The Reflected Forest is a series told in parts as posts in this blog, if you haven’t read the parts before this one, you can check them out here:
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Warning: this part contains quite a bit of descriptive violence!
1.6 The Reflected Forest – The Paring Knife
I rubbed my eyes and drank the rest of the cold coffee that sat, with a glossy film, in my mug. Looking out of the window, I could see the parking lot was bathed in a soft rose light. My stomach had finally settled and the pounding in my head had lessened. I felt as though I was rising out of a deep, thick mire, lost in the cramped handwriting of Sanford Coates. I wasn’t a big reader, in fact, I think the last book I’d read was in college, so it surprised me to have been so swept away.
My body screamed for me to go lie down, to get as much sleep as possible before true morning, but my mind was screaming back, just as loud, lusting after the conclusion of this dark tale.
“It was easy enough to know what had happened. My mother was right. This house, this family, this land is sick. I have smelled it in rare moments, like the rising stench of a dead cow in the fields, bloated with the high summer heat and abuzz with fat flies.
“I am burdened. I was burdened. My hatred was a poison. It had to be expunged. After we buried my beautiful mother, my father went to their bedroom and slept. He should have been wracked with guilt. He should have been restless and tormented, as I was. Instead, he barely stirred when I entered the room. It took him many precious seconds to become fully awake after I first stabbed him with my mother’s favourite paring knife.
“It’s a short knife, no more than four inches in length, but she kept it razor sharp and meticulously shined. It sliced his flesh to the bone, flaying his fingers, his palms, his arms. It punctured his throat, rendering him silent to his fate. It chipped into his ribs and into his collarbone. It sunk to its wooden hilt in his cheek and glanced off his molars. It popped his right eye and grew slicker for the ichor that burst out.
“When I stepped away from the side of the bed, his form melded with the shadows to become nothing. His humanity was consumed by violence and death. In my hand I realized I held the key that had hung around his neck. I walked down the halls, hammering on the doors of the house and left bloody handprints to blaze the trail. My great-aunt of the cow eyes, my great-uncle of the balding head and red jowls, and my darling, helpless brothers gaped after me as I went.
“I heard my great-aunt corralling the family down the stairs in as calm a manner as when she had tended to my mother. I ignored them as they fled. I went down to the cellar. I found the secret door. I unlocked it. I saw it.
“The reflected forest.
“My mother had been right. She had seen the truth of it and seen through the disguise the beast on the third floor had worn. I was not a murderer. You cannot murder something that isn’t human.
I locked the secret door. I went to the kitchen and found the jug of lantern oil.
I doused the kitchen table. I led a trail down the hall and went into every room on the ground floor, covering what I could. I found this journal on my father’s desk and took it with me outside. All it took was one match to set the house ablaze. As I write, the inferno reaches sharp pillars into the night sky, blotting out the stars and eating the moon. It is beautiful. More importantly, it is purifying.
I hear the loud trample of horses. I suppose I have sat here longer than I thought. I will end this confession here and hide this journal where I know it will be found. Though my brothers are weak of mind, they are firm in habit. They will not leave the ancestral home without visiting their grass fort one last time. They will be the secret carriers now, though they understand not what they hold.”
Coming back from the journal felt like I was slowly surfacing from a dream. Under my left thumb, I noticed an edge of a dark stain. I pulled my thumb away. It looked like a fingerprint, from someone who had held the book in the very same way I had. I shivered. It was the colour of a dark tea spill… or of an old blood stain.
I closed the journal and wiped my hands on my pyjama pants. The lack of sleep finally caught up to me and I got into bed. Lying on my back, I laced my fingers behind my head and closed my eyes. As I began to drift away, I wondered when the new Coates home had been built – so small compared to the description of the house Sanford had grown up in – and who had built it. Someone had come back.