Her vision flashed as she teetered on the edge of sleep and consciousness.
She recognized the sight. It was the same nightmare she’s been having for the past three months. Nothing got rid of them,not the therapy not the meds.
She looked down at her hands. Covered in blood, she didn’t know if it was her’s or somebody else’s.
The shining green light pulled her attention, she stumbled towards it. Towards the cliff where the old, decrepit lighthouse stood.
She saw the pile of organs and bones. It was like a shrine, or a bed, either way she couldn't tell.
There were hordes of disfigured creatures, surrounding the pile, chanting in a language that terrified her to her bones, even though she didn’t understand a single word of it.
She tried to glance at the face of the being next to her, Her stomach turned. It wasn’t human, nor an animal, nor anything she could dream of in her worst nightmares.
All it had were rows of sharp, jagged edged teeth, covering its face.
She pushed ahead because she was sure if she kept staring she would throw up. As she neared the shrine she saw two people standing next to it, their hands clasped together.
She eased a little when she realized that these two people were human. Or at least they seemed human. Her ease was quickly replaced with horror when she stumbled closer, reaching out for them.
They were bare-naked, and covered in guts and blood. They turned towards her slowly, almost as if in a trance.
She tried to back away but tripped over the pile of guts she so desperately tried to avoid.
She couldn’t make out the man’s face, but she couldn’t ignore that unnerving smile.
So confident and full of arrogance. It scared her.
It slipped her attention when she glanced at the girl.
She screamed at what was her own face staring back at her, sporting a serene welcoming smile. She tried to crawl away, slipping on the guts of some innocent person. They both reached out for her, holding out their arms, like parents offering their child a hug.
The shining green light became bright, and something was reaching out of it.
It screeched, loudly enough to make her scream out in terror. Arms grabbed her and covered her face as she thrashed and screamed, fighting to stay alive.
But it was to no avail. Her vision blackened as she fell through an endless void.
She woke up screaming and thrashing, her heart pounding furiously.
She looked around frantically for the creatures that were just terrorizing her a minute ago. They were gone.
She panted, heavily as she whispered to herself, “You’re okay, you’re fine, nobody is attacking you.”
“You’re at work.” Her heart fell as she finished. She was at work, the second most hated place for her to be.
She groaned loudly as she rubbed her face.
Penny leaned back in her office chair and sighed deeply. She didn’t remember how long she had been dreaming.
She didn’t even know if it was a dream. What kind of a dream keeps going on for months.
The dreams were getting more and more frequent, and each and every time she did the same thing.
It always ended the same way. With her death.
She shook her head and cracked her knuckles. She was at work.
She didn’t have time to contemplate the meanings of cryptic nightmares, not while she was on the clock.
She reluctantly got back to work. She needed to finish her article full of fake spicy coverage on something she’s not sure even happened.”Then again, when was the last time anything happened in Pretoria Bay ?”, she muttered.
Much to her dismay Annie walked up to her and dropped another one on her mountain of her never-ending stack of files, toppling them over,
“Well if you’re done talking to yourself”, said Annie.
Penny groaned as she could only watch in dismay as the papers and files went flying all over the floor,
“the cycle robbery story goes on page 2.”
Annie flashed one last wolfish grin before walking towards her office. Penny hurriedly tried to gather the files splayed out on the ground.
Once she had chased down the last piece of paper that had somehow made it’s way past three cubicles, she threw a quick glance at the large, pink clock hanging on the wall. She hated the bubblegum colored eye-sore of a clock, mainly because of how it clashed with a all brown wallpaper of the office. Annie had insisted on it being hung dead center on the wall, and apparently nobody had the guts to say no to her.
After her inner monologue had died down she realized that it was already 10 PM, the grave realization that she only had 2 more hours to edit and decide where each article would go for tomorrow’s paper.
She slumped back into her cubicle and started typing away, wishing that her godforsaken arm wouldn’t cramp up.
By the time it was 11:50 she was already hopped up on eight cups of coffee and on the edge of a mental breakdown
“Hey, i might be on the verge of death but at least i can go home now.” She rattled out maniacally.
She was tired enough to consider slumping further down into the chair and sleeping right then and there.
She decided against it.
Her sweet dreams of comfort are broken, by none other than the shrill voice of Annie calling her into her office using the useless intercom.
Penny never knew what the point of the intercom was. Annie’s office was literally 15 feet away from the cubicles, she could just call for me, like normal human beings do.
She realized that she had gotten lost in her thoughts of vile hatred for Annie again, when the intercom blared again and the shrill voice reminded her to hurry up.
The last bit of the caffeine was still coursing through her veins so she had the energy to practically hurtle towards her office, she burst in screaming,
“I’m done, it’s done ! I’ve finished it !”
Penny searched her face for any sort of praise but she only found a confused look and a vague, “Huh ? finished what ?”
She could barely suppress her need to hurl obscenities at her, “Tomorrow’s newspaper.”, she muttered though her gritted teeth.
This time however she got the response she was expecting the first time, “Ah right, well done” Annie said hurriedly.
“But i’m afraid you’re not done yet.”
Annie focused her attention back to the monitor she was staring at before Penny came in.
Penny was now officially pissed, her eyes twitched and were nearly popping out as she exhaled a long drawn out, “I beg your fu-”
She caught herself mid-sentence and took a deep breath before continuing, “I beg your pardon Annie ?”
She saw Annie’s eye dart to her face, and continue, “I-I know it’s not f-fair but uh, I just got news, there’s been reports of seven dead bodies near Haven’s Park, and i need someone to cover it, I wouldn’t ask you but-”
Annie was cut off mid-sentence by her, “Dead bodies ? Do you think it’s murder ?” Penny, nearly screamed in excitement. Her inner monologue shot up again when she saw Annie tense up and gulp loudly.
”Okay easy on the fangirling, it’s a murder not a band tour.” the monologue finished.
Annie continued slowly, still seemingly shaken by her sudden outburst, “Uh, it’s still very early to say anything concrete but the current evidence point towards murder.”
Penny blurted out, “i’ll do it, I’ll cover it, i don’t want overtime i’ll cover it !”, her voice exuded her desperation.
Annie pretended to contemplate her offer, Penny scoffed to herself, “as if she has anybody else to cover the story..”
Annie started out, typing away something on her laptop,
“Fine you’ll be covering it but don’t think for-”, she realized, looking up that Penny had already left.
Annie leaned back in her chair with a huff, “Well that was awfully rude.”
Penny hurtled down the stairs, making her way to the revolving door, she whizzed past the old, senile excuse for a security guard their building had. She came to a halt, stepping out of the towering old building, with a manic expression she saw that a taxi was standing right at their doorstep, however, a woman was getting in.
Penny’s desperation took over as she pulled out the middle aged woman who was nearly seated in the taxi and jumped in and exclaimed in her crazed frenzy, “Step on it, i’ll pay you whatever you want, just get me to Haven’s Park.”
The driver’s confused mutterings were instantly turned into obedience as he pulled into the traffic with a curt, “Yes Ma’am.”
Penny panted as she tried to normalize her breathing, the vile curses of the woman she threw onto the pavement mere moments ago became white noise.
Something worth covering had finally happened in this mundane town, she did not plan on losing out on the coverage.
As the cab sped on she felt giddy, like a child on her way to a theme park. She was excited beyond her own expectations.
”Your moral compass is going askew again Penny, you’re being excited about the death of innocent people”
The voice inside her head pointed out.
”Oh shut up.” Penny muttered, gnawing on her fingernails.
The cab drive caught that, and spoke up, “What was that ?”
She just gave him a curt, “Oh, nothing.”
As her knee continuously bounced against the soft carpeted floor of the cab, her eyes darted between the road and her phone as she scrolled through the many news sites, hoping that no other paper got hint of the murder before the Red and Gold did. She never knew what was the point of having so many newspapers in one town.
She muttered, “people need variety i guess..”
She sat up straighter as she noticed the gold emblazoned letters saying ‘Haven’s Park’ approaching fast, she could hear police sirens and the sheriff and his deputies redirecting traffic towards the highway
She quickly responded, “Uh, just let me off right here.”
She handed the driver 100 dollars and he drove away looking like a kid with candy.
She needed to see the crime scene. She started shakily walking towards the area closed off by the yellow police tape, swarmed by people she guessed were the forensics team.
She could see a commotion of people, trying to sneak a peek, to find out what in god’s name happened. She breathed a sigh of relief as she realized none of them we’re reporters.
She reached her hand into her bag and shuffled around, trying to grab her camera as she sped towards the crime scene.
Just as she aimed the camera she saw from the corner of her eye someone walking towards her. She had no time to move as they collided and both of them were sent flying onto the pavement..
She grabbed around for her camera, still disoriented, trying to make sure that it was still in one piece,
She huffed, “Watch where you’re going, asshat !” she spat at the person struggling to get his bearings,
He looked at her with a diabolically confused face.
“I’m sorry ma’am but this is a crime scene ! you can’t just barge in !” The well dressed stranger said.
Once she was content with the fact that her camera was still in one piece she looked at the man with a puzzled look, “Oh really ? i thought this was the circus, what with the yellow police tape and all.”
She could see him frown and nearly pout, “Regardless you just can’t-”
She shut him up by shoving her company issued employee card, stating her name and the words, ‘Investigative Reporter’ in bold letters, in his face.
“Oh but i can, you see, i’m a reporter, and who are you exactly, to decide if i’m allowed to check a crime scene or- ” She was cut off, as the stranger pointed at the detective’s badge hanging around his neck from a steel cord,
“The answer to your question would be quite clear if you used your eyes as much as you use your mouth,” He straightened his slightly disheveled tie, as if to enunciate his point, “Ma’am.”
Her eyes darted around the scene only to notice the sheriff and his deputies and a team of forensics, a feeling of dread grew in her heart when she couldn’t find any other similarly, jacket laden detective around.
She realized that the guy she had insulted was the primary on this case whose permission she needs to cover this story.
She sheepishly glanced at the the detective, who was now carrying a smug and questioning look,
“So ?”, He asked, with a certain bite to his already gravelly voice.
She felt embarrassed and intimidated, even though she was quite a few inches taller than him.
”Soooooo…” she trailed on, hoping to find something to say to ease the tension and please this irritable and somewhat cute detective. Before she could,
“So, Would you kindly like to tell me how in the seven hells, did you find out about this ?”, he growled out, the anger and annoyance clear in his eyes.
She gave him a puzzled look before responding, “My editor got a call from the Sheriff’s department, they’re the ones who informed us.”
It was his turn to look confused, “Nobody is allowed to do that until i give the go ahead, there’s no way in hell anyone from the sheriff’s department made that call.” He finished as his voice dropped nearly an octave.
She recognized the look of realization, maybe there were some similarities among them after all, “So what you’re saying is the killer made the call ?”
He finally looked back up at her and gestured her to follow him as he held up the yellow police tape, “Unlikely, my team did a full sweep of the forests behind the freeway and set up checkpoints 15 miles up both ways.” He pointed to the two different directions the freeway seemed to stretch on eternally.
He came to a stop in front of what looked like a scene out of a horror movie, guts and body parts strewn around like broken children’s toys, the road painted red and grey with blood and brain matter. “And secondly, there’s no way that whatever did this is human.
She felt her stomach lurch from the scenery, the organs,the body parts, the blood and the stench, they were too much for her, she quickly grabbed her belly as she doubled over and threw up next to a nearby streetlight.
The Detective was right this wasn’t a murder, it was a slaughter and whatever did it was far beyond anything she could imagine.
She realized gravely that her first murder story might be more than she could handle.
She stood there silently taking notes, and asking the Sheriff and his deputies about the nuances and the little details of what happened. She nervously took pictures of the crime scene as the same questions kept jabbing into her mind. Just what exactly was the thing that committed this massacre
She made the mistake of letting her imagination run wild, but just as her mind had started exploring the dark ideas of terror, she was pulled out of her daze, by the rough, sandpaper-like voice of the detective. His eyes darted around the crime scene, as if scanning it meticulously when he spoke, “Did you drive here ? or did you catch a cab ?”
She kept rewinding his voice in her mind, something about it made her feel giddy. She didn’t know why.
He finally craned his neck towards her with an annoyed look, “I asked you a question, Miss ?”
The realization that she had just been staring blankly at him hit her like a slap, she quickly scrambled for an answer, “Oh yeah, i took a cab, and uh my name’s Penelope Gargano.”
He nodded as he turned his attention back towards the bodies, “Italian ?”
”Half-Italian.” She responded as she gained her focus and took more important notes regarding the scene.
She noticed how half the organs were missing. She took a step back and realized that the bodies weren’t strewn about randomly. There was order in the violent chaos,
“There’s a pattern.” She said, her eyes wide in realization.
This pulled the detective out of his focused scanning, “I beg your pardon ?”
She gestured him to take a step back, “The bodies are in a pattern, it’s….it’s like a star.”
His confused look turned into horror, then realization as he noticed the hidden pattern,“Satanists ?”
Her terror had long been replaced with curiosity, “Unlikely, it’s not a pentagram, it’s a star, with some few extra bits.”
He only made a noise which seemed to her like agreement, then slid of his latex gloves, turning towards the line of cars.
“Alright you’re coming with me, I need to know about the call that was made to your office regarding the murder,” He stopped short of his car and turned around to face her, “And i’m guessing you’re going to need the case files.”
”Yes i do need the case files, but isn’t that kinda illegal ?” She asked, looking around to check if anyone heard them.
”Oh it most definitely is, but i won’t tell if you won’t.” He winked pulling open the door to the passenger seat.
She chuckled, “A law enforcer with little regard for the rules, how naughty.” She said in a monotone voice.
He sighed as he pulled open the door to his old and matte green car, climbing in “I believe in getting the culprit, Miss Gargano, if i have to break a few rules along the way then so be it.”
She smirked as she followed suit, into the passenger seat, “Penny is fine, and would you mind sharing your own name too Detective ?”
He chuckled as the car roared to life and he pulled out of the crime scene, “It’s John”
”Oh god the hot guy has the most bland name in the planet. John ?? Really ??” Her inner monologue chimed.
She glanced at the man, his tan skin glowing against the streetlights every time they flashed against his face.