1 car ride Car ride

You look despairingly out through the window, watching the pine trees pass you by. You roll your eyes. Stupid pine trees. There hasn’t been anything but pine trees for the last couple of days. Oh and some fields, pine trees and fields, nothing else. You have never been this far away from your home before, at least not by car.  You try to sing-a-long with Justin Bieber, blaring from your headphones, but you are just too angry to concentrate on baby, baby, baby-oooh. You cross your arms tightly over your chest, glaring at your ten-year-old little brother Matthew. Not that he in any way is to blame for your mood. He is just the one sitting closest to you. You are so annoyed at that little shit. Sitting there, having the good seat, not caring to look out the window, where a couple of houses and a barn quickly flash by. Matthew suddenly looks up from his book and smiles at you. You immediately smile back. Damn it! Little brat! You look to the front seats of the car where your mom and dad are sitting. You slowly blow out air between half open lips. It would make you even more angry if your parents saw that you are in a better mood now, and actually able to smile. You quickly look back at Matthew, putting your forefinger to your lips. Matthew nods and gives you a little smile back, before he adjusts his glasses and returns to the book he is reading. You turn your attention back on the fields and pine trees. At least you can listen to Justin B... You don't even have time to think the thought through, before Justin's beautiful voice disappears. You look down on your telephone in disbelief, no signal. Just as you thought that your life couldn't get any worse than this. You rip your headphones off, getting them entangled in your long, blond hair. "Son of a b..." You shut your mouth tight. You are not that angry, that you don’t care about swearing when your mom is nearby. She hates it like the plague. You decide to shriek out in frustration instead...

"Arrrrrrh!"

Your dad jumps so high in his seat that he bangs his head on the ceiling. "Sweet Jesus, that hurt!" He starts rubbing his head with his right hand.

“What now Jessica?" Your mom looks at you, in the rear-view mirror for just a second, before she turns her eyes back on the road. "You know you shouldn't make any high, sudden noises. It scares your dad."

You throw your arms out in frustration. "My phone doesn't have any signal.”

"Well Sweety. None of our phones have any signal out here. That was the hole point about this trip, right? Getting out of the city for a while. No distractions." Your mom gives your dad a quick glance, before turning right, off the highway. "You know how much good it does your dad."

Most of your frustration seeps out of your body, as your dad turns around in the passenger seat and gives you a tired smile. He is still rubbing his head. "Jessica, you know this means the world. Dr. Middleton said, that this is really good for me, you know? I get a break from all the noises and stress of the city. It really calms me down. Dr. Middleton also said, that being out here in the nature with my family, is one of the best things to help me relax."

You look out through the window again, guilt making it hard to look your dad in the eye. You mumble, while still looking out the window. "I just don't see why it has to be this week, of all weeks of the year. All the others are going to Spring Break down in Cancun. Chad is going to be there! That is really important too!"

Your dad nods slowly, trying to turn around before you see the disappointment in his eyes. That makes you even more frustrated, knowing that you made, your dad even more sad than he already is. You are just about to promise yourself, that you will think of your father's needs instead of your own for the entire week. But then your mom starts talking.

"I simply can't believe you Jessica. You are behaving like a spoiled brat, when you know how your dad is feeling these days.”

"Please Beth, she is ju..."

"No Frank. You will not defend your daughter on this one! If Dr Middleton says, that it will do you good to spend a week in that cabin. We will spend a week in that cabin!"

"But mom, Spring Bre.."

"And!" Your mom is yelling now. "If Dr. Middleton says, that we should live in that darn cabin for a year, we'll do that too! You got that Missy?!"

You wrap your arms even tighter across your chest. "You don't tell me what to do I'm twenty-one yea.."

Your mom suddenly turns right and less than gently, parking the screeching car on the side of the road. "Step out of the car, Jessica." Your mom doesn't even wait for your reply, but steps out and walks stiffly, around fifty meters away from it. Then she turns around, looking directly at you, tapping her right foot on the ground while resting her arms on her hips, mouthing NOW!

"Better get out there Jess," whispers your dad, as if he was afraid, that your mom was going to hear him, fraternizing with the enemy.

"Fine. But only because you say so." You slowly get out of the car, turning around to shut the door.

"You're in trouble now," says Matthew matter-of-factly.

You slam the door shut without saying anything, walking slowly towards your mom.

The sun is bright, so you put on your sunglasses. At least you are getting a nice tan, wearing tight cowboy shorts and a loose white tank-top. You smile at that, knowing that your mom hates when you wear what she calls "inappropriate outfits."

You stop in front of your mom, making every step as slow as possible, but not enough to make her explode with righteous anger.

Your mom is giving you her most stern look then takes a deep breath.

Here it comes you think to yourself.

But to your surprise, your mom just blows all the inhaled air out. She looks like she is unable to find the words she is looking for. "Do you know how bad it is with your dad, Jessica?"

You bite your lower lip. You have a pretty good idea. He hasn't really been able to sleep properly since he got back from Iraq. You also know, that he is on sick leave from the military due to his PTSD. You have heard your mom and dad argue about money, medical bills and the situation regarding your old neighbour Mr. Flowerblossom. There had been a lot of trouble with Mr. Flowerblossom's dog. It was a little annoying Beagle, which was always chained to its dog house in the front yard. It barked every single night. It barked at moving cars, people walking by or just barked at the moon.

Your mom and dad had complained a lot to Mr. Flowerblossom, about the noise of his dog. Everyone in your house were lacking sleep. It was a wonder, how any of the neighbours could sleep soundly with all that barking. But your dad was getting the worst of it. The constant barking of the dog was sometimes triggering severe flashbacks for your dad, making him think that he was in the middle of some horror back in Iraq. You and Matthew usually stayed in your rooms, letting your mom help your dad calm down during these flashbacks. Mr Flowerblossom was well aware of the condition of your dad. He just didn't care, saying that this was America and that he was free to have dogs if he wanted to.

Then one day it knocked on your door. It was two police officers, who said that someone had strangled the Beagle, with a pair of shoelaces and left it in its doghouse. Mr. Flowerblossom must have told the police about your neighbouring feud and that was why your dad was the only suspect. Your dad denied everything and said that Mr Flowerblossom had probably done it himself, trying to frame him.

After the episode, your mom, dad and your dad's psychiatrist Dr. Middleton had agreed that it would be a clever idea to get out of the city for a little while, but still within the state limits. So yeah, you know that the condition of your dad isn't that good.

You are just about to answer your mom, when you suddenly hear the loud screeching noise of tires right behind you. It sounds like a car is about to run you over! You quickly look over your shoulder, seeing a green, battered pickup truck driving towards you! The truck stops less than a meter from you, the passenger door next to where you are standing. You can hear loud, country music coming from inside the truck “Becky was a beauty from south Alabama. Her daddy had a heart like a nine-pound hammer.” The passenger window rolls down, making the music sounds even louder. “Think he even did a little time in the slammer.” A handsome man around his mid-twenties grins at you from the passenger seat. He has a buzzcut and has a clean-shaven face. He looks quite attractive in a bad boy kind of way. He looks you up and down, smiling a half smile, showing a gold front tooth. What you thought was a large, dark freckle under his right eye is actually a tear-shaped tattoo. You look into the stranger's eyes for what feels like an eternity. Then you suddenly hear a furious roar behind you. The roar of your dad. You turn around and see him come running at full speed. You have seen that face a couple of times before, when something triggers your dad’s PTSD flashbacks and that is never a good thing. But the driver was less than a meter away from hitting you with the truck.  The stranger hasn’t seen him yet, but says "Did you hear something?” to you and then says to the driver. “Turn the music down god damn it!" The driver quickly turns it down.  

Will you try to stall the stranger so your dad gets a chance to teach him a lesson, or warn the stranger about the fact, that he pissed your dad off and that it is a dangerous thing to do. 

 

1 Warn the stranger

Or

2 Stall the stranger

1 2
2 Warn the stranger Warn him

“You better start driving, before my dad catches you!”

“I ain’t scared of your daddy, girl.” The charming smile on the stranger’s lips suddenly disappears. “Have you seen this?” he points to the drop tattooed on his face. "Do you know, what that means?” He doesn’t wait for you to reply but leans back in his seat. “Tell her what it means, Red!”

“Fuck that,” says Red. “Tell her yourself!”

You get a quick glimpse of Red’s ugly, puffed face, sitting on the driver’s seat before the stranger blocks out your vision again, looking you in the eye. “It means I killed a man. That’s right. I beat him to death.”

“Come on Darryl,” yawns Red, scraping dirt from his fingernails, with a big hunting knife. “You ain’t beaten no one. Well, not beaten them to death anyway.”

Darryl is just about to turn around in his seat to reply, but then Red starts yelling in surprise. You watch as your dad yanks the door to the truck open, screaming “You trying to pull a knife on my daughter, huh?”

“No man,” yells Red, completely taken by surprise. “I was just cleaning my nails with my ol’ huntin’ knife.” You notice that Red is already regaining his composure. “But if I were you, I would definitely back off, before someone gets hurt.”

Your dad still has this weird expression on his face. He suddenly looks at you. “Are you all right Jessica? Did they do anything to you?”

Red and Darryl look at each other with confused expressions. “What the fuck man,” says Darryl. “We were just talking man, relax.”

“Shut up!” yells your dad, spit flying from his mouth. “Are you ok Jessica?”

The situation is quickly escalating way out of control. You have to decide whether you want to calm your dad by letting him know, that you are all right, or fuel the fire by telling him, that they scared you by almost running you over with the truck.

1 Fuel the fire

Or

2 Calm your dad

1 2
4 Fuel the fire Fuel the fire

You start sobbing. “Oh my God daddy! They nearly killed me with their truck. I’m so scared!”

No one else have time to do anything, before your dad starts punching Red in the face, screaming like a maniac. You look over your shoulder, at your mom who is yelling at your dad to leave the poor man alone. Darryl has already turned around in the passenger seat moving his hand behind his back. You stand completely still as you notice the cold steel of the gun, reflecting the light of the sun. “He has a gun!” You scream as loud as you can, but your dad is too focused on beating Red up. He has pulled Red out of the car and even managed to wrestle the knife out of his hand. You are completely frozen to the spot, as everything around you move tremendously fast. You can’t figure out whether your dad is about to stab Red, it seems like Darryl isn’t taking any chances. At least he is aiming the gun right at your dad. You notice at the corner of your eye, that your mom is running around the pickup truck towards your dad. She rams her body into your dad’s, making him lose his balance. At that exact moment, Darryl choose to pull the trigger. The loud blast from the pistol rips you out of your trance and you start to scream at the top of your lungs. Especially because, the bullet seemed to hit your mom!

You hear Darryl curse in the following silence. He quickly manoeuvres himself to the driver’s seat looking out through the open door. “You stay down there, man, or you get a bullet like your wife did!” He points the gun out beyond your line of sight, probably at your dad. “You ok Red?”

You hear a muffled sound as Red says something incomprehensible. Darryl quickly jumps back to the passenger seat followed by a beaten Red, who slowly starts up the truck. Darryl looks you in the eye for a couple of seconds, before he rests the gun on your forehead. “I’m gonna kill you too, if you ever tell anybody about this. You hear me?”

You are only able to nod your head, as tears fall down your cheeks. “You made a big mistake,” says Darryl as the pickup truck starts moving away, going faster and faster in a trail of dust. You can see your dad, sitting on the road, with your mom’s head in his lap, rocking her gently back and forth. He looks up at you, with a blank expression on his face. “They killed her…” It looks like realization dawned on him the moment he uttered the word. He slowly stands up, resting her head gently on the ground. “I have to make this right.” He starts running to the car, just as Matthew jumps out and starts running to your mom’s lifeless body. You quickly intercept Matthew, holding him tightly, even though he tries to resist you. “You are not going to watch this Matthew!”

You try and call for your dad, just as he speeds away in your car. It looks like he is going to chase Darryl and Red, for what they did to his wife. All you can do, is pray that you don’t lose your dad the same day you lost your mother.     

THE END      

Back
5 Calm your dad  Calm your dad

You are completely taken by surprise, by how quickly the situation has escalated. Of course you will do anything possible as to not make it any worse.

“Yes I’m ok, daddy. Nothing happened. They were just going a little fast that’s all.”

Your dad still looks wild-eyed between you, your mom and the two men in the truck. Your mom quickly walks over to your dad, wrapping one arm around him while rubbing her other hand on his shoulder. You can see his body relaxing as soon as he feels your mother’s touch. The crazed expression on his face slowly disappears. “I… I’m sorry,” says your dad as he is slowly being lead back to the car by your mom.

Darryl looks at you with a frowning expression. “Your dad is crazy.” Then the truck speeds away, down the road. You turn around and follow your parents back to the car.

Your dad looks at you with a tired smile, when you are all back in the car. "I'm sorry. I kind of overreacted back there."

"You think?" says your mom as she starts the car.

No one really says anything for the next couple of hours. Everyone is too deep in their own thoughts.

"Frank, Honey. We need to stop for some gas" says your mom. "We are running quite low. How about we make a stop at the next gas station and maybe buy some snacks. I think we will arrive at the cabin within the next couple of hours.”

Your dad nods. "That’s a good idea Beth. There was a sign a few miles back. It said 20 until the next one." Your dad looks over his shoulder at you and Matthew and gives you a big smile. "You kids want some snacks?"

You soon arrive at the gas station. Everybody seems to be in a much better mood and have forgotten about the incident with the pickup truck.

"Frank do you want to come with us or would you rather just wait in the car?" asks your mom.

"Oh. I think I'm going to walk around a little bit. Get the blood going in my legs. Can you buy me some chocolate please?"

"Sure," says your mom as she watches your dad walk away from the car, whistling.

Your mom takes Matthew with her outside, next to the gas pump. You take in your surroundings. The sun is low in the sky, behind a huge forest of pine trees. It gives the place an almost red, surrealistic hue. You can't see any other people and the gas station itself looks almost abandoned, even though there is light from within the store. You are used to big corporation gas stations and not run down, private ones like this. The gas station looks like it was built somewhere in the fifties. The store itself is made of wood. Everything around you, looks like it needs a thorough makeover or just levelled with the ground.

"I'm going to see if I can find a bathroom." You start making your way towards the store.

"All right, Jessica. We'll meet you inside." Your mom turns her attention back to the gas pump.

You hear the soft jingle from the bell above the shop’s door, as you push it open. You involuntarily take a step back, as the smell from inside hits you. It is a mix between the smell of old libraries and hospitals. You really need to pee, so you step inside, closing the door behind you.

The store looks even older inside than it did on the outside. It is filled with wooden shelves and cabinets. Most of them are halfway empty and a lot of the wares have been knocked over on the shelves. The owner has not even bothered putting them back in their right position. A lot of the items on the shelves don't even seem to belong there. There is a stuffed squirrel, an ancient dreamcatcher and what seems to be a well-used nightgown among a lot of other items. The walls are filled with old commercial posters. So old that you don't even recognise the brands on them. You look to the counter, where you see an old man in spotted overalls, wearing no shirt and a greasy, old felt cowboy hat. He leans over the counter, squinting his eyes. You notice the trophy of a moose head hanging high on the wall behind the old man. Half of its fur has fallen off and it misses one of its glass eyes.

"What can I do you for, baby girl?" says the man as he scratches his scraggly, white beard.

"Where's the ladies room?"

"Phaw!" scoffs the old man. "We ain't got no ladies out here. The loo is out the back." The man points. "Out younder."

You thank him and turn around.

"Wait a minute girlie girl!"

You slowly turn around. The old man is removing the lid of a big glass jar on the counter. The jar is filled with liquid and some white, oval shapes bobbing around in it. He puts his dirty hand down in the liquid and grabs one of the shapes, holding it out towards you. "Pickled egg?"

You swallow hard. "Oh, I’m all right. Thank you, sir."

"Phaw," says the old man as he shoves it into his mouth, the liquid running down his chin and onto the counter. " Probably ain't got them eggs in the big city eh? Suit yourself girl."

You turn around again and walk towards the back of the store, where the bathroom should be. You find a door at the back with a sign above it which says toilet.  As you walk inside, you are being greeted by an even fowler smell than you did before. The bathroom is in poor condition, to say the least. There is a pissoir to your right. It looks like the men using it are not bothered at all whether they piss in it or around it. To your left is the only toilet booth in the room. It is the kind where the designer thought, that there should be a gab at the top and bottom of the booth, giving the person inside no privacy at all. Which is even more needed by the fact that, this is a unisex toilet, and a nasty one as well.

You walk inside and lock the door behind you. "Oh my god," you say to yourself. Someone has been using the toilet not long ago. The person didn’t even care about flushing. You try not to look to closely at the mess in the toilet, as you push the flush button. You decide to squat down on the toilet seat. There is no way in hell that you are going to sit on that filthy thing.

When you are done peeing and about to pull your panties up, you notice a reflection close to the floor. As you look down you see a hand holding a little pocket mirror, you even get eye contact with the man holding it! You yell in frustration. That old fart is a Peeping Tom! You quickly pull up your shorts and rip the door open. "Just wait until I tell my mom about thi..." As you storm out of the booth you notice to your horror, that it isn't the old man, standing there grinning in front of you. It is the man Red, the one your father engaged only a few hours ago. Red stands in front of you blocking the path to the exit door. His arms crossed over his chest. He gives you a big smile, showing two missing front teeth. He just stands there smiling, sliding his tongue back and forth through the gap in his teeth.

"Well, well, well. What do we have here? Where's that crazy dad of yours. Huh, Sweetheart?"

You try and push past Red, but he pushes you back against the wall, hard. "Not so fast little lady. I’m still quite mad, about the way your dad treated me." Red grabs you by your shoulders, pressing you harder against the wall as he leans in close. "What do you think you can do? To make your old friend Red happy again, huh?"

You look at Red's ugly face which is mere inches from yours. He stinks of tobacco, old sweat and booze. He looks down your cleavage, an almost animalistic expression on his puffed face. "Mhhh that looks nice." He moves one hand to grab you around your throat and the other one down towards your breasts. You are pretty sure about, what is going to happen, if you do not try and resist him.

You have to decide whether you want to attack him physically. A knee in the groin might be enough. You have seen plenty of movies where the perpetrator gets kicked in the balls by the damsel in distress. The problem is, that this isn't a movie. A lot of things could go wrong. Maybe Red will hurt you more, if you try and hurt him. The other possibility, is to scream for help as loud as you can. Maybe the old man or your mother would hear you calling? Maybe it doesn't take more to scare Red away. So will you call for help or try to fend Red off by yourself?

 

1 Call for help

Or

2 Fend him off yourself

1 2
3 Stall the stranger Stall the stranger

You shyly brush your hair away from your face. "Hello there stranger. Doesn’t your friend know how to drive a car?"

The young man laughs and leans back in his seat, looking at the driver of the truck. "Did you hear that Red. The lady doesn’t think you know how to drive a car." The stranger lifts one eyebrow, smiling at you. “I'm Darryl by the way.” As Darryl leans back in his seat, you are able to see Red more clearly. You are pretty sure that Red got his name from his red, swollen face. He looks like a man who spends too much time out in the scorching sun, drinking beer. Red is wearing a black, baseball cap, which says DRUNK! on it. There is something quite scary about the way Red looks at you, eyes greedy, licking his lips. You suddenly feel a hand on your shoulder. You look to your right and see your mom standing next to you.

"What in god's name are you doing?! You almost drove your truck into my daughter!"

Darryl scrunches his face as if he just ate a lemon. "Sorry 'bout that ma'am. We were just in a little hurry you see. Red and I. We got places to be. People to see."

Red turns towards his side of the car and spits black snuff out of the open window. "Ain't my fault, the road got gravel on it."

You suddenly remember your dad running towards the pickup truck. As you look back into the truck. You see your dad standing right in front of the door on Red's side. You have never seen an expression like that on your dad's face before. His face is completely blank, yet there is clearly something going on behind his numb expression. A thousand wrinkles suddenly explode on your dad's face, as he snarls more like an animal than a man. He rips the door open with one hand and grabbing Red’s collar with the other.

"What the fu..." Red doesn't even have time to say anything else, before your dad pulls him out of the truck. Both you, your mom and the stranger yell in surprise as everything goes extremely fast. Darryl quickly jumps out of the truck and runs around it, followed by you and your mom.

When you arrive on the other side of the truck, you see Red being pressed up against it’s side. Your dad has a handful of Red's hair in his clenched fist. His other arm is pressed hard against Red's throat, making him stand on his toes.

Both you, your mom and Darryl stop dead in your tracks. Your dad looks like an angry bull. Red looks like a fat, scared pig. Every muscle in your dad's body is bunched up, making his veins stand out. It doesn't make your dad look less lethal as he stands there in his military shorts and black T-shirt. His left arm is covered in tattoos and not the playful, cute kind of tattoos.

"What are you doing Frank. Let him go!" Screams your mom. "Think about what Dr. Middleton said!"

"Ahm yeah," peeps Darryl. "Think about the good doctor.”

"Gaargh," says Red. The colour on his face transcending from red to a dark shade of purple.

It looks like your dad just keeps on pressing. Just as Darryl is about to advance on your dad, he suddenly releases Red, who sacks to the ground with a dry, rasping sound.

Everybody stands still. No one is saying anything. You just look at your dad in horror. You notice his hands are clenched and his whole body is shaking. Then he suddenly turns around and marches back to the car.

Darryl runs over and squats down next to Red. "Are you ok man?" As he squats down, his T-shirt gets pulled up a bit. You see metal glinting in the sun. It's a gun. Your mom takes your hand leading you towards the car. "We are going, now Jessica!"

"Nice to meet Y'all," mumbles Darryl.

You turn around, seeing him help Red up from the ground. Red has an expression of furious anger on his face. You turn your head back and follow your mom to the car. Your dad is already in his seat, sitting with his head in his hands, covering his face. He almost jumps out of his seat as you open the door and get in. He quickly covers his face again. "I am so sorry."

You can hear his voice is shaking. "I don’t know what happened. Suddenly I was choking that poor guy. Choking him like I did back in Ir..."

"There, there. " You watch as your mom tenderly wrap her arms around your dad. Padding him on his broad back. You look at Matthew, who just sits quietly and examines his fingers, wringing them together. You wrap your arm around Matthew. He looks up and gives you an appreciative smile. It is obvious to you that the thing your dad is going through, is clearly affecting the entire family. You hope that the truck blocked out Matthews view, so he was spared from seeing what his dad is capable of. It is a sight that you yourself will never forget. You suddenly hear a screeching of tires as the pick-up truck speeds away, going as fast if not faster than it did before. You follow it with your eyes.

You have no idea how long you sit in the car. Your mom kept caressing your dad until he finally stopped shaking and mumbling, which seemed like an eternity. Your dad turns around looking at you and Mathew in turn. He looks like he is back to be his tired, normal self. "I'm so sorry guys, can you forgive me?"

Matthew nods eagerly.

You try to smile." Of course, dad."

He gives you a tired, sad smile and turns back in his seat. Silence fall over the car for the next couple of hours. It seems like everyone is feeling bad about the situation. You think that your dad is probably more ill than you had suspected. It doesn't take long, before your attention gets drawn back to the handsome stranger. You slowly mouth his name, Darryl. There was something alluring about him. He seemed like a guy who knew how to handle himself. A guy who had seen a bit of everything. Not like Chad who were always bragging about things he hadn’t actually done. You wish you had signal on your phone, so you could check if there was a specific meaning to the tattooed teardrop, Darryl had under his eye. You think you have heard about it before but are not sure from where. Maybe something rappers have. You don’t really remember.

"We need to stop for gas," says you mom. "We are running quite low. Let's stop on the next gas station and maybe buy some snacks. I think we will arrive at the cabin within the next couple of hours.

Your dad nods. "Yeah good idea. I saw a sign a few miles back. It said 20 until the next one."

No one says anything until your mom park the car at the gas station. Everybody is clearly still affected by your dad's sudden fit of anger. It seemed like he became a completely different person back by the pickup truck. What is almost more worrying, is that he didn’t seem to remember what had happened, not in detail anyway. Like something inside him just switched to auto pilot.

"Just stay in the car, Frank. Ok?" Your mom looks at him with an almost fearful expression. Your dad doesn't reply. He just stares out the window. "Hey Frank, Honey! I'm talking to you!"

Your dad jerks back to reality, looking wide eyed at your mom. "Yes of course. I stay here."

You mom takes Matthew with her outside, next to the gas pump. You take in your surroundings. The sun is low in the sky, behind a huge forest of pine trees. It gives the place an almost red, surrealistic hue. You can't see any other people and the gas station itself looks almost abandoned, even though there is light from within the store. You are used to big corporation gas stations and not run down, private ones like this. The gas station looks like it was built somewhere in the fifties. The store itself is made of wood. Everything around you look like it needs a thorough makeover or just levelled with the ground.

"I'm going to see if a can find a bathroom." You start making your way towards the store.

"All right, Jessica. We'll meet you inside." Your mom turns her attention back to the gas pump.

You hear the soft jingle from the bell above the shop’s door, as you push it open. You involuntarily take a step back, as the smell from inside hits you. It is a mix between the smell of old libraries and hospitals. You really need to pee, so you step inside, closing the door behind you.

The store looks even older inside than it did on the outside. It is filled with wooden shelves and cabinets. Most of them are halfway empty and a lot of the wares has been knocked over on the shelves. The owner has not even bothered putting them back in their right position. A lot of the items on the shelves doesn’t even seem to belong there. There is a stuffed squirrel, an ancient dreamcatcher and what seems to be a well-used nightgown among a lot of other items. The walls are filled with old commercial posters. So old that you don't even recognise the brands on them. You look to the counter, where you see and old man in spotted overalls, wearing no shirt and a greasy, old felt cowboy hat. He leans over the counter, squinting his eyes. You notice the trophy of a moose head hanging high on the wall behind the old man. Half of its fur has fallen off and it misses one of its glass eyes.

"What can I do you for, baby girl?" Says the man as he scratches his scraggly, white beard.

"Where's the ladies room?"

"Phaw!" Scoffs the old man. "We ain't got no ladies out here. "The loo is out the back." The man points. "Out younder."

You thank him and turn around.

"Wait a minute girlie girl!"

You slowly turn around. The old man is removing the lid of a big glass jar on the counter. The jar is filled with liquid and some white, oval shapes bobbing around in it. He puts his dirty hand down in the liquid and grabs one of the shapes, holding it out towards you. "Pickled egg?"

You swallow hard. "Oh, I’m all right. Thank you sir."

"Phaw," says the old man as he shoves it into his mouth, the liquid running down his chin and onto the counter. " Probably ain't got them eggs in the big city eh? Suit it yourself girl."

You turn around again and walk towards the back of the store, where the bathroom should be. You find a door at the back with a sign above it which says toilet.  As you walk inside, you are being greeted by an even fowler smell than you did before. The bathroom is in a poor condition, to say the least. There is a pissoir to your right. It looks like the men using it are not bothered at all whether they piss in it or around it. To your left is the only toilet booth in the room. It is the kind where the designer thought, that there should be a gab at the top and bottom of the booth, giving the person inside no privacy at all. Which is even more needed by the fact that, this is a unisex toilet, and a nasty one as well.

You walk inside and lock the door behind you. "Oh my god," you say to yourself. Someone has been using the toilet not long ago. The person didn’t even care about flushing. You try not to look to closely at the mess in the toilet, as you push the flush button. You decide to squat down on the toilet seat. There is no way in hell that you are going to sit on that filthy thing.

As you are done peeing and about to pull your panties up, you notice a reflection close to the floor. As you look down you see a hand holding a little pocket mirror, you even get eye contact with the man holding it. You yell in frustration! That old fart is a Peeping Tom! You quickly pull up your shorts and rip the door open. "Just wait until I tell my mom about thi..." As you storm out of the booth you notice to your horror, that it isn't the old man, standing there grinning in front of you. It is the man Red, the one your father engaged only a few hours ago. Red stands in front of you blocking the path to the exit door. His arms crossed over his chest. He gives you a big smile, showing his two missing front teeth. He just stands there smiling, sliding his tongue back and forth through the gap in his teeth.

"Well, well, well. What do we have here? Where's that crazy dad of yours. Huh, Sweetheart?"

You try and push past Red, but he pushes you back against the wall, hard. "Not so fast little lady. I’m still quite mad, about what your dad did to me." Red grabs you by your shoulders, pressing you harder against the wall as he leans in close. "What do you think you can do. To make your old friend Red happy again, huh?"

You look at Red's ugly face which is mere inches from yours. He stinks of tobacco, old sweat and booze. He looks down your cleavage, an almost animalistic expression on his puffed face. "Mhhh that looks nice." He moves one hand to grab you around your throat and the other one down towards your breasts. You are pretty sure what is going to happen, if you do not try and resist him.

You have to decide whether you want to attack him physically. A knee in the groin might be enough. You have seen plenty of movies where the perpetrator gets kicked in the nuts by the damsel in distress. The problem is, that this isn't a movie. A lot of things could go wrong. Maybe Red will hurt you more, if you try and hurt him. The other possibility, is to scream for help as loud as you can. Maybe the old man or your mother would hear you calling? Maybe it doesn't take more to scare Red away. So, will you call for help or try to fend Red off by yourself?

 

 

 

1 Call for help

Or

2 Fend him off yourself

1 2
4 Call for help Call for help

You scream at the top of your lungs. “Heeeelp meee! Dad! Mom!”

“Shut your mouth girl!” Red tries to put his hand over your mouth but you bite down on his little finger, with furious determination. Blood wells up in your mouth and you know it will only be a matter of time, before you reach the bone. Now it is Red’s turn to scream as loud as he can. He tries to pull his hand back, but you keep your jaw tight. It is only when he punches you in the temple, two successive times, that you let go. You crash hard against the bathroom wall, before you slowly sack to the floor. Red is trying to bandage his hand with a roll of toilet paper, but it does little to stop his finger from bleeding all over the place.

The door is suddenly ripped open and you watch your mom and Darryl run into the bathroom. Darryl has a gun in his hand. Your mom immediately starts screaming, as she sees you crumbled in the corner, half of your face smeared in blood. She runs over to your side yelling. “Are you ok?!”

You are still very dizzy from the punches you received from Red. But you are able to nod.

“What the fuck are you doing Red?” yells Darryl. “You have to stop doing this shit man!"

Red doesn’t say anything but just walks out of the bathroom, his one hand held tightly around his ruined finger. Darryl follows him out of the bathroom, still yelling with the gun in his hand. “Let’s get you out of here,” says your mom.

You nod and are about to get up but are suddenly interrupted by commotion out in the store. It sounds like the old man, Red and Darryl are yelling at each other. Then a shotgun blast rips through the air, followed by three shots from a pistol. The following silence is almost more frightening than the gunfire. Your mom tells you to wait as she slowly leaves the bathroom and walks out to the store. It doesn’t take long before you hear her scream. You quickly run out of the bathroom, out to your mom. You stop dead in your tracks, as you see Darryl, lying on his back in a pool of blood. He has been hit right in the chest with the full blast of the shotgun. There is also a spray of blood behind the counter. You slowly walk forward, forcing yourself to look over the counter. The old man is lying there, shot through the forehead, with what looks like a pistol. Red is nowhere to be seen and neither is Darryl’s gun.

“Where is Matthew?” asks your mom, looking around her wildly. “See if you can find him! I try and see if I can call the police from the old man’s landline!”

You quickly run through the store, finding Matthew, hiding behind one of the shelfs. He throws himself at you, burying his face in your stomach, crying uncontrollably. You can’t help it anymore either, as you also break down crying. “I found him, mom!”

“Thank god! I’m trough to the police now,” says your mom.

Your dad suddenly runs in to the store, an alarmed expression on his face. He must have been drawn by the gunfire. He quickly checks that you are alone in the store, before he runs over to you and Matthew. He gently lifts Matthew up and carry him outside, while holding you around your shoulder with his other arm. “Come on kids, everything is going to be alright, just follow me.” You walk to the car, where your mom joins you shortly after. “The police are going to be here soon.” She is crying as well. 

 

THE END

Alternative option
5. Fend him off yourself Fend him off

You ram your knee up as hard as you can, hitting Red right between his legs with a force you didn’t even know you had in you. Red immediately releases his grip on you and falls to the wet floor. "You bitch," squeals Red. "You fucking bitch!" He rolls from side to side, mopping the floor with his body, holding both hands between his legs. "Just you wait until I get my hands on you!" He slowly rolls to his knees, but still bend over, grabbing his squashed testicles. "You are going to pay for this, I promise you!"

The shock from Red's attack fills your body making you shake violently. You have never experienced anything like this before, in your entire life. You are still trying to wrap your head around just how close you were, for something truly awful to happen.

You quickly walk past Red, who does a feeble attempt at grabbing your angle. Instead you stomp down hard on his hand with your other foot, making him squeal again. "Arh. You fucking bitch! I swear to god, that I'm going find you and teach you and your whole fucking family a lesson!"

You quickly walk out of the bathroom, towards the counter where the exit door is. You hear voices talking as you get closer to the counter. Matthew is standing next to a magazine stand, browsing through some old magazines. Your mom is standing next to the counter, discussing something with Darryl. Your mind is racing about what you should do. It seems like the commotion from the bathroom was not so loud that anyone in the store could hear it. Red is probably still crumbled on the bathroom floor and won't be able to move for a while. There is no way to know how your mom and Darryl will react if you walk up to them and tell them what happened. Even though Darryl is charming, he is driving around with the maniac Red. The only thing you do know for sure, is that your dad will go completely out of his mind, if he found out what had been going on in the bathroom. You take a deep breath and slowly walk up towards your mom and Darryl.

"Hi Jessica. We were just talking about the unfortunate episode earlier," says your mom.

You walk up next to your mom who wraps an arm around your shoulder. "This is Darryl."

Darryl throws out his arm and you slowly grab it, shaking it lightly.

"Pleased to meet y'all," says Darryl, flashing his gold tooth in a wide smile. "Red and I are awfully sorry, ‘bout what happened earlier."

"Phaw," mumbles the old man behind the counter. "Red ain't sorry 'bout nuthing, but when them damn bottle's ‘re empty."

"Where is Red?” asks your mother. "He said he was going to the toilet. Did you see him?"

Darryl looks at you with a worried expression on his face.

"Yeah I saw him. I was in the booth when I heard someone coming in. Very awkward, with a bathroom for both men and women."

"Phaw," says the old man. “No fuss about that, if you ask me. This ain’t the big city, remember?"

It looks like Darryl's shoulders are sacking a bit, after you said that nothing happened. He still seems kind of tense. He gives you one last calculating glance, before he turns his attention back on your mom. "Well as I was saying. We are mighty sorry about the little incident earlier. And we totally agree, that there is no need to involve the po-lice. We were speeding a little bit and maybe your old man, was a little too quick with his temper. But no harm done, eh?"

"I couldn’t agree more," says your mom. "It was nothing more than a little misunderstanding. I am sure, that the police have more serious matters to take care of, than a little controversy like ours."

"Phaw," says the old man spitting in what you hope is a trashcan and not the floor, behind his counter. But you are not quite sure. "Ain't no damn Po-lice out 'ere. Havn't been no Po-lice since Trevor shot down that family back in..."

You suddenly hear footsteps behind you. Your heart sinks as you see Red walking towards you, less than elegantly. He walks a bit like a cowboy who has been in the saddle for too long. He reeks of urine even before he stands next to you. Half of his clothes seem wet.

"What in the name of Sweet Baby Jesus have you been doing out there, Red?" asks Darryl. "You been lying on you back when you started pissing?"

"Something like that," whispers Red, not taking his eyes away from you. "I wanted to try something new."

"Well I’m glad that you didn’t take a dump as well " says Darryl as he and your mom, looks between you and Red.

"Well we were just about leaving. Come on kids." Your mom leads you and Matthew towards the car, where your dad is waiting.

"Have a nice day y’all," yells Darryl as you walk out the door.

"What was that all about, Jessica? Are you ok?” asks your mom as you walk back to the car.

You think about what you should reply. You kind of want to tell your mom or at least someone what had happened or almost happened. On the other hand, you are quite sure that your dad will find out if you start telling your mom about it. With your dad's somewhat unpredictable state of mind lately, there is really no telling what he might do. Matthew is also walking with you, so you don’t really have any privacy to talk about it.

1 Tell the truth

Or

2 Don’t tell mom about the incident

1 2
6 Tell the truth Tell the truth

"Well. What if I told you, that something did happen, while I was in the bathroom?"

Your mom stops walking, looking you in the eye for a long moment. "Matthew can you wait in the car please?”

"Sure mom."

When Matthew is clearly out of hearing range, your mom takes your arm and turn you around, so you stand with your backs to the car. You know your dad learned all kinds of skills in the army. No telling if lip reading is one of them.

Your mom looks expectantly at you, waiting for you to start talking. It feels like an eternity before you finally start to speak. Your mom doesn't say anything, letting you tell the story without interrupting. Just when you are about to finish the story. The door to the gas station store opens, and Red and Darryl walk out. You feel your heart sink to your stomach as you get eye contact with Red. He lets his tongue slide through the gap in his teeth, before he turns his head towards his pickup truck.

"Son of a bi..." says your father.

You feel your heart sink even lower when you recognize his voice. Neither you nor your mom had noticed, that your dad had opened the car door and was standing behind you. You just hope that he only saw how Red, was looking at you and didn’t hear anything about what had happened in the bathroom. You feel the force of your dad's broad shoulder as he pushes past you and your mom. You open your eyes wide as you see him walk towards Darryl and Red, who luckily have their backs to him. You know your dad is bigger and stronger than most men. But you don't think that he can handle two grown men all by himself.

Your mom runs past you, positioning herself between your furious dad and the unsuspecting men. Your dad doesn't slow down one bit. He just keeps on looking past your mom as she desperately tries to make him stop. Then without any warning at all, he grabs your mom and lifts her up in the air as if she weighed nothing. Your mom goes limp with surprise, hanging there like a cornered rabbit. Then he swings her towards the ground. He lessens the fall a bit, but your mom still lands hard on the asphalt. Your dad is still holding her down, moving his maniacal face close to hers. He doesn't say anything. He just holds her for a while before he suddenly lets her go and starts walking towards the pickup truck again. You quickly run to your mom's side, trying to calm her down as she is crying uncontrollably. You turn your attention back towards your dad, who has just picked up a rock the size of a small apple and is now running towards his target. Darryl and Red have just closed the doors, followed by the roar of the engine. Both you and your mom sighs with relief as the pickup truck leaves the parking lot and starts speeding down the highway. Your dad stops running and instead takes aim, holding his left hand forward and the right holding the rock, over his head. Then he throws it as hard as he can. You watch in startled surprise as the rock flies through the air and smashes into the window of the driver’s seat. The car rears from side to side slowing down just before it crashes into a tree on side of the road! There is silence for a couple of seconds, before the door to the driver's seat gets ripped open and a confused Red, tumbles out of the truck. He is bleeding from a bruise on his forehead, blood pouring down his surprised face. Your dad is standing completely still, his back to you.

You are completely, emotionally torn apart. In one way, you think a would-be rapist should get what he deserves. You are not completely sure, that a guy like Red, would never try the same again on someone else, as he tried on you. There is no sign of Darryl and he might be even more injured. There is also the possibility that your dad might get hurt if he keeps on fighting. Even if he manages to beat Red, someone might call the police and get your dad thrown in jail!

You have to decide whether you want to make your dad come back or make Red pay for what he did to you.

1 Try and make your dad come back

Or

2 Make Red pay for what he did to you

1 2
9 Make Red pay for what he did to you Make Red pay

"He tried to rape me Daddy!"

"Jessica, what are you doing?" exclaims your mom. She tries to put a hand over your mouth, but you push her hand away from your face.

"It is true dad!" You feel all the emotions well up inside you as you burst into tears. Your dad slowly turns his upper body around, looking over his shoulder right into your eyes. For a moment, he looks more like an animal than a man. All sanity has completely left his eyes. He turns his lips into a silent snarl, before he turns back around and starts running towards Red. He doesn't make any sound at all except for the slapping of his boots across the asphalt.

"Fraaaank!" It is your mom yelling. "Think about what Dr. Middleton told you! There is no way back if you do this!"

If he heard anything, he isn't reacting at all. Red has finally gotten his bearing and is looking around in confusion. His eyes locks on your dad's massive frame, just before your dad’s shoulder smashes into his’s face. Red gets thrown back against the truck before he falls to the ground. He is down in no more than a second, before your dad starts stomping him.

You have never seen raw brutality like this, right in front of you. Your mom runs past you, begging for your dad to stop kicking Red. You just stand and watch. You made your dad do this, and you know it. You suddenly hear a car door slam shut. Darryl moves out from behind the truck, at your dad's back. He looks at you, then your mother before his attention gets drawn to your dad who is still kicking and stomping on Red, who isn't moving anymore. Darryl stands still for a second, before he pulls his shirt over the handle of the gun he had stuffed in his pants. It seems like everything moves in slow-motion. Your mom running, your dad, still silent but kicking with all his might and finally Darryl, who whips the gun forward, aiming at your dad's back. You can see that Darryl's mouth is moving but you are unable to hear what he is saying. Your dad looks at Darryl for a second before he charges him. The blast from a single gunshot roars over you. Time stands still but is pulled back into motion as your mom starts screaming. Darryl is already moving, running towards Red. It takes him a lot of effort, as he pulls the unconscious Red into the passenger seat. Darryl quickly runs back and jumps into the driver's seat. The pick-up truck speeds away, its engine roaring, even though smoke erupts from the battered hood of the truck. Your mom is kneeling at your father's side. You can't really comprehend what has just happened. Still filled with disbelief, you slowly walk towards where your dad is lying. As you move closer you can clearly see his face. It is completely white, with blood running down one side of his mouth. His eyes are open wide, staring up into the clear, blue sky. Then he looks at you. “It’s alright Jessica,” coughs your dad. He is holding his hands tightly over the gunshot wound in his stomach. “Run to the store and see if they have a phone. Call 911.”

You start crying as you turn around and run for the store at the gas station. “I’m sorry dad.”

“It’s ok,” whispers your dad. “I’m gonna make it…”  

THE END

Back
8 Try and make your dad come back Make dad come back

"Dad it's enough!" You are up and running even while you scream for him to stop. If he heard you, he isn't reacting at all. Thankfully he isn't moving either. He just stands there, watching as Red leans against the truck, holding one hand to his head and the other against the truck. You run in front of your dad, trying to get eye contact with him. You can see that he has his eyes open, but it does not seem like he is looking at anything specific, or as if what he is seeing is not being registered by his brain.

"Please dad. Let's just go. This is enough!"

Your mom appears next to you, tears running down her cheeks. "Please Frank. Come with us."

He suddenly looks at you. There is something in his eyes, like he does not know who you are. It doesn't seem like he recognizes you at all. He looks very confused. Nonetheless he lets you drag him back towards the car. You and your mom each have one of his arms over your necks. Your dad is very heavy, and he barely uses his legs to support him. He still looks around, like he has no idea about where he is. When you are halfway towards your car, you hear someone yell behind you. You quickly look over your shoulder and notice, that Darryl has appeared and is helping the still confused Red back into his truck.

"We are gonna find you!" screams Darryl as he slams the door to the passenger seat. "And when we do, we are going to kill ya’ll!" He jumps into the driver's seat and speeds away, with smoke erupting from the battered hood of the truck. You follow the car with your eyes, until it disappears behind a bend in the highway. You finally arrive at your car. You notice that Matthew is sitting in the backseat, crying with his hands over his ears. You try and manoeuvre your dad into the passenger seat as gently as possible, before your mom starts the car. You jump into the backseat and wrap your arms around Matthew. He pushes himself against you as you rock him from side to side. No one is saying anything, except your dad who starts mumbling incomprehensibly to himself. You notice that your mom makes a big U-turn and drives back the way you came.

THE END

Back
7 Don’t tell mom about the incident Don't tell

"I am just really sad about Spring Break." Even you can hear your voice quivering. You quickly look away from your mom, as you feel the tears starting to run down your cheeks. You know your mom, can see just how sad you really are. Your mom stops in front of the car. "Get inside Matthew. We'll be right there." Matthew nods and gets in the car. Your mom looks at you. The kind of way only a mother can. You know that there is no way around this one. Of course, your mom knows what happened in the bathroom. She knows you better than you ever give her credit for. You look each other in the eye for a long time, before your mom finally breaks the silence. "I know how you feel, Jessica."

You can't believe your ears. "You do?"

"Of course, I do." She slowly shakes her head. "You probably don't believe me, but I was a bit of a Wild Cat myself. Just ask your dad."

"What do you mean?"

"Come on Jessica. Don’t play stupid with me. I remember what it was like, being young and in love. That Chad guy must really be something, since he can make you cry like that."

Before you can even say a word, your mom gives you a big hug. Even though your mom has no clue about you or what happened in the bathroom, you are grateful for the hug. It has been a long time since you and your mom hugged. You open your eyes just in time, to see Red and Darryl leaving the store. You get eye contact with Red, as he gives you a long vicious glare before he enters the battered pickup truck.'

"You feel better, Jess?"

You look into your mom's eyes and lie. "Yes, much better mom. Thank you."

Your dad is in a much better mood when you are all back in the car. He still doesn’t say much but he looks at the moving landscape outside the window, while he whistles to the tunes of the radio playing some country song, which reminds you of Dolly Parton. Your mom tries a couple of times to start a conversation with you. Probably to bond a bit after the hug. But you can't get your thoughts away from what happened in the bathroom and soon she gives up.

You think back on what Red said in the bathroom. “You fucking bitch! I swear to god that I'm gonna find you and teach you and your whole fucking family a lesson.” You hope that Red is a man who doesn't stand by his word, but there is something about him which tells you, that he is just that kind of guy. Especially if he is mad enough. You absently touch your shoulders. They feel sore from where he grabbed you. You shudder, hoping that you will never feel his hands on you, ever again.

You are not able to think of anything else, before you finally reach the cabin. You think that you are a bit more capable of understanding how your dad is feeling. Both your body and mind has been affected by the trauma of being assaulted, and almost getting raped. When you think about your dad, being in and out of the war for more than three years. You can only imagine what something like that does to a person. The numbing feeling of being attacked earlier, suddenly subsides when you think about how much you love your dad. If you ever need to tell someone about this. It won't be him. At least not until he is back to his healthy, normal self.

The cabin lies in the middle of a pine forest. There is a small, gravel road which leads from the highway, through the forest and right up to the cabin. There is a chain hanging from one end of the gravel road to the other. The guy who rents out the cabin gave you a key. The cabin lies some hundred yards away from the chain, which works as sort of a gate. You watch as your dad walks over and unlocks the chain, letting it fall to the ground. When the car is through, he quickly puts the chain back up. It seems like your dad is tenser now, when you entered the forest. He keeps on looking around, scanning the area around him. 

You slowly drive up to the cabin and park right in front of the main entrance. It is getting dark now and as you look up into the clear night sky, you can see the stars, shining down on you. The cabin itself is quite large, around sixty square meters. The building looks well kept. Not in any modern way, but more like the owner of the cabin does a lot to make it look inviting and cosy. The building is made of lacquered wood and has not been painted at all. It looks like a place where some lonely hunter would live out his life. The surrounding forest stops a couple of meters from the cabin proper, except in front where there is a lawn to park your vehicle.

"Wow this is cool!" exclaims Matthew. This is the first time he has spoken for several hours.

"Glad you like it son," says your dad as he ruffles Matthew's hair. He still stares into the woods, as if he is expecting someone to jump out and attack him. "I'm just going to search the perimeter, Beth."

Your mom turns around with such speed that it looks like lightning just struck her. "You do what!?" Before your dad can even reply she walks the fifteen meters towards him, so close that their noses are almost touching. Your dad looks down awkwardly at his feet, shuffling them a bit. "Oh nothing."

"That’s what I thought!" says your mom as she walks up to the front door to unlock it. “What would Dr. Middleton say, if he heard you talking nonsense like that huh? Search the perimeter… My god.”

Your dad walks to the back of the car and starts unloading it, with help from Matthew who does his best to help his absentminded dad. You take the plastic bags with groceries and follow your mom into the cabin.

The main room is better decorated than you had ever hoped for. A comfy looking black sofa is flanked by two large, black armchairs with a low wooden sofa table between them. The furniture is arranged in front of what looks like an ancient, but quite large, open fireplace. You notice three stuffed animal heads above the fireplace, some sort of deer and what looks like a mountain lion. There is also a lot of animal skulls hanging on the walls, around the large living room. There is a dining table with matching chairs. You quickly spot the kitchen and walk towards it to deposit the bags, before you explore the rest of the house. The kitchen has nothing special to offer. Just a small room to prepare meals. The rest of the cabin consists of three bedrooms. The largest one has a double bed, with another bedroom next to it. You find a small staircase, leading up to a small attic. What really grabs your attention, is that the back wall of the attic has been removed and been replaced by glass. That way you can look into the forest from your bed. You think it would look very nice in sunlight and quickly yell, "dips" as you hear Matthews running feet on the staircase.

You walk back down the stairs and into the kitchen, helping your mom prepare the dinner, while Matthew and your father bring the rest of your stuff inside the cabin. You small talk a bit with your mom, while you hear your dad instruct Matthew on how to light the fireplace. Just as you turn your attention back on preparing the meal, you suddenly hear the main door open and quickly close again. You hear Matthew yell " Mom.... Dad just left. He said something about a perimeter he needed to check."

"God damn it!" yells your mom as she punches one of the kitchen cupboards. She is so frustrated that she doesn't even register that she just cursed. "This is exactly what Dr. Middleton warned me about might happen." She says it more to herself than to you. You notice that her voice is shaking, and tears are appearing at the corner of her eyes. It might seem that your mom is starting to get really exhausted about having to deal with your dad's behaviour all the time. It also might seem that your dad is regressing to his usual PTSD-like behaviour.

You must decide whether you want to suggest that you go after him to give your mom some respite. Or if it is better that you just wait and let her handle your dad.

 

1 Let her go after your dad

Or

2 Go out to find him yourself

1 2
10 Let her go after your dad Let mom go

“Just go after him mom, I’ll stay here and take care of Matthew.” Your mom blows out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Jessica. I promise I’ll be back as soon as I can. Please don’t say anything to Matthew about your father’s mental state. It will only upset him.”

“Of course, mom.”

You give each other a warm hug. You hold each other for a while, not saying anything, just holding each other. Your mom gives you one final squeeze before she goes into the living room and says goodbye to Matthew. “I’ll be right back, Matt. Your dad and I are just going for a little walk ok?”

You walk into the living room, seeing your mom hug Matthew just as tenderly as she did with you, just moments ago. The door closes softly as your mom walks into the dark night.

“Dad has gone AWOL hasn’t he?” Matthew looks at you with a serious face, pushing his glasses back on his nose with a finger.

“He’s gone what?” You walk over to the couch where Matthew is sitting, dropping down next to him.

“AWOL. It’s like when you leave but were giving orders not to leave.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah… Like when mom said to dad, that he should always be close by. Not leaving the car, only leaving the house for short periods of time. Also, not leaving the cabin, which he just did.” Matthew looks out the window. “Dad says that it isn’t bad people who go AWOL. It is the wars, that make them do it.”

You put your arm around Matthew, drawing him closer. “I am pretty sure, that dad just went for a little walk.”

“Are you sure?” asks Matthew.

You give Matthew your most convincing smile. “I am pretty sure. Now let’s see if we can find a board game or something, shall we?

 

You look up at the clock hanging on the wall. It is half past 12. Your parents have been gone for several hours now. Luckily Matthew was tired and asked if it was ok he went to bed an hour ago. You lied to him and said that you had gotten a text from your mom saying, that they had gotten lost in the woods but had found their way to the highway and were following it back to the cabin. Truth is, that you have no signal on your telephone and am afraid, that something awful has happened.

You put another log on the fireplace, slowly poking at the glowing embers with a fire poker. You are really starting to get worried about your parents. You know that there are no other houses out here for several kilometres, so it is of no use to go for help. You are also worried about leaving Matthew alone in the house. On the other hand, you are starting to get scared, about your parents out somewhere in the cold night, needing help.

You must decide whether you want to go look for them by yourself or wait with Matthew for them in the house.

 

1 Go out and look for your parents

Or

2 wait for them in the house

1 2
12. Go out and look for your parents Go look for parents

You decide that it is best to go out and look for your parents. You search through the cabin and find a big, powerful flashlight. You quickly pull on your jacket and find a woollen hat and gloves. Even though it is summer, it still gets cold in the middle of the night. You walk out into the darkness, closing the door as silently as you can. You move the flashlight left to right, scanning the surrounding area. No sign of your parents so far, but you didn’t count on that anyway. You decide to walk down the gravel road to begin with. If they aren’t close by the road, you must go into the woods to continue your search for them.

There is complete silence around you, except for the gravel, crunching lightly beneath your feet. You walk very slowly, scanning left and right, looking as far into the forest as the cone of light lets you. You walk down to the chain, hanging across the road and there is still no sign of your parents. You walk all the way down to where the gravel road meets the highway but there is still no sign of them. You are starting to get really scared. Images of Red, flashes through your mind. You hope that he is not that kind of man, who would mess with your family. You are quite sure that Darryl would never do anything to hurt your parents, but you think quite the opposite about Red. Cold shivers run down your spine, as you think back on the episode in the bathroom on the gas station. You push the images to the back of your mind. The only thing you need to concentrate on, is getting your parents back as soon as you can. You steel yourself as you walk off the gravel road in search of your parents. You slowly make your way between the big pine trees. They are fairly spread out, so it is quite easy to walk and scan the area. You try and walk somewhat parallel with the gravel road, so you don’t get lost in the forest.

After walking for a while, you suddenly hear a branch snap, somewhere deeper in the forest. You jump with surprise, turning the flashlight in the direction of the sound. You think you see something move, just at the far edge of the cone of light. You close your eyes for a second, opening them again as you, with a force of will, calm yourself down. You walk steadily towards the sound. You go deeper and deeper into the forest. It must have been one of your parents, who made the sound, who else is wandering through the forest in the dead of night?

You suddenly stop. You have completely forgotten about staying parallel with the gravel road, fear grabs you, pulling your gut tight. You throw the beam of light around, trying to get your bearing, but all, the trees look the same. The one thing that must not happen is, that you get lost in the woods as well. You turn the flashlight down on the undergrowth, trying to see if you can make out where you came from and backtrack. You notice that the forest is much, much thicker than it was before. It is impossible for you to find any tracks of the way you came. You wish that it was winter, then it would be easy to find your way back. Just as you think it can’t get any worse, your flashlight starts to flicker, then the light disappears. You scream in frustration and fear, trying to turn the flashlight on and off, even hitting it a couple of times, but nothing helps. The batteries are completely dead. With the light gone, you notice just how alone and lost you really are. You have also lost your sense of time. How long have you been out here? An hour, maybe two? It is hard for you to tell. You just pray that Mathew doesn’t wake up and decides to go look for you.

The forest is so thick that there isn’t even much light seeping down through the canopy from the stars and the moon. You try to find your way back to the gravel road, but you know that you are completely lost. You feel despair seep through your body. You try to fight it but to no avail. You begin to scream “Hello! Can anybody hear me!? Please help!” No one is answering, and you soon begin to cry. Then you all of a sudden hear a branch snap close by.

“Well, well, well,” says an all too familiar voice. “Looks, like I finally found you,” says Red. 

THE END

Back
13. wait for them in the house Wait

You think it is better to wait for your parents here. It would also be very irresponsible to leave Matthew all by himself in a secluded cabin, deep in the forest. You have no idea what might have happened to them. Maybe they both got lost in the woods, maybe they are sitting somewhere talking about the situation you are all in, due to your dad’s PTSD. You suddenly think about a very, very disturbing scenario. Maybe Red have somehow persuaded Darryl to go look for you. Maybe he is so angry about not getting what he wanted from you, and by the fact that your dad attacked him. Maybe Darryl and Red were waiting for your father and killed him! Only to surprise your mother and doing the same thing to her. It is almost unbearable to think about. It also makes it that more uncomfortable, sitting in the cabin, with no one else to protect you, but your sleeping little brother. Your thoughts suddenly get interrupted by three loud knocks on the window. You jump out of the couch by pure reflex, uttering a loud yelp, while looking out the window in the living room, where the knocks were coming from. There is nothing to be seen. You stand completely still, but there is nothing to hear, besides your rapid breathing. You walk over to the fireplace and pick up a fire poker from the rack. The long metal makes it feel a little bit safer, as you walk slowly towards the window, where the sound was coming from. Step by step, you edge yourself closer, feeling the adrenaline flow faster and faster. There is mere inches to the window. You lean slightly from one side to the other, looking left and right to see if anything is moving outside. Suddenly a shape disappears behind some trees not far from the cabin! There is someone or something out there stalking, just at the edge of the forest. There is no chance that it is either of your parents out there. It must be something else, and you are positive that the person does not have good intentions.

You suddenly hear a slight creaking from the floorboards behind you. Someone is in the room with you! You hear the continuous creaking, followed by shuffling feet coming closer. You quickly spin around, ready to strike with your fire poker.

“Is mom and dad home yet?” asks Matthew, while he tries to stifle a yawn.

He is not wearing his glasses, so you quickly hide the fire poker behind your back. It is hard for you to stop your voice from shaking as you answer him. “ N.. No not yet. I’m sure that they’ll be back anytime. Why are you not in your bed?”

“I think I heard someone knock on my window.”

You feel your mouth fall open and your eyes open wide with pure dread. Luckily Matthew can’t really see much, when he is not wearing his glasses.

“I thought it was mom and dad, so I came out to see if they had come back.”

Now you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is someone outside of the cabin. Someone who is definitely not your mom or your dad. You slowly turn around in a big circle, feeling very vulnerable.

“What’s the problem?” asks Matthew. Wasn’t it mom or dad knocking?”

“No, Matthew.” You try and control your voice, to no avail. “It wasn’t them.”

“Who was it then?”

You clearly hear the fear in Matthews voice. “Jessica, I’m scared!”

You suddenly hear something close to the entrance door. As you look towards it, you see a piece of paper slide under the door. Fear almost make you throw up. This is insane! You lift the fire poker high above your head, forcing yourself slowly towards the folded piece of paper. As you get closer, it is actually a white napkin.

“What is it?” whispers Matthew.

“Be quiet Matthew!”

You quickly lean down and pick up the napkin with you left hand, not taking your eyes away from the door. As you unfold the napkin, you see that someone has written a note on it with a blue ball pen. It says; YOUR MOM AND DAD AIN’T COMING BACK. SEND THE BOY TO HIS ROOM.

Your body shakes so violently making you drop the napkin. Whoever wrote the note must be a psychopath. You still cling to the hope that your parents are all right and that you and your little brother will make it out of this alive.

Right then and there, you decide to fight back with everything you got! The question is, whether you want to instruct your little brother, to help fight whoever is lurking beyond the wooden walls of the cabin, or if you tell him to do what the note said and make him go to his room.

1 Tell Matthew to stay and fight

Or

2 Send Matthew to his room

1 2
14. Tell Matthew to stay and fight Tell Matthew to fight

You quickly run over to Matthew, dropping to your knees and grabbing him by the shoulders.

“Matthew, I need you to really listen closely to what I am about to tell you, ok?”

Matthew nods gravely.

“Some bad man is coming for us Matthew. He is right outside of the cabin. It is only a matter of time before he comes in and when he comes, he will try to do something bad to us. Do you understand?”

Matthews eyes go wide, as he looks beyond your shoulder to the entrance door. “What is he going to do?”

“He is going to try and hurt us! Are you going to help me or not Matthew?”

Matthew starts crying, big tears falling over his cheeks.

“You have to be brave Matthew. Can you do that for me?”

He nods.

“Good. Now go get your glasses.”

While Matthew runs into his room, you quickly turn off all the light in the living room, making the fireplace the only source of light. You can still see a few details, but it is much harder to see anything and much easier to hide. When Matthew comes back you quickly lead him to his hiding place behind the door leading out of the cabin. Afterwards you run into the kitchen, grabbing a big kitchen knife and run back giving it to Matthew.

You press it into his shaking hand while saying. “If I can’t handle the bad man coming. You must stab him with the knife. Can you do that for me, Matthew? Can you stab him?”

Matthew is crying even more now but nods his agreement. You quickly walk back to the couch, forcing yourself to sit down, waiting for the inevitable to happen. You just hope that the person outside hasn’t seen where you told Matthew to hide.

You keep looking up at the clock on the wall, watching as time slowly goes by, second by second. You suddenly hear footsteps just beyond the cabin. It sounds like whoever walking, is a big person. Your first thought is, that it is your dad, but of course it isn’t. Your dad wouldn’t be walking about in the dark, knocking on windows, scaring his children. The footsteps abruptly stop, followed by complete silence. You realize you are holding your breath and force yourself to start breathing again. You keep your eyes firmly locked on the door. Time creeps by but nothing happens. Then suddenly, the door handle starts to move! Fear threatens to overwhelm you. You can’t remember whether you locked the door or not! You dearly hope that a locked door will turn away the psycho lurking outside. The handle is finally turned all the way around. The wood groans as whoever on the outside leans against the door to try and push it open. It doesn’t budge. You blow out a long sigh of relief and quickly draw in new air, before you forget to breathe again. The door handle turns two more times, before the person on the outside releases his grip. Three hard, successive knocks break the silence, followed by a coarse voice. “Open up the door you little bitch!”

Sheer realization makes you throw up in your mouth from fear. It is Red who is coming for you! You can’t see Matthew hiding behind the door, but you know that he is able to see you. You swallow hard and force yourself to be brave, for both you and Matthews sake.

“I have already taken care of your sweet mommy and daddy,” yells Red. “I got to admit, that your dad really knows how to fight. They trained him good in the army. Sadly for him, they trained me quite good as well. You better open that door now baby-cakes. Or I’ll huff and puff and blow your little house down.”

There is no way in hell that you are going to open the door for Red. The only thing you can do, is to try and buy yourself more time. Maybe he is lying. Maybe your mom and dad are out there somewhere, maybe Darryl or even that old guy from the gas station will come to your aid.

“Where is Darryl?” You grab the fire poker a little tighter as you ask the question.

“Darryl, Darryl, Darryl. It is always about Darryl,” snarls Red. “I am so tired talking about handsome, young Darryl. He didn’t go and fight for his country. I did. And what do I get. Nothing I tell ya! Nothing at all!”

“Where is he?”

“Probably still at the bar where I left him. I said I would be going home early, which wasn’t a lie. I just didn’t tell him, that I was going home to you.” Red laughs deep in his chest, which is almost as revolting a sound as he is to look at. “It was very easy to find you. There aren’t many places for tourists in these parts. “

“Please, Red just let me go…” You do your best not to cry.

“I’m sorry baby. “I just can’t do that. I’ve already come this far. Now… Last warning or I’ll kick this fucking door in!”

You quickly stand up, raising the fire poker above your head, waiting for Red to kick in the door. You don’t have to wait long, before you hear Red kick the door, again and again and again. You just hope that the bangs on the door are too loud to cover Matthews yelps.  The door suddenly flies open. Splinters from the doorframe cascading high in the air. You just pray that the door hasn’t knocked Matthew out. You see Red’s disgusting silhouette, standing in the opening, bathed in light from the stars. The first thing you notice is his glinting eyes, looking at you like a predator looks at its prey. His tongue is darting tentatively through the hole from his missing teeth. You look at each other for a long while, before Red finally says. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Either way I’m going to get what I want, you hear me girl? I always get what I want!”

You don’t even have time to reply before he stalks into the room. Then you notice the big, hunting knife he is holding loosely in his right hand. You suddenly realize, that it is quite possible that someone is going to die here tonight. You will damn well do your best, so that it will not be you. With that in your mind, you advance on Red.

You jump forward. Swinging the fire poker as hard as possible. The fire poker moves extremely fast down towards Red’s unprotected head, but he is faster. With lightning reflexes, he shoots his left arm up, grabbing the fire poker when it was just about to hit him. At almost the same time, you feel his right fist smashing into your mouth. He hits with such a force, that you fly backwards, crashing into the sofa, knocking it over and falls to the floor.

You quickly regain your composure on the floor, trying to crawl towards the rack to grab a new fire poker, even though the world is still spinning from the punch. You hear footsteps behind you, followed by Red saying” not so fast little lady.” Then you feel a crushing pain as Red hits you with the fire poker across the back of your thigh. The pain is excruciating. It hurts so bad that your vision starts to float. You fall to the floor as Red hits you two more times on your other thigh. You feel him grab your shorts as he rolls you unto your stomach and presses you down against the floor.

“We are going to have a wonderful time you and…” Red suddenly screams at the top of his lungs, the pressure on your back suddenly disappears. You hear a loud crash as Red falls to the floor, thrashing about. You look over your shoulder seeing Matthew, still crying standing next to you. His entire body is shaking. You look beyond Matthew and notice Red, who is trying to crawl away with the big kitchen knife, deeply imbedded in his back. He doesn’t crawl more than a couple of meters before he lies completely still. You slowly crawl over to your little brother, embracing him. “You did it Matthew. We are safe now.”

Matthew doesn’t respond at all. He just stands there, not moving or saying anything. You have nothing to say either, so you just keep silent, holding him tightly. After a while you decide that you have to brace the darkness and see if you can get someone to help find your parents. You dress yourself and Mathew for the cold outside while also finding a big flashlight. You start walking down the gravel road, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in your legs. You keep turning your flashlight left and right while also calling for your parents. You suddenly hear someone calling back to you from the depths of the forest. You grab Mathews hand tighter as you walk off the highway and into the forest. You keep on calling and it doesn’t take long before you can recognize not only your dad’s voice, but your mother’s as well! They suddenly appear behind some trees and run to meet you as fast as they can. All four of you hold each other tightly. “I am so sorry,” says your dad with tears in his eyes. “I can’t believe that I got so lost on the forest…” he looks at you with a surprised expression on his face. “Jessica. Did someone hit you in the face?”

 

THE END

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15. Send Matthew to his room Tell Mathew to hide

You look wild eyed at Matthew. “Go to your room!”

“But…” says Matthew.

“Go to your room. And you stay there! Do you hear me? No matter what, you stay in that room!”

Matthew quickly runs into his room, slamming the door shut behind him. You think you hear some furniture screeching, as if he is trying to barricade the door.

That makes you feel a little bit of relief. You hope that Matthew will get, maybe not emotionally but at least physically safe from this evil event. You walk back to the couch, waiting for the inevitable to happen, still with the fire poker clenched tightly in your hand.

You keep wishing for your parents to come back. Just as you are about to give up hope, the sound of footsteps appears from outside the cabin. It might be your parents! But they wouldn’t be sneaking around, knocking on windows. The footsteps suddenly stop. You keep hoping, that the voice of one of your parents appears, instead of silence. The door handle starts to move. This is definitely not your parents. You pray for the door to be locked. You watch in horror, as the handle turns all the way around. Someone is trying to push the door open, but to no avail. You pray that the person outside will just give up and go away.  “I know you are in there you little bitch!”

It is Red’s voice. You had figured that out. That it would most certainly be him. Who else would it be? It seems in a weird way, that you were destined to fight him by yourself. You just hope that you can win.

“Fuck off, Red, I have a gun!” Your voice is shaking

Red laughs. “You ain’t got no gun. All you have is that good for nothing fire poker.” Red stops laughing, his voice completely emotionless. "You better open that door little lady before I get really angry. We better be real quiet too, so we don’t wake up your sweet little brother, eh?”

You don’t say anything. There is no point in arguing. You know that Red will enter the cabin, one way or the other. Red doesn’t say anything anymore. He just starts doing his best to kick the door in. After a couple of kicks, the door flies open, sending bits of the doorframe flying through the room. The door has barely opened before Red stalks into the room. You notice a big hunting knife in his right hand. You get so shocked by the glinting blade, that you almost forget to swing the fire poker. Your attack is slow and clumsy and Red grabs it easily, ripping it out of your hand. You stand there, feeling almost naked without your weapon. Red just looks at you, sheathing his hunting knife. Then without any warning at all, he slaps you hard, with the back of his hand. You crash to the floor on your stomach, your vision darkening. You feel blood run out of your mouth. You try and crawl towards the rack with fire pokers, to get a new weapon. You suddenly feel a sharp pain as Red hits you across your lower back with the fire poker he took from you. You almost lose consciousness, as the amount of pain rushes through your body. You hear Red walking right up behind you.

“if you move again. It’ll be your head I hit with the poker the next time,” promises Red. He is so close that you can smell his sweat. You hear his belt buckle rattle as he opens his pants. At that moment you throw yourself forward, grabbing one of the fire pokers from the rack, defying the numbing pain in your back. You hear Red curse, as you turn around to attack him. Red is standing with his trousers down his legs and looks at you with a confused expression on his face. You don’t take any chances, lunging forward. You hit Red across the face before he has any chance to move. He screams from the pain as you crush his nose with the fire poker. You lift the fire poker to attack again but Red is already charging you, you barely see the hunting knife before it buries itself to the hilt in your stomach. You fall back against the wall, the fire poker rattling out between your fingers and clatters to the floor. The last thing you see, is Red running out of the cabin. You barely manage to yell before you pass out. “I hope you get what you deserve Red, you son of a bitch!”

 

THE END

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11. Go out to find him yourself Go and find them

"I go look for him mom. You just stay here." You quickly find your jacket, a woollen hat and some gloves. Your mom gently grabs your arm, just as you are about to leave the cabin. “Please be careful, Jessica. Your dad is not exactly… “Your mom seems to be looking for the words. “Well he isn’t exactly his usual self, ok?”

You nod. “I know mom.” You give each other a hug before you open the door and walk into the night. You don’t get to walk more than a couple of meters before the door opens again and your mom sticks her head out. “Jessica?”

“Yeah?” you start walking back. “What is it?”

“Take this with you,” your mom hands you a big flash light. “We can’t have you walking out in the dead of night, not being able to see anything. You might get lost in the darkness.”

“Thanks mom.” You grab the flash light, turn it on and start walking down the gravel road. You haven’t walked more than a couple of minutes, before you hear a sound deep from within the forest. You stand completely still, holding your breath. It takes a little while before you hear the sound again. It sounds like something or someone is yelling “uh uuuuuh”. You roll your eyes at your nervousness, as you realise it is just an owl crying out somewhere in the forest. You quickly continue down the gravel road turning the beam of light from side to side, scanning for any trace of where your father might have gone. You are almost down by the spot where the gravel road leads out onto the highway, when you suddenly hear someone talking. First you are not able to recognize the voice but then it dawns on you, that it sounds like your dad. You quickly walk away from the gravel road and into the forest.

The voice gets louder and louder but then, just as soon as the voice started to speak, it is gone. You try to pinpoint where you last heard the voice and keep walking in that direction. You have been walking for some time now, and you are not sure, just how far into the forest you have actually gone. Your flashlight suddenly starts to flicker before it switches off, completely. You realize that it is the battery that is dead. It was hard for you to navigate when you had the flash light, now it is impossible for you to get your bearing. You fight down the urge to scream out in fear and frustration. You do your best to calm down your nerves. The only thing left for you to do, is trying to backtrack the way you came. You really try your best, but you have no idea where you are, at all.

You suddenly hear some bushes rattle behind you. You can’t believe your luck. Just when you thought all hope was lost and you couldn’t find your dad, he actually wound up finding you instead. You spin around, almost yelling “Daddy?”

“If that’s what you would like to call me baby girl,” says a somewhat familiar voice.

You feel like you have been stabbed in the gut with a knife. The feeling gets even worse as you see Red walking towards you from behind some bushes. He smiles widely at you, showing the gab where his missing teeth should have been.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” Red keeps walking slowly towards you. “Here I thought, that I should climb mountains and walk through valleys, to get to you, and then you come to me instead.” Red looks you up and down, while biting his lower lip. “I think this must be fate.”

You start walking slowly backwards, your mind racing from fear and surprise. How you wished you had gone to Spring Break instead of this. You suddenly trip over a branch, landing on your back. Your head hits a rock, making you see double. You almost pass out from the pain, but you are able to keep yourself awake by sheer force of will. You have barely stopped seeing double before you feel the weight of Red’s body on top of yours, pressing you down on the cold earth.

“That’s it baby,” mumbles Red. “Come to daddy.” You feel his stinking breath cling to your face, which almost makes you gag. You try and fight him with all your strength, but he is much bigger and much stronger than you are. You are about to give up, there is no way around, what you surely know is about to happen. You start screaming in frustration, as you feel Red pinning your arms down. You can’t believe your ears, but Red is actually laughing, laughing in pure triumph and sadistic glee. Suddenly, something big hits Red, throwing him sideways. You hear him yelp in pain and surprise. You look up and see your dad, standing right next to you with a big branch in his hand. You quickly try and straighten your jacket and button your shorts, which Red had almost pulled off you. Your dad is keeping his eyes on Red who is slowly crawling away. “Are you ok, Jessica.”

“Yes...” You start crying as you slowly crawl to safety behind your dad.

At the same time, Red has found his balance and is now standing up, leaning against a tree. He looks at your dad, while wiping the blood away, which is running freely down his temple. “I’m going to kill you and then I’m going to rape that beautiful daughter of yours,” says Red spitting on the ground. "Then I’m going to kill her and walk back to that cabin of yours. Then I rape your wife too and kill your son. How’d you like that, boy?”

You can see the silluette of your dad’s hand, which is holding the branch is shaking with anger. Red has barely said the last word before your dad charges him. Everything goes extremely fast. You notice that Red barely have time to draw a big hunting knife from his belt before your dad is upon him. Both men fall to the ground tumbling over each other. Your dad drops his branch, with Red landing on top of him. Red is doing his best to push his knife down towards your dad’s throat. Your dad does his best, to press the knife away, the muscles on his arms bulging with the effort. It is to no avail. Red uses the weight of his body to press the knife slowly but steadily. Closer and closer.

Before you even think it through, you run over and kick Red in the side of his head. The momentum is enough for your dad to change the position, making him sit on top of Red. The knife has dropped from Red’s hand and is lying harmlessly some meters away from the struggling men. Your dad starts hammering his meaty fists down into Red’s unprotected face. It doesn’t take more than a few punches before you can’t even see that it is Red, who is lying there.

Mixed emotions fill your body. You hate Red more than you have hated anyone in the world. Red was about to rape you and threatened to kill your entire family! He came all the way out here, to kill everyone you love. You notice that your dad has that maniacal expression on his face, which appears when he loses himself to his PTSD flashbacks.

You have to decide whether you will let your dad kill him, hoping that the police will never charge your dad with first degree murder, or if you should try to stop your dad now. Then everyone would probably agree that your dad acted in self-defence.

1 Tell your dad to kill Red

Or

2 Try to make your dad stop

1 2
16. Let your dad kill Red Make dad kill Red

You don’t care about anything anymore. Except for revenge. That scumbag deserves to die. You feel a sense of satisfaction, which you have never felt before in your life, as your dad’s massive fists, pummels Red’s face again and again. You do nothing, except stand there and watch. You lose track of time before your dad finally stops hitting and slumps to the side, filled with exhaustion. You quickly run over to him, suddenly out of your trance-like-state. You almost throw up when you see the ruin, Red’s face is in. Your dad is panting heavily looking around with a bewildered expression on his face. “Where am I, Jessica? What did I do?” He looks down at his torn, bloody knuckles. He keeps on staring from his hands and back to your face, shaking his head slowly. Then he sees Red’s still body, lying next to you. A confused expression runs over your dad’s face. “Who is that guy, Jessica? Is that the driver from the pickup truck?”

You nod. “Yes daddy. That was the one who tried to do all those terrible things, to me and probably also to you, mom and Matthew. Why else would he be coming all the way out here in the woods?”

Your dad nods. “I.. I saw him. Pushing himself on top of you. I don’t remember what happened after that. But I still have a... A good idea of what went down.” Your dad looks you in the eye whispering,” I killed him Jessica. I just killed a man with my bare hands!”

You kneel next to your dad, rubbing him gently on the back. “You did what you had to do.”

“I could have taken different choices. Back in… Back in Iraq. I had to do things. Terrible things. Things that I could never dream of telling anyone about, not even your mom. Things like that.” Your dad breaks eye contact. You feel his body, shutter lightly. He looks far away, between the trees. “Things like that change you Jess. They really do. I don’t think I can ever be the same again. I don’t even feel remorse killing this guy. I have done so much worse, to people who didn’t even deserve it one bit. I have…” He suddenly shakes his head. “Never mind. I need to figure out what we do about this,” he nods at the bleeding corpse.”

“Dad I could…”

“No!” your dad looks you straight in the eye. “You listen to me now, and you listen good. We go back to the cabin. Tell them that I was wondering off and you found me. “You don’t tell anybody about what happened out here. You hear me?”

You nod slowly.

“Good. I’ll come back later and take care of this mess,” says your dad. “Hopefully it will never get out.”

When you and your dad arrive back at the cabin, it has gotten very late. Your mom greets you as soon as you open the door. Matthew has already been put to bed. “Oh my god, Frank!” exclaims your mother. “Where have you been?”

“I’m sorry Beth. Had one of my meltdowns. I need to shower.” Your dad doesn’t even look at your mom. He quickly walks into the bathroom. You think it is a good idea. He has quite a lot of cuts and bruises from the fight with Red. Better get cleaned up, so it will be easier to make up some lie about it to your mom.

You follow your mom to the couch, where you both sit down. “Well? asks your mom. “What happened?”

“I found dad out in the woods. He seemed kind of out of it. Like he didn’t know where he was. His hands and face were a bit messed up. I think he must have been punching some trees as well as stumble over some tree trunks or something like that.”

“Hmm,” says your mom. “Yeah it must be kind of difficult to see anything out there in the darkness.”

You are pretty sure that your mom bought the lie. Well, it was partly true anyway. Your dad mumbles something about going to bed when he comes out from the bathroom. Your mom gives him a tired smile, telling him that it won’t be long before she joins him.  

 

As you lie in bed, looking out the window. You think about how the day was the worst day in your life. You also feel some kind of power in you. There has really been a lot of challenges for you this day, but together with your family, you managed to overcome them all. You just hope that this will be the end of all the bad things you and your family have been through. Your trail of thought gets interrupted by your dad walking past your window. You immediately notice the shovel in his right hand. You think to yourself, that as long as the police doesn’t find out what really happened to Red. You will be safe.

THE END

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17. try to make your dad stop Make dad stop “Dad, stop it!” You run as fast as you can, throwing your arms around your dad’s upper body, trying to pull him away. It doesn’t seem like your dad is reacting to you at all. Then he suddenly hits you across the face, sending you flying to the ground. You land hard on the cold earth but are quickly up and running again. You push your dad with all the strength you can muster. That does the trick. He falls away from Red, who is gagging and coughing for air. Your dad jumps up from the ground, a wild-eyed expression on his face. He looks at you like a crazy animal, fists bunched up. Just as you think he is about to attack you, he suddenly stops moving. He looks in bewilderment from you and back to Red. “Oh my god Jessica, what did I do?” asks your dad. “You saved my life, dad.” Your dad walks slowly over to Red. Looking down on him. “Who are you?” Red is barely able to reply through his messed-up mouth. “Don’t you remember anything? I’m the guy with the truck. This is all a big misunderstanding, man. I thought your daughter was someone else you know?” Your dad looks at Red with eyes that could kill. “I might be a little confused sometimes, but I’m not a god damn idiot.” Your dad gives you a quick glance before he turns his attention back on Red. “Jessica, go get your mom and Matthew. Take the car and go find the nearest house with a phone who can get a signal out here. I am going to wait right here with this scumbag. You go and call the police and tell them what happened out here. You hear me?” You nod eagerly as your dad tells you in what direction the cabin is. You are happy that he still knows his way around terrain like this. You would never have been able to make your way back without his directions. You move as quickly as you dare back through the forest to the cabin, where your mom is waiting for your return. You quickly tell her what happened and you, her and Matthew are soon piled in the car, driving towards the nearest house you can find. You just hope that your dad can restrain himself and doesn’t do anything stupid, like killing Red, before you can come back with the cops. THE END Back