This is my first attempt at a Secret Window fan fiction. I urge you NOT to be gentle and only tell me what you really think. Especially let me know whether or not you think I should continue! Any unanswered questions or confusing bits will be resolved in later chapters, I promise.
By the way…
My fan fiction takes place a week before Shooter arrives at Mort Rainey's door.
The story will be rated PG-13 for now and may end up venturing to an R in later chapters.
The planned 'romance' in this story will definitely not be between Mort and the female family member. Just so no one panics in thinking I'm heading down the incest trail. :)
Chapter I: Merciful Death
…some nights I feel like dying, like that scarecrow in the rain...-John Cougar Mellencamp
Taking a shuddery breath, she began to ascend the ladder. She did her best to clear her mind as she climbed, focusing on counting each rung as she went.
She could not help thinking of him, and all that had gotten her to this point. But she did not want to dwell on the good times. For if she did, she knew she might just forget these hopeless thoughts, lower herself down from that ladder, and return to the house, begging him to stay and offering complete forgiveness.
But why in hell's name should she forgive him? It was on that beautiful day, ten years ago, that he had taken her pale, delicate hands in his, gazed into her eyes, and promised his heart to her, and only to her, until the grim reaper came for his due. Well, her man's heart belonged to someone else. And damn it all, the bastard still drew breath.
She had never sensed his unhappiness in their marriage, an unhappiness that led him to capture and revel in the affections of another. She never would have known how he deceived her, until she had been tipped off by a mutual acquaintance. Lord, she must have been blind, if a mere acquaintance could see what was going on while she remained in the dark. Perhaps this was why she was doing this. If she had earlier perceived what was happening, it wouldn't have gone so far. Maybe he wouldn't now find himself so in love with a shameless whore, that his wife of ten years became insignificant.
Many a rough night had she suffered in her life, but none so rough as the night she discovered that the seeds of suspicion planted in her mind turned out to be factual. Only two days ago, and yet it had seemed like a multitude of time had passed from then to this moment. She had found them in the throes of passion; not in just any bed, but the bed she and her husband had shared, the bed in which they made blissful love in for the first time, and all the countless times after. So distracted were they, that they didn't even notice her come in, didn't even notice her watching them, her eyes dark with somber realization, then heating to scorching infernos. She began to scream.
That had certainly gotten their attention. Thinking back on the incident, she doesn't remember what she was screaming exactly. Obscenities, probably. How-could-yous, maybe. Whatever it was, it had freaked out the couple in heat, that was for sure. "I'll never forget the look on your faces," she had told him, smugly, the next day after it had happened, when they both had reached the breaking point and had to bring themselves to seriously discuss the consequences of his affair. "I'll never forget the look on YOUR face," was all Henry could say.
It was then that he told her he was in love. With the strumpet. "The heart wants what the heart wants." She hadn't cried a single tear over him until that moment. It was so simplistic an explanation. All the caustic wit and sarcasm so integral to her personality suddenly vanished, and the only words her mouth had left to speak were, "And what if my heart wants you?" He didn't have an answer to that, predictably. He wasn't going to let her down all that gently. As she stood there before him, beginning to sob, covering her face in shame, he slipped off his wedding band, with some amount of difficulty, and held it out to her, suddenly humble. "I don't suppose I deserve this anymore. Do with it what you will." She lowered her hands down from her eyes to look at him, then down at the small gold ring in his outstretched palm.
She began to scream again, but she did not scream words. It was all noise. She could feel it rising up from her entrails, up through her chest, her throat, and exiting from her lips, not the powerful wail she had expected, but a tortured, wounded cry, pathetic and defeated. Her fingers deftly snatched the ring from his palm, and she turned and stormed towards the hearth, where a warm fire crackled. She hurled his ring into the flames, then began to remove her own wedding band. She tugged on it hard, in bursts of strength, but it would not come off. Gritting her teeth, she gave one final pull. The ring came off, as did some of her skin, a fact she did not notice as the cheap diamonds met the same fate as his wedding band. Henry silently stood by, a mix of horror, exasperation, and pity. He did not even go to her side at the sight of her bleeding. He knew he could not involve himself anymore. He wanted to be free, after all. She stood there a moment more, eyes trained on the melting metal, before suddenly turning and scrambling out the door, towards their old barn. Surely there was nothing left.
She leaned forward, throwing one leg over the ceiling beam. She must have been seventy feet up. Perhaps more. Looking down, it was so dark and she was so high up, that she could not even see the bits of straw that littered the barn floor. However, it wasn't the view down below that concerned her. It was the one straight ahead. The barn was not more than a hundred feet from their house. From her place on the beam, she had a near-perfect view of the bedroom window. She could see him there, rushing back and forth between the closet and the bed. Packing a suitcase. He wasn't even going to stick around another night. She closed her eyes in silent reverence, never feeling more like a failure. She couldn't satisfy her husband, either physically or emotionally. It must have been her fault that he would stray. But she was so tired of pondering the solution to the nagging question of what she had done wrong. So tired…
Well, she wouldn't have to ponder it anymore.
She let herself have one last look at him, remembering all the details that made her love him; his calm emerald eyes, his hair bleached from the sun, his hands. And then she closed her eyes, allowing him to fade away. She unsteadily rose to her feet on the beam, poised to her toes on the very edge. Her arms rose out in front of her. And she fell.
Nobody was there to see, but had there been a witness to the death of Katrina King, no matter what beautiful sights they had seen in their lifetime, they would be able to say that they had never seen anything more beautiful than the sight of a heartbroken woman ending all her garmonbozia in a graceful swan-dive.
She seemed to hang in the air for a moment, the most elegant of birds with her flowing titian plumage. Her arms swept back, her spine arched. Her eyes remained closed, even as she felt her feet no longer touching the beam, and then she was swept by unforgiving gravity, sending her body plummeting to the hard floor.
Nobody was there to hear, but had there been a witness to the sound of Katrina King's fragile body experiencing its quick drop and a sudden stop, no matter what horrific sounds they had heard in their lifetime, they would be able to say that they had never heard anything more dreadful than the sound of a heartbroken woman shedding her mortal coil, her skeleton brutally crushed and broken, her organs and veins punctured and spilling their fluids.
But no one saw. And no one heard.
It was just Katrina King, receiving all the blessings that never-ending darkness had to offer.
A startled Mort Rainey suddenly turned his head in the direction of the voice. "Yes…" he spoke, his mind forcing the name 'Katrina' to bob up to the surface, forcing his lips to speak this word, but 'Katrina' was not to whom the voice belonged to. Katrina was not real. And yet she was. Finally, another name popped up. "…Layla?" he finished, perfectly aware that there were about ten seconds between when he began his sentence and when he completed it.
But she was unfazed by his indecision of words. She just heaved a tired sigh, brushing a few auburn strands of hair away from her face. "I made breakfast, if you want a bite to eat."
"Um…no. Thank you…though," Mort began, flustered. She had caught him at a rather inopportune time, when he had become so involved with his story that it was difficult to tear himself out of Katrina King's crumbling world and be plopped back in his own desolate wasteland that was his life. As always, reality was terrifically inconvenient. "I had a snack…earlier…and I'm not…hungry…but maybe…later…I'll…"
Seeing she was going to get nowhere with this, she gave a curt nod to cut him off, murmuring a disappointed "alright" before turning on her heel and heading back down the stairs, the smell of gourmet cooking wafting its way through the cabin. Mort watched her go, his heart sinking heavily in his chest, weighed down by guilt at turning her down. He rose from his seat, peering over the railing of the second floor and watching as Layla ambled back into the kitchen, her gait bearing a closer resemblance to an elderly woman's than that of a thirty-year-old.
Mort mentally kicked himself in the ass for his behavior: brushing off a kind invitation for a home-cooked breakfast, an invitation she made every morning, despite the fact that she was only met with lame excuses. He had to learn to make it up to her. She was hurting too after all, and in the most painfully obvious way. She never asked for sympathy, not with words, but her appearance and behavior begged for it. Not at all unlike Mort himself. But he found it hard to rise up from his own self-pity wallowing.
(You're not going to make her happy just by eating her food, you know)
"Yes, you've already said that," Mort muttered irritably, leaning back in his chair and turning his attention back to his word processor, now working his way back to the beginning of the passage and reading over his work once more.
(So stop feeling so guilty every time you decline)
He scratched at the stubble on his chin, ignoring his psyche's simple solution. He Icouldn't/I stop.
As Mort poured over his latest work, making punctuation and grammar corrections here and there, he idly wondered to himself how Layla would feel to know that he had crafted a character based on her, then made her commit suicide. She would probably be about as thrilled as Amy had been with her character being massacred by a shovel-wielding cuckolded husband in "Secret Window". But Layla's tale was different. Malevolence towards her was the last thing on his mind when he penned her last tragic scene.
He wanted to give Layla peace on pages, even if he could not bestow it upon her in life.
At the moment, it was the most he could do for his cousin.
One last thing, so I don't get sued…
If the short story that Mort is penning sounds familiar, that's because it is. The concept is moderately borrowed from Stephen King's short story "The Last Rung On The Ladder". It was done just for effect, to keep with the whole plagiarism theme. Whew. Glad I got that off my chest.