The cicadas stopped their high-pitched singing mid-note. A rustling in the shrubbery outside, the dog growling and barking at something outside, drew Beth cautiously to the window. By moonlight, she saw a shadow dart across the yard to the barn.
“There’s someone going into the barn” she whispered to her grown son, Sterling.
The whisper was entirely unnecessary but the very notion of having this unknown person skulking about out there at night about froze the breath in her. What did they want? Why didn’t they just come to the front door during the day? Why all this skulking around? She couldn’t even guess who it might be. This was why she’d asked Sterling to move back in for a while… just to feel safer.
He was standing there glancing anxiously about the room. “Sorry, Mama… Where did I sit my gun?”
She cast him an exasperated look. “There behind you by the door.”
“Oh.” He picked it up with nervous hands, looked it over to see that it still had shot in it, then tucked it up under his arm for a moment where she noticed some part of the trigger mechanism coming up against one of the buttons of his old blue Army jacket. She had a moments’ worry that it might catch there and was about to say so when he looked up at her one more time and said, “I’ll go check and be…”
A BOOOOOM shook the room in a blinding flash of light and the frozen breath knocked clean out of her, the deafening sound ringing through her head like a bell.
Seconds later, she was standing there alone in pitchy darkness seeing only her crumbled form on the floor, limbs tangled in her voluminous gray silk skirt and petticoats spread there around as the gray-streaked pale red of her hair around her head amid a widening pool of something liquid, dark and shiny as spilt red wine.
She was floating, looking down on herself, and then… nothing… she was totally alone.