell was aware that he must kill David quickly or take the chance he would escape, and he struggled to push David’s head back and expose the juggler to his waiting jaws.

David looked at Terrell in fear and disbelief. Instinct took over, and he went into survival mode, desperate to get away from Terrell’s grip. He felt Terrell move around his head and attempt to push it backward, opening his neck to a sure death. David twisted his body away from the direction that Terrell was moving, and felt muscles tear as Terrell held his head firmly. Quickly, David spun the other way in an attempt to throw off Terrell’s balance.

Terrell knew to hold David’s head firmly, making escape impossible, but suddenly David turned toward him. Terrell lost his footing, David was loose! Terrell quickly took hold of one of David’s legs with his mouth and bit down as hard as he could. David screamed in agony, falling face down into the creek with blood spewing from his torn leg. Terrell got behind David, and again attempted to push back his head and expose his neck.

David couldn’t breathe! Water came into his lungs so quickly that he couldn’t cough it out soon enough to get a breath. He had to lift his head.

Terrell felt David lift up just as he was pushing back David’s head. This quickly exposed David’s neck, and Terrell sunk his jaws into David’s throat. Terrell felt the warm flow of blood in his mouth and knew it was over. He would let David bleed out enough that he lost consciousness before tearing into his flesh and restoring his life force.

As David lifted his head out of the creek, and with a violent force from his lungs coughed out the water, he felt Terrell’s teeth sink into his neck. David went into a different place than he had ever been before, surreal and separate from himself. It was almost as if David was watching from someplace other than his own body. He looked up and met Terrell’s eyes, which seemed moist and full of love. Not hatred or rage, just love. David fixed his eyes on Terrell and felt himself return the loving gaze.

Terrell felt the blood that was flowing out of David’s neck bring life force back into his body, and he felt love for David and his unwilling gift. David’s death would allow Terrell to survive. Terrell knew the guilt would come later, the feeling of having taken David’s life for his own survival, but now life itself had taken over, and there was no turning back.

David knew his life was over. There was no escape. But somehow, Terrell had positioned him into a caress and was continuing to gaze into his eyes. David could feel Terrell’s conflict, feel the horror of the moment they each knew deep inside. But this was life, and here was Terrell showing David the deepest part of his being. David could feel Terrell’s love coming toward him, and without knowing why felt a deep love for Terrell. Then Terrell reached out his tongue and licked at David’s mouth. David kissed him back. And then it was dark.

Croag

The hunting season was over, and Croag knew this was the last chance they would have before the Mammoth herd moved out of range. He stood high in a tree, overlooking the valley where forty beasts were grazing, and then looked up at the dark storm clouds that were gathering in the early morning sky. The target animal was a mother with a calf, and the mother would supply the tribe with the food they desperately needed. The other men in Croag’s hunting party were throwing rocks at the calf to drive it away from the mother and into the forest where Croag was waiting.

Croag checked the striking surface of four large rocks that he had tied around his waist with mammoth intestine. It began to rain, and Croag listened to the loud whip cracks of thunder and knew the lightning was striking the ground nearby. Croag worried as sheets of water spilled to the ground. A moment later, Croag heard noises louder than the thunder, the snapping of small nearby trees, and he looked up. The desperate mother was running after her calf and wildly crashing through the foliage. One of the hunters wasn’t quick enough, and Croag saw the mother crush him beneath her heavy foot. The remaining hunters continued to drive the calf forward while the mother frantically followed. Finally, the mother ran under a tree where a hunter jumped to her back; he landed squarely, but the mother bucked and reared until the hunter’s grip was loosened, and he was thrown off.

The hunters on the ground continued to throw rocks at the calf until the mother ran beneath the tree where Croag was waiting. The mother was wild, and it would be difficult to time his jump, but Croag landed on the mother’s back, right below her head. His thick sinewy arms gripped large clumps of hair, and his bare legs wrapped tightly around the upper portion of her neck. Croag could feel her rough skin and coarse hair chafe his naked body. The mother did her best to throw him off, but Croag held tightly against the mother until she returned her attention to the calf, then he carefully rose up and inched forward over the top of the mother’s head and grasped a handful of the loose flesh that surrounded her eye. Tightening his grip on the folds of skin, he carefully reached back and gathered a stone with his other hand. Then he slammed the rock into the eye of the mother. The spray of blood and inner fluid confirmed he’d hit his mark, and Croag pulled himself tight against the mother once more.

It was rare for a hunter to remain atop a mammoth and take the second eye, but Croag held tightly and waited for the bellowing mother’s instincts to return her attention to her calf. Then Croag rose up and repositioned himself over the mother’s remaining eye, she sensed what was happening and began to buck. Croag’s face slammed into the top of her head, and he momentarily lost consciousness. Blood poured from Croag’s wound and covered the mother’s good eye, and as she blinked to clear her vision, the giant lash brushed Croag’s face and returned him to consciousness. He reopened his eyes at the same moment the mother blinked a second time, and Croag and the mother gazed into each other’s eyes, connecting into a deep and timeless understanding. Croag felt the mother give herself over, but only in return for her baby. He acknowledged the unspoken agreement and reached for another stone, and then Croag took the mother’s second eye. She was blind, and Croag jumped off the mothers back.

The mother screamed and tried to follow her calf or find the herd, but without her sight both were impossible. The mother struggled to use her other senses, but stumbled into trees and a large outcropping of boulders, and fell to the ground. The mother returned to her feet, but her wounds were severe, and she couldn’t find her way out of the trees. Many hours later, as it began to turn dark, the calf’s instincts took over, and it left its mother, knowing it must return to the safety of the herd before nightfall.

Croag knew it could take many days for the mother to die unless she took the food and water they had laced with poison berries. He hoped she would so that the hunt would end soon. This would be Croag’s seventeenth kill, seventeen years of hunting and only his right foot and two fingers lost. He thanked the Great Spirit for keeping him safe. Then he followed the mother through trees and rocky outcroppings on the journey they would finish together.

The mother continued to wander through the night, occasionally wailing in agony, more over losing her baby than for her wounds. If the mother didn’t rest soon, the men would split into groups and take turns following her, but it didn’t come to that. The mother wandered into another outcropping of jagged rocks that opened deep gashes along her belly and legs. The mother fell and didn’t return to her feet. She was exhausted. Early the next morning, the mother took the water from Croag and died as Croag tenderly held her head.

Valerie

Valerie and Steve owned a favorite vegan restaurant in Los Angeles and hadn’t had a vacation in ten years. They handed the keys to a trusted employee and took a month to explore the Alaskan wilderness. Steve had been a pilot in the navy and they rented a single engine pontoon plane, which allowed them to visit remote places few humans had seen. Nearly three weeks into their vacation, and on the way to their next outpost, the engine started to smoke. Steve looked for a landing spot, but only a large river was free from trees. The plane was thrown into a violent roll as they landed, finally coming to a stop in pieces. Valerie and Steve were uninjured, but the radio no longer worked and Steve hadn’t been able to send out a mayday. They weren’t scheduled to return to Anchorage for ten days, and Steve told Valerie they would have to walk fifty miles to the next outpost because there would be no reason for anyone to come searching before then.

Valerie and Steve gathered their belongings, which included food for two days. Steve told Valerie they would be fine and could make the fifty-mile trip in two days, but after walking for eight hours, they had barely covered fifteen miles. Steve recalculated their pace and determined the hike would take a day longer due to the rough terrain, but they could live without food for one day. They made camp along the river and watched the night sky morph out of the reds and oranges of a gorgeous sunset. They delighted over the bubbling sounds of the river and the chirping of nighttime insects. Valerie and Steve ate half their food and saved the other half for the next day, and then they fell asleep peacefully.

Valerie and Steve were awakened a few hours before dawn to the sound of something moving around the fire. Wolves were wandering around the campsite and attempting to grab the pack with food, but the fire was holding them at bay. Steve threw rocks to scare them off, but one of the wolves managed to steal the pack. Steve hoped the wolves would leave but they continued to wander nearby. Steve picked up the rifle that came with the pontoon plane and fired a round into the air, the wolves scattered, but the food was lost.

Valerie and Steve discussed their situation and decided they could survive a few days without food. They joked about the enormous Alaskan wilderness’s lack of fruits and vegetables and agreed that neither of them could survive eating pine needles. They decided that if worst came to worst, they would eat fish, they had been talking about eating fish anyway, and it would be fun to break their strict fifteen years of veganism with fish caught from a pristine Alaskan river. They laughed as they gathered their gear and set out for the long day of hiking.

 Four hours into the day Steve’s foot was caught between two boulders. They used their medical kit to place a splint on Steve’s leg, but he could only walk slowly, and they barely covered two miles before deciding to set up camp. Valerie and Steve were hungry.

The following day Valerie and Steve covered five miles, but Steve’s leg was growing worse, and they decided to eat fish. Three hours later, they hadn’t caught a single fish and were run off by a bear.

The next morning marked their fourth day after the crash, and Steve’s ankle was so swollen he couldn’t fit his boot over his foot. Steve’s skin was becoming discolored and they decided they would spend the day letting Steve rest while Valerie caught fish. But Valerie couldn’t catch any fish, they had never fished before, and catching fish wasn’t easy. Valerie and Steve were starving.

The following day brought thunderstorms, and once again, Valerie and Steve were unable to catch any fish. Steve only managed to cover a few miles. Valerie and Steve were desperate for food.

On the sixth morning after the crash, Valerie and Steve were too weak to hike and agreed they must shoot a rabbit or other small animal to avoid starving to death. Only six shells remained in the rifle and Valerie wasted two, Steve wasted another two. That night Steve vomited uncontrollably from the pain in his ankle and a lack of food, it had now been five days since they had eaten. They barely slept.

A few hours before dawn the following morning, Steve shook Valerie awake, and they walked to the edge of a small clearing. Then they waited. Steve rested the rifle on a low branch and tried not to move. Valerie laid by his side but eventually took the gun when Steve could no longer stand. Three hours later a small doe entered the clearing. Valerie steadied the rifle and aimed carefully before taking a shot. The doe fell, but it wasn’t dead and began to rise back up to its feet. Steve and Valerie ran after the deer and caught one of its back legs and wrestled it to the ground. The kicking hooves of the wild animal opened numerous cuts on Steve and Valerie, but Steve finally managed to position the rifle against the head of the doe. The frenzied deer kicked the gun out of his hands. Valerie, now covered with blood from her wounds and the doe’s bleeding flank, ran to retrieve the rifle while Steve threw himself on top of the struggling animal, pinning it to the ground.

Valerie quickly returned with the rifle and placed it to the head of the deer. The deer looked up at Valerie, and Valerie could see the animal didn’t want to die. Valerie looked at Steve, who was struggling to keep the doe down, and knew they would die if she didn’t kill the deer. Valerie pulled the trigger. The doe stared directly into Valerie’s eyes as its head exploded from the impact of the bullet, covering Steve and Valerie with blood and brain matter. The deer shuddered one final time. Valerie wept.

Jax

The night was scorching, and Jax was soaked in sweat. He had surveilled the terrorist and knew the only place the terrorist went alone was to see a dying friend in a maze of underground mountain caves. Jax looked up at the stars; there were so many. Then Jax twisted his shirt to free the accumulated sweat. It had taken two years for Jax to work his way into the caves and prepare for this day; tonight he would kill the man who had murdered so many in his country.

Sgt. Brian T. (Jax) Jackson, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, had been handpicked for the mission. It was a suicide mission, and Jax had volunteered along with five other highly trained men, but Jax got chosen because he spoke the local language and could blend into the population. Jax had second thoughts only twice, once two months after accepting the assignment when he found out his wife was pregnant, and once again when he saw a photo of his newborn son six months after he had been deployed. Jax came from a long line of military men and duty to one’s country came before all else. Jax knew that his wife didn’t understand this, that few people could, and hoped his son would follow in his footsteps.

 Jax heard a rumble in the distance. A few moments later, a fleet of vehicles arrived. The terrorist stepped out of one of the vehicles; he was surrounded by bodyguards who would remain with him until he entered the room that housed his dying friend. Jax knew that the dying man was in the last of four private rooms that lined a heavily guarded hallway. The first room was for the dying man’s secretary, the next for his bodyguards, and the third for his family, but they had all been moved before the terrorist had arrived. There was no way in or out of the hallway leading to the rooms except through a heavily guarded outer room. After the guards escorted the terrorist to the dying man’s room, they would post one guard outside the dying man’s door, and then the rest of the guards would return to the outer room. Jax knew this because he’d watched the same process fifteen times.

The terrorist and his entourage entered the mountain. Jax waited a moment and then quickly moved to an abandoned storage room where he slid a heavy crate to one side and dropped headfirst into a long, narrow tunnel. Jax traveled on his belly to a place where he removed the last foot of soil behind a wardrobe in the room normally occupied by the dying man’s family. Then Jax unsheathed his knife, slid the wardrobe away from the wall of the cave, and entered the room. Jax confirmed the room was empty and then placed his knife back in its sheath and slid the wardrobe back in place. The room was dark, and it was cool this deep in the cave, but Jax was soaked in sweat and picked up some loose clothing to wipe his forehead and eyes. Then Jax pressed his ear to the door and waited.

Jax wondered if his boy could talk and how his wife was doing. It had been four months since Jax spoke to his wife, and that was also the last time he saw his son. Jax pictured his son, Brian T. Jackson Jr., and felt pride swell up inside. Despite being designated a suicide mission, Jax hoped his careful preparation would allow him to return home. Jax felt fear and pushed it down.

A moment later, Jax heard footsteps in the hallway and retreated to the back of the room. He wedged himself behind the beds and covered himself in the loose bedding that was there. One of the guards entered the room and kicked at a few piles of clothing. Jax wondered if his mission was over, if he would fail, but drew on his determination and readied himself. The guard walked up to the pile of bedding that was covering Jax, and then kicked it, finally leaving the room a moment later.

Jax began to breathe again. Then he rose from his hiding place and once again pressed his ear to the door. He listened as the guards settled the terrorist into the room next door with his dying friend. A few minutes later Jax heard the remaining guards retreat down the hallway and close the large metal door that separated the outer room from the hallway. Jax continued to listen, trying to make sure nobody was in the hall except the guard outside the dying man’s door.

Jax didn’t want this to be a suicide mission, he wanted to watch his son grow up, hold his wife again, and see his grandchildren. Jax ran through the actions he would take in his mind. If there were more than one guard, Jax would die. If the door to the room of the dying man was open, Jax would die. If Jax didn’t kill the guard and terrorist quickly enough, or if any of the guards in the outer room heard unusual noises, Jax would die. Jax decided that he would not die, not today.

Jax slowly turned the latch of the door, then quickly pulled the door open. With two long strides, Jax jumped into the air and brought the handle of his knife down on top of the guard’s head, just as the guard was drawing his pistol. The noise of the man slumping to the floor hadn’t reached the guards in the outer room but was noticed by the terrorist, who immediately opened the door to the dying man’s room. Jax whirled toward him and slit his throat in one rapid motion. At the same time, Jax noticed out of the corner of his eye that the dying man was reaching for something, a cellphone. Jax didn’t waste time wiping blood out of his eyes, ran into the room, and cut the dying man’s throat. Then Jax returned to the terrorist and confirmed he was dead before slitting the throat of the guard, who was still unconscious.

Jax wiped the blade of his knife on the guard’s pants, stood up, and returned to the adjacent room. Jax picked up some loose clothing, wiped the blood from his face and hands, and then entered the tunnel. Jax would return home to meet his son.

Thomas

Thomas lived in a multi-million-dollar home inside an exclusive guard-gated community. He awakened in the middle of the night to urinate and heard boot steps. The toilet was located on the second floor and had a window that viewed the front of the house. Thomas looked out the window and saw a man walking down the long driveway, he stopped urinating midstream, and watched the man.

As the man got closer to the house, the security lighting switched on, and the man ran beneath the lights and hugged the wall directly beneath the bathroom window. Thomas was near panic and tried to see what the man was doing, but the man was too close to the wall of the house, and Thomas couldn’t see anything. Thomas quietly rushed back through the large master bathroom to the adjoining bedroom and woke his wife. Thomas told her what was happening and to call the guard gate immediately, and then Thomas rushed to the stairs that led to the downstairs room on the other side of the house where his two young boys were sleeping.

As Thomas started down the stairs, he heard the intruder working the lock on the front door. Thomas froze a moment too long and before he could make it down the stairs, the front door swung open. Thomas lay flat on his belly at the top of the landing. He listened without breathing as the intruder quietly closed the door and moved to the kitchen. Thomas was confused and conflicted about what action to take when he heard his wife step out of the bedroom. Thomas jumped up and wildly motioned for her to be quiet, and then he told her the intruder was in the kitchen. His wife’s instincts kicked in, and she raced down the stairs and into the kitchen before Thomas could stop her. She screamed at the intruder, telling him to leave the house.

Thomas’s boys ran from their bedroom to see what was happening. Thomas stood there, praying that the intruder would go, but he didn’t. Instead, the intruder pulled out a knife and stabbed Thomas’s wife. The boys screamed and ran to their mother, and the intruder grabbed the older boy in one arm while waving his knife wildly with the other. Thomas’s mind went blank, but adrenaline surged through his body and he ran straight at the intruder and tackled him. The intruder dropped the boy as he fell backward, landing hard on his back with Thomas landing on top of him. The intruder slashed at Thomas, cutting him deeply, but Thomas managed to pin his arm. The intruder swung his free fist at Thomas’s face while Thomas screamed for his boys to get out of the house. Thomas looked over to see if his wife was alive. She was bleeding badly, but had pulled a long knife out of the butcher block that was sitting on the large island counter and was moving toward the boys to protect them.

The intruder pushed Thomas off his body and quickly rose, swinging his knife. Thomas jumped backward and continued to scream at his family to get out of the house, but they froze and didn’t move. The intruder rushed toward Thomas, and was trying to stab him. Thomas moved backward, further into the kitchen and between the intruder and his family. The intruder jumped toward Thomas, who grabbed a large pan hanging from the rack above the stove and swung it at the intruder. The frying pan struck the arm of the intruder and Thomas heard a loud cracking noise. The intruder dropped the knife but continued coming toward Thomas, who lifted the pan to take another swing, but the blood pouring from his wounds covered the handle, and the pan slipped out of his hand.

The intruder grabbed Thomas and slammed his head onto the counter. Thomas remained conscious despite the blood pouring over his eyes, but he didn’t have enough energy to fight back. The intruder brought Thomas’s head up to slam his face onto the counter again, when Thomas’s wife picked up the frying pan and swung it hard, smacking the back of the intruder’s head with the sound of a thunderclap. The intruder fell to the floor and seemed not to move for a few seconds. Thomas’s wife went over to help Thomas but saw the intruder crawling toward the knife. She screamed to Thomas. Thomas wiped the blood out of his eyes and quickly grabbed the fallen knife and jammed it into the intruder’s throat, again and again. Thomas’s boys continued to scream. Then, suddenly, they stopped, Thomas stopped, everything stopped. The intruder was dead.

Bill

Bill had been investing his family’s money into real estate for nearly five years. They all thought they were getting rich, but Bill knew they had lost everything. His wife, his parents, cousins, and siblings, all of them. He couldn’t say that he was to blame, or that the real estate market had crashed, he just bought too much and could no longer carry the debt. He could refinance and get some cash for maybe another two years, but he had to do something extreme to save his family’s money. So, he walked into the insurance office and purchased four million dollars of life insurance. Then he waited for the suicide clause to expire.

As Bill wound his car up the mountain, he went over the details, again and again, making sure his directives were clear. He had recorded his wishes onto four different flash drives that would accompany the same number of carefully arranged stacks of documents. Bill’s children were quite young, none of them had even started school, but the money obtained from the sale of the properties and his life insurance would return everyone’s investment and leave his wife with over two million dollars. Bill had created a plan to invest that money so that each child would have a college fund and his wife would receive $80,000 per year for the rest of her life, everything was set.

The vegetation changed to pine trees as Bill wound his way further up the mountain, and he could already smell the musky scent of the forest. It was a gorgeous day, and despite being six in the morning, it was eighty degrees. The bright sun and natural beauty of the drive soothed Bill, and he felt no doubt or fear about what he was going to do. He was a man, and men died taking care of their families, that’s how it had always been. Bill looked to the passenger seat where the files sat, they were neatly color-coded and arranged in the exact sequence of his recorded instructions, there could be no chance of a mistake. Bill had mailed duplicates of the documents to his attorney, his wife, and his financial planner, making sure they wouldn’t get delivered before ten this morning. Yesterday had been the two-year anniversary of his life insurance policy, and he had called the insurance company to ask them to confirm that fact in writing. The clerical people never asked why.

Bill reached the rustic cabin he had rented for the week, and there was a large wooden porch that had an inviting hammock swinging in the morning breeze. The cabin was built out of lodgepole pine, and Bill was taken by its bucolic charm and the peaceful, earthy energy of the place. He stepped out of the car and smelled pine needles, dirt, and the faint smell of moss and damp wood. The quiet stillness of the place was interrupted only by the gentle sound of trees swaying with the wind and an occasional bird call. Bill carefully retrieved the stacks of papers and recordings from the passenger seat of his car and entered the cabin. He arranged the stacks neatly on the table and then placed a flash drive on the top of each pile with a note that read the recording should be listened to first. When Bill was confident the stacks were in order, he took one last look and then decided to make sure all the windows were closed, and the inside fan was turned off so that there could be no chance the papers would blow out of order. Then Bill went outside and grabbed a few of the stones strewn around the cabin and placed one on each stack.

Bill stepped back out onto the porch, took in the gorgeous day, and then climbed into the hammock. Bill thought about his children and how much he loved them, and he wondered how long it would be for his wife to find another man. Bill felt a panic rise within his chest when he thought that his children wouldn’t remember him, but quickly regained his determination and knew that he must provide, he must make sure his family was safe and secure. Bill thought of all the men who had died bravely in hunts or battling enemies.

After a short time, Bill rose out of the hammock and walked to the trunk of his car and took out a large box. Bill carried the box into the cabin and sat in the chair by the window where he could look out over the forest. Bill saw a few brightly colored blue jays fly past the window as they scurried from tree to tree. Bill removed a pistol from the box, carefully cleaned its chamber, and loaded just one cartridge because he didn’t want anyone to find the gun and shoot themselves by accident. Bill used a clean rag to wipe off the gun and then placed the cloth back into the box along with the remaining cartridges. Then Bill locked the box, stuffed the key in his pocket, and returned the box to the trunk of the car.

Bill went back into the cabin, put the key to the car on the table where the stacks of papers sat, and then sat in the chair by the window and looked out at the forest. Bill loved seeing dirt and pine needles scattered over the ground, so much more beautiful to look at than concrete. Then Bill shot himself.