Short Story
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                     Never Taken
                                           By C.M. Humphries


                                           I

Leaves crackled as a sudden gust of wind stirred the silence of Raven’s
Crook.  On the outskirts of the town—a place not much more elegant than
the rest of the town, but more elegant nonetheless—Lindsey jogged on the
weathered and fractured sidewalk, heading for home.  She paid no attention
to the coming nightfall, nor the leaves blowing around in small cyclones off to
the side of the street.  Fast beats and repetitive lyrics were the only items on
her mind as she exercised to the tunes coming from her MP3 player strapped
to her upper arm.  
Flickering streetlamps guided her way, but did very little to display suspicious
happenings of individuals around her.  From afar, one could see her dirty
blonde ponytail bouncing up and down along with her buttocks; her leg
muscles tightening and revealing bluish veins.  Without a shadow of a doubt,
her blood ran hot and sweet.   
From a corner, one could discover Lindsey perspiring from her forehead and
around her neck.  She was beautiful unlike most sweaty fitness junkies.   
Everything about her looked so inviting, even despite a presumably salty,
deep sweat.  
Like an angel among mere mortals, Lindsey jogged closer and closer to her
home with the slightest sign of fatigue or exhaustion.  In her hands were
nothing; not even a water bottle.  She was well-trained to the point that she
could head out for miles without breaking or desiring something to eliminate
dehydration.  Four miles today, although she had not been the one to count.  
From a splintering and collapsing porch, her mother called out, “Lindsey, get
your worthless ass over here and finish dinner,” as Lindsey crossed in front
of her driveway.  
Lindsey turned into her driveway and pressed the square stop button on her
MP3 player, and then looked towards the front door of her house.  Her
parents’ house, for one day she would be free.  She had not heard a word
her mother had said.  “Did you say something?” she asked.  
“Yes, I said something.  Jesus Christ, you and that dumb gadget Brian got
you.  You know, that boy is well-suited for you.  He’s worthless too.  Doesn’t
contribute to arr socidity.”
“Leave him the hell alone,” Lindsey called back.  She thought he mother
sounded like an angry pirate.  Or a native to sticks of Indiana.  “He loves me
and one day we’ll leave this shit hole.”
“Yeah, just like me and your father,” Lindsey’s mother said as she turned to
head back into the house.  
Lindsey shook her head as she headed up onto the porch.  She rubbed her
hand across her head and removed some of the greasy sweat that had built
up.  “Bitch,” she muttered.
Inside of Lindsey’s home was what anyone could expect from looking at the
outside.  Worn furniture, an antiquate TV, the smell of burnt meatloaf and
body odor.  What topped it all off was her family.   John, her father, was a
man in his late forties who had never achieved anything in his life.  For years
he had switched between one name-tag job to another, and for awhile, he
found himself loving unemployment.  Then, his nagging wife made him get off
his cottage cheese rear end and pick up a mechanic job.  Well, he swept the
garages at night and cleaned everything including the fecal matter on the
toilet seats.  As Lindsey entered, John remained on a ripped couch, beer in
his left hand, remote in his right.
“There she is,” he muttered as he eyed up a grease stain on his flannel
jacket.  “I have no idea where you got yer looks frem, but it sher as hell wasn’
t yer mom. “
“I can hear you,” his wife called from the kitchen.  “I wouldn’t look like this if
you’d just git a real job somewhere, one dat can actually pay for a treadmill.”
“Hell, woman,” John replied while keeping an eye on his daughter, “you’d
need a fuckin’ surgery or two ta remove all yer gut.  C’mon, Jan, you wouldn’t
even use a goddamn tread.”
“Um, I’m just going to go upstairs now,” Lindsey said as her legs turned
towards an unstable staircase.
“The hell if you arr,” Jan called from the kitchen.  “I slaved all over this food
and yer gonna eat it.  It makes me sick to see how skinny you are.”
John laughed and grabbed his hair.  “It’s only because yer mother never
looked as good as you.  Wish you weren’t my daughter.”  He chortled some
more.
Lindsey gagged and darted for the staircase just as Jan came around the
corner with a black dog that refused to walk.  Instead, it just dragged behind
Jan, on a leash, as it was brought to the front door.  “Not so fast, young
lady,” Jan said to Lindsey.  “Take Rufus for a squat.”
“Really?” Lindsey said.  “Are you serious?   I need to shower, I’m upstairs,
and you’re there with Rufus in front of the door.”
“Now,” Jan repeated as she let the chain leash fall from her hands to the
floor.  Lindsey just stared at it.  He mother walked backed into the kitchen.  
Even from outside the door’s window one could see her resentment.   
Rufus stood up for a moment and the moved to a squatting position.
“Oh no,” Lindsey cried out as she sprinted towards her dog, grabbed the
leash, and walked Rufus outside.  “Jesus H. Christ,” she muttered through
grinding teeth as she brought Rufus to the side lot.
From the porch anyone could admire Lindsey.  She was like a white trash
Cinderella.  Or, was Cinderella white trash to begin with?
“God damn it,” one could hear Lindsey say from her backside.  
As the dog relieved itself in the neighbor’s yard, a cold chill ran across
Lindsey’s shoulders, she dropped the chain and looked behind her.  
Nothing.  “Weird,” she thought aloud.   Another strong gust passed her by
and the leafless trees waved goodbye as she trotted back inside.  

                           * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lindsey toyed around with a burnt chunk of something on her plate.  Minus a
bite, the square of meatloaf was uneaten.  Jan was starting to notice her
daughter’s lack of appetite.
“My food not good enough fer ya?” Jan asked as she looked around the
table.  “Or arr ya just starving yerself again like those movie stars you like so
much.  Normal people just ain’t good enough fer you?”
Lindsey ignored her mother and pushed her plate to the side.  She scooted
her chair away from the table and then left the kitchen.
“See what you gone and done?” John asked his wife.  “You sher arr stupid
sometimes.”
“Oh yeah?” Jan replied.  “I’m stupid?  Guess what she axed me earlier?  
Huh?  Jist axe!”
“What did she ask you earlier?”  John stared at his food.  “This does taste
like shit.  I don’t blame her.”
“It’s just fine!  Anyway, she axed me if she could go ta school—cal-ledge.   
Huh?  Now who’s the dumb one?  She doesn’t need to go to no freakin’ scam-
school, now does she?”
John fought with a section of the meatloaf he had placed in his mouth.  Jan
stared him down.  “Oh, what da hell you botherin’ me fer, anway?  I don’t give
a damn if she goes to some school.  Maybe, she deserve ta.”
“She doesn’t deserve a goddamn thing,” Jan said as she threw her plate
against the wall.  Meat and ketchup littered the yellow-stained walls and ran
to the floor where Rufus was impatiently waiting.  “We can’t even aff-ford no
school fer her.”
“Not if you keep breaking arr shit, we can’t.”
                                                           
                           * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lindsey sagged against the back wall of her closet-sized room, sobbing.  How
could her mother be so malevolent towards her own daughter?  Man, how
she just wanted to get her things and go.   But, she knew she would never
make it far.  Her parents had no money, so neither did she.  She felt like an
outcast and was treated all the same.  Nevertheless, she had always found
strength and never given up.  
Lindsey stood up, turned around, and peered out of the window.  Somewhere
out there had to be someone else just like, waiting just like her for a shot at
something more.  Even mediocrity seemed redeeming.  
Then, like a ghost leering around the corners of a nightmarish haunted
house, Lindsay saw a broad figure in the reflection on the glass.  The dark
outside world made her window like a mirror.  A lump built in her throat and
her lips began to quiver.  
Dad?  Lindsey began to wonder—
--In one fell swoop, Lindsey turned around to meet the arms of a faceless
stranger all before being grabbed, swung, and thrown out of her closed
window.  The world spun.  And with a giant thud, Lindsey met with her gravel
driveway as shards of glass rained down from her room.  The world grew
black as the stranger watched from her window while she faded away.  

                                           II.

Her eyelids stuck together as though glued.  Lindsey fought to open her
eyes.  The more she fought, the more it hurt.  A sharp pain shot across her
face as she gave it one more attempt.  A quick squirt of blood spilled along
the cement floor in front of her, underneath a small, dangling light.  Some of
it ran down her face.  
While the blood was certainly startling, the sight before Lindsey was much,
much worse.  In a circle, five other young women were strapped to chairs—
each one of them with their eyes closed or dried blood along their cheeks.  
Clone-like. Staples sealed their mouths shut.  Metal claps pressed their wrists
against armrests.
“Oh my god,” Lindsey wanted to scream before realizing that, she too, had
her mouth sealed shut.  She wanted to cry, but her eyes burned too much.  
She wiggled her lips around.  Thank goodness, she thought.  She felt a
sticky cloth across her lips; not a steel plate.  Duct tape, she told herself.        
Blop.  Drip.  The subtle dripping of water from a busted pipe suggested to
Lindsey that she was in a basement.  
Then there was the stranger.  He wore a plain, white flesh-colored mask that
bared no emotion.  He was tall and fit.  Such a man could very well flip a SUV
on his own, which would make tearing a human being in half much simpler
and much less grueling.
He walked towards the girl closest to him, a weak light revealing only
indistinguishable sections of his upper body.  His face remained prominent,
however.   He took a deep breath and exhaled along the girl’s neck.  Out of
the five, this girl looked the closest to Lindsey.  He said, “Do you love
someone?”
The girl shook herself in the chair as if she was being electrocuted.  His
question alone brought misery and pain to the girl.  
He asked the question again, and she still didn’t answer.  The stranger pulled
a large pocket knife from his right pocked and brought out the blade.  He
pressed it against her bottom eyelid.  Though she could not see, the girl
obviously felt the presence of the knife, for she squirmed and mumbled
different pleads for her life.  
“Do you love someone?” he asked again, his voice deep and scratchy.  
At another failed response, the stranger ran the knife against the bottom of
her eye and cut out the flesh.  Underneath the plate, Lindsey could still hear
her scream.
“Answer me!” he demanded.  Without giving her enough time to respond, the
stranger whipped the knife along her throat.  A monsoon of blood stained the
girl’s white shirt and before long, her head dangling off the side of her neck,
holding onto a few bones and veins as the flesh started to rip as though
perforated.  
The stranger walked over to the next girl and did the same.  She even tried
to answer.  
It wasn’t before long that Lindsey was one girl away from being dead.
“And you?” the stranger said to the girl.  
This girl’s eyes were wide open.  Her entire face quivered and her body went
through convulsions.  “Yes,” the managed to squeak out from behind the
plate.
The stranger grabbed the side of the metal and ripped it off of the girl’s face.  
Blood-covered screws and lumps of flesh fell to the floor.  “What?” he asked.
The girl spat out a pool of blood and struggled to form words with her
deteriorated lips.  
Pressing the knife against the corner of her left eye, the stranger demanded
a more proper answer.  The girl only squealed.
The eye rolled towards Lindsey as the stranger made his way along.  
Looking over at the girl, Lindsey discovered that the stranger had not killed
everyone.  In fact, two of the girls were only injured, though they might soon
die from bloodloss.  
Lindsey glanced back over at the stranger.  He vanished.