|Silently It Creeps
“You’ve never heard of the Guilt Reaper before?” Eric Jones said.
“No, what the hell are you talking about?” Stan Bailey said, losing his cocky smile.
The two lawyers had been discussing living with the guilt their
livelihood involved just outside the courthouse in Bitternest, Louisiana. The sky was heavy with rain and lightning painted fissures in the
“The Guilt Reaper is the embodiment of guilt. Legend has it that
if you go to sleep with a guilty conscience without looking under your
bed, the Guilt Reaper will come for you after the stroke of
midnight, avenging all those wronged,”
Jones explained, a somber look on his face.
“You’re kidding, right?” Bailey said.
“Come on, Stan; your clients are the ones who are supposed to be
superstitious and cowardly, not you. You’re the star lawyer here; you’re
not going to let a silly myth scare you, right?”
“You’re forgetting that we live in Bitternest; weirder shit has
happened,” Bailey said as thunder rang like a shot from a .44 Magnum.
“It’s not like it’s the Grim Reaper or anything; there’s a way to
beat this thing: All you have to do is stay up all night and wait for
dawn. It’s powerless in daylight. But if you fall asleep …”
“Oh, that’s reassuring,” Bailey said with a hint of sarcasm.
“This is creeping you out, isn’t it?” Jones was enjoying himself.
“Don’t let it ruin your weekend, buddy. I gotta run; I’m having lunch
with my wife. Have a nice weekend and I’ll see you on Monday,” Jones
said, running for a cab.
Bailey waved goodbye and stood there for a few moments, thinking
of the wild-eyed tale his colleague had just told him. The rain started
falling; Bailey headed home.
Bailey stood staring at the pouring rain outside his living room
window. Fists clenched, he did his best to regain his calm. He’d gotten
into another fight with his wife Lara. She’d stayed at the office
working late for the third time this week. He was paranoid by nature and
he’d been suspecting Lara of cheating on him for quite some time. When
he finally confronted her over dinner, she’d denied it and she’d brought
up his drinking problem. It only fuelled his rage even more; he was over
that, hell, he hadn’t touched a bottle in months.
They’d fought ferociously for the better part of the evening; so
much that Bailey’s voice was hoarse from all the yelling. So many
hurtful things had been said, and by the time Lara was gone, he couldn’t
even remember what had triggered the whole argument. How had it
escalated to this level?
Now he was alone and everything was quiet. Too quiet. He felt an
unpleasant numbness all over his body. He often felt this way after
drinking; cloudy memory, light-headed, and sluggish. He went to their
bedroom at the end of the hall and unearthed a bottle of Jack Daniels
from behind his dresser. He decided that if he was going to feel like
shit, he might as well get plastered.
The wind picked up outside as the autumn darkness fell on the
city of Bitternest like a veil on a bruised bride. The rain had slowed and the nightly
fog hovered above the city like a vulture over a dying animal.
Bailey took a swig from the 1.5 Liter whiskey bottle and sat on
the bed. He started thinking of Lara; where had she gone? Probably in
the arms of some poor bastard cheating on
his wife. It infuriated him
to be this powerless when he was so used to being in control. As a
criminal lawyer, he hadn’t lost a case in over two years, but when it
came to his home life, it was a big old mess.
He’d defended the worst scum of Bitternest; the pimps, the dope
dealers, pedophiles, and had even gone to bat for the Mafia on a few
occasions. One didn’t do what he did without paying a price; when he
first took on these cases, he couldn’t live with himself. Defending dirt
bag after dirt bag while knowing full well that they were guilty; it got
to him and began weighing heavily on his conscience. That’s when he
became friends with Jack Daniel’s Old No 7. The bottle helped get him
through the guilt; it allowed him to have a selective conscience, much
like a light switch, turning it on and off at will. Eventually, work got
in the way of his marriage and before too long, the bottle came between
him and Lara. After much discussion (and arguments), Lara and he decided
to seek couples counseling. Bailey had given another shot at life sober.
He’d spend long periods of time without a drink, but some days
were more unbearable than others and that’s when he’d cheat and have a
few mouthfuls. He laughed out loud at the thought; he’d cheated on Lara
in a sense, telling her that he was off the booze when he was still
drinking behind her back. Now the roles were reversed. She’d been
cheating on him for weeks. She had to have been.
The grandfather clock chimed in the pin-drop silent house: it was
midnight. It brought him out of his musing in a panic. He hadn’t looked under
the bed before sitting on it. He chuckled at how silly he felt for even
thinking about—what was it Jones had called it, the
Guilt Reaper? Bailey
considered himself a rational man, but part of him was inclined to
A squishing sound coming from under the bed sent a chill down his
spine. He suddenly felt more sober than he had any other time in the
past two years. Guilt incarnated. Was this really happening? He had to
get a grip on himself; Bailey was much too old to believe in the
boogeyman and he knew it. A faint shuffling sound made him reconsider.
He was almost certain that he could hear breathing under there.
I know it’s waiting for me to put
one foot down so it can move in for the kill, he thought. Or maybe
it was just Frisbee, his Golden Retriever, sleeping under the bed.
“Frisbee, is that you, boy?”
Nothing. He whistled and leaned over the right side of the bed.
It was too dark; he couldn’t see anything. It felt as though something
had moved beneath him. He glanced at the light switch six feet away from
him; there was no way he was taking the chance.
If only Lara could see me
now; she’d make fun of me for sure, he thought.
He had to do something; maybe call someone or try to jump out of
bed and run for the front door.
“Frisbee!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.
This time he heard him bark at the other end of the house and he
could hear the dog’s paws on the floorboards scampering toward the
bedroom. When Frisbee got to the doorway, he stopped and sat hunched on
his back legs.
“What’s the matter, boy? Come to daddy! Don’t worry; we won’t
tell mommy you came into bed.”
Frisbee didn’t budge. He began growling, his eyes fixed at the
The dog’s reaction was a dead giveaway.
Now I know there’s definitely
something under the bed, Bailey thought.
All I gotta do is stay
awake until morning, Bailey thought to himself. He couldn’t believe
he was letting Jones’ stories get to him.
The dog took a few steps forward and started barking. Bailey got
the impression that the bed moved. He took a mouthful of whiskey. The
bottle was almost empty. The dog whimpered and ran into the hallway.
What had he seen under there? Beads of sweat dripped from his forehead
into his eyes.
of wind grew stronger; they blew right through the trees on the front
lawn, pounding their branches against the window. It was murky outside;
he could barely see the house across the street. His thoughts returned
to the room as he heard a low snarling sound from under him. He downed
the remaining liquor and flipped the bottle around in his hand to use it
as a club. His hand was shaking. He crawled to the foot of the bed, and
lying on his stomach, he peered at the floor. It was quiet and still
again. He looked around in the failing light to see if there was
anything he could use to reach under the bed.
Nothing in sight. It was near
pitch black in the bedroom and in the house; the only light coming from
a lamppost in the street. On second thought, he wondered if it wouldn’t
be better to just sit back, watch TV in bed, and try to stay awake until
dawn. The trick was to keep his mind busy until the sun rose. The room
spun when he tried to sit up too fast; he could already taste the
hangover he’d have in the morning. His eyes felt like he had needles in
them; it didn’t help trying to stay awake after a night of drinking
straight up Jack Daniels.
There was a shape under the sheets and he saw it slither toward
him. Bailey backed up to the wall, clutching his pillow. The shape was
the size of a small puppy. He could feel its warmth—and its smell. A
horrendous stench. It was getting closer and closer to him; it was
almost between his legs. In a few seconds it would be on him. Bailey
could hear his heart thumping in his chest, wanting to leap out. He
slowly stood up in bed, and as it was about to jump at him, the sound of
glass shattering woke him up.
He’d passed out. The bottle of Jack Daniels had slipped from his
hand and smashed on the floor. Outside, the fog was still dense, but it
was getting brighter and brighter. He checked his watch; it was almost
5 A.M. He managed to get
a few hours of sleep after all. His head felt as if it was crushed in a
vice, but at least he was still alive.
“All right, that’s it; I’ve had enough,” he said out loud.
Now that daylight was just around the corner, he didn’t feel so
terrified anymore. Besides, he desperately needed to relieve his
bladder. This waking nightmare had managed to get his mind off Lara. Now
that he felt things were returning to normal, he began thinking of her
again. A feeling of guilt washed over him. He missed her. In spite of
everything, he loved her still.
With all the courage he could muster, Bailey threw his legs over
the side of the bed, leaving them dangling in the air a few inches from
the floor. One deep breath and he’d set his feet down.
The first thing he did was turn on the lights.
So far so good.
Now, to look under the bed. He took a baseball bat from the
closet and got down on his hands and knees. He tilted his head and took
a peek. At first, all he could see were dust bunnies. Then, when his
eyes adjusted to the dimness under the bed, he saw a thick liquid oozing
from a large garbage bag.
Hesitantly, he extended his arm and reached for it. The bag’s
opening hadn’t been tied properly and something the size of a soccer
ball rolled out, stopping at his knees. He froze with fear as he grabbed
the round, hairy thing in his hands.
Then, he screamed.
Bailey dropped Lara’s head and ran out of the room, slamming the
door behind him. His hands were smeared with blood. He sat on a chair in
the living room as the pieces began fitting together in his head.
When Lara had gotten back from work yesterday, he’d been drinking
for over two hours; so much that he couldn’t walk straight. He was angry
beyond reason. He started yelling at her that she was cheating on him,
and when she accused him of being drunk, he struck her in the face. She
grabbed her coat and hurried for the door but he caught up with her. She
kicked him in the testicles and he grabbed her by the hair, smashing her
head on the wall. Lara collapsed, sobbing. That’s when he picked her up
and pinned her against the wall, strangling her. Before he knew it, she
wasn’t breathing anymore. The last thing he remembered after that was
going to the garage to get an axe.
It is said that sometimes when one is faced with too dreadful a
situation to cope with, the mind will do anything it can to preserve its
sanity, acting as an instinct of self-preservation.
Bailey picked up the phone and dialed a number.
Mr. Serrano? Stan Bailey speaking. I’m sorry to bother you this
early, but I need to call in that little favor with Don Clemenza. It’d
be to get rid of a body …”