Hunter’s eyes dropped to the floor. Horrified she watched blood drip, drip, drip onto the aisle beside her feet. It came from the cabin that held her suitcase above.
In truth she didn’t know how she got here or why that suitcase was hers. She was coming out of a stupor, a drug-induced amnesia it seemed, and was trying to remember, trying to put it all together:
Just an hour ago, she had watched each toe swing into view as she had started to come to – one foot in front of the other: click, click, click.
She’d felt a weight in her right hand: a steel handle dragging a suitcase behind over gravel and concrete. She’d looked up. She was headed for the bus depot! But why?
She’d felt inside her pockets and pulled out four things: a ticket, a key tied to a tag that read #15, another smaller key, and a note. She’d stopped. The ticket was a one way to Gravesmouth. On it was a name. She said it aloud, “Hunter Price.” She assumed it was hers.
She’d opened the note and read: Get on the bus. Do not call attention to yourself. Suitcase remains closed at all times until you get to Motel 26, room 15. Do not talk to anyone!
She had nowhere else to go. Once on the bus, night fell fast and early. Tiny lights scoured down carving shadows into skeletal cheeks and hollow eyes.
It was a slow trip of empty roads and tall trees with a few memories slipping back in: a scuffle, a knife, some blood and someone screaming…
Flipping back to the present: horrified, Hunter watched blood drip, drip, drip onto the aisle beside her feet. It came from the cabin that held her suitcase above.
There was a man in front listening to some music, and an old woman behind who seemed to be sleeping. Hunter’s hand flew up and switched off the light. She took off her dark, wool coat, removing the contents of the pockets and putting them in her purse. She laid her coat on the floor, using it to sop up the crimson evidence of something she hoped she wasn’t guilty of.
Hunter slid out of her seat. She would have to pull the suitcase down to stop the blood. She quietly opened the cabin and padded her hand around for the handle. Another hand moving in behind made her jump. It was the man from the seat in front. “I can sure help you with that ma’am.”
“No!” She said.
He seemed surprised.
“It’s not as heavy as it looks.”
The man looked puzzled. He reached in again, “You sure. It ain’t no bother.”
“Yes!” She snapped. “You should never do for someone what they can do for themselves, right?”
Puzzled, the man nodded his head and sat back down. “Just bein’ polite.”
“Thank you,” she said.
He turned back to his seat and put his headset back on.
Hunter removed the suitcase. Sitting down, she pulled it in close and pressed the coat around it with her foot. What had she gotten into?
Arriving at Gravesmouth, everyone scattered from the depot quickly; even the driver had run inside to get some smokes. It was desolate except for a sole black cab that appeared to be waiting for her.
Soon she was inside #15, alone with the case. Peeking through the blinds to make sure no one saw her come in, she locked the door. Turning back, she swallowed hard, then fumbled for the little key in her purse. She shoved it into the lock of the case and rattled it back and forth as hard and fast as she could. What the Hell was inside? As the latch finally broke open, she flung the lid back.
She gasped as she saw a face beneath some thick plastic and a pair of hands cupped around the chin.
Shaking, Hunter grabbed a pen and paper from the nightstand and wrote a quick “Do not disturb” note to post on the door, but she was arrested by something familiar. She dropped the pen. She stepped back. Ice rippled up her spine.
She pulled the note from her purse and held it beside the one she just scrawled. The writing was the same. It was hers. Had she written that note of instructions to herself? If so, why? Why would she do that?
Hunter rushed back to the suitcase. She ripped the plastic off the face – at once hit with a disturbing smell and the disgusting sight of a neck that had been sawed through: flesh, blood and bones, mushed with crushed pearls.
She bolted backwards. Again something was familiar. The face: she knew this face – the mole, the scar. And then the hands, she knew the ring… What the Hell was going on? Was she crazy?
She rushed to the bathroom, turned on the taps. She splashed herself with water.
“This can’t be happening. It’s not happening,” she said looking up at her face – Her face! She leaned in closer to the mirror.
Her lips trembled uncontrollably. Her body shook and her knees were giving out.
This was the face she saw in the trunk. She touched the grooves in her cheeks, stole a finger over the mole on top of her lip, caught the shine of that ring and the pearls. Was it her? Was that her head? If so, what was she? Was she alive or was she dead?
A hard pounding made her gasp. It was the door. Maybe it was the police, but what would they think if they saw her in the flesh and her head in the suitcase? Maybe they’d think she was a magician or that she’d killed her twin. Did she have a twin? Maybe she was hallucinating.
Another pounding shook the walls. They weren’t the only ones who wanted answers, she thought. She wanted them too and she was ready to face whatever this was, no matter how terrifying.
She ran back into the other room. The panes trembled and there was a deep rolling under the floor. A massive shadow stood outside the door.
“I want my merchandise!” its horrific voice yelled.
Hunter froze, her mind unraveling, as the door blew off and the panes flew out with a force that sucked her into the air and threw her against a wall, falling at the shadow’s feet.
“I like it when my commodities deliver themselves in pieces,” the voice blasted.
And suddenly Hunter understood. It all came back to her in a flash. She’d done one bad thing after another her whole life. She’d been on one long trip to Hell, and someone had made sure she’d get there quickly – possibly her husband.
She, a humble ghost, had delivered her own head to the Almighty Fallen Angel. She had arrived…