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To Whom it May Concern
To whom it may concern,
Please, I need your help. They’re after me and I don’t know what to do! You’re the only one who can save me! Help, before it’s too late! Please…
Rowena Morainn looked over the note several times, not understanding why it had been shoved through her window while she slept. The handwriting was messy and clearly hastily written, and it looked as if it’d been written in the dark. She shook her head in confusion, rubbing her hazel eyes in hopes that she was still dreaming. But the note was still sitting on her nightstand where she had placed it, still glaring at her with its pleas for help.
A loud knock came at her bedroom door, and she recognized the voice of her mother, Kiley Morainn. “Rowena, let’s go! Breakfast doesn’t wait for everyone!”
She quickly stuffed the letter into the back pocket of her black jeans and pulled her dirty blond hair up into a ponytail, grabbing her trusty black leather jacket as she left the room. She walked to kitchen and poured herself a bowl of cereal before taking a seat at the table. Her mother walked around the room, having already eaten, unable to stay still, always fidgeting.
“Kiley,” Rowena’s dad said to his wife. “You’re doing it again.”
Kiley paused mid-step to look at him, her eyes seemed unable to focus on just one thing. “Huh? Oh, right. Sorry dear.” She walked out the front door, got in her car, and drove to work without another word, her usual tradition. Rowena’s dad sighed and turned back to reading the newspaper, his graying hair a disheveled mess.
She had eaten three bites of her breakfast when she suddenly got an awful feeling in her gut that caused her to clutch her stomach. She noticed her twin brother Lucian glancing at her worriedly, but she waved him off, momentarily distracted by today’s outfit choice for him. While she always wore dark clothes, he wore the most colorfully eye-straining clothes imaginable. Opposites, just as they were in most things. Where she was like their father, Lucian was every bit their mother. Rowena was known for her quiet and short-tempered nature, Lucian for his open and kind personality. Where she was lean and wiry, he was bulky and powerful. Where she had dirty blond hair and hazel eyes, he had dark hair and even darker eyes. The only thing they really had in common was their resourcefulness, which had gotten them both in a lot of trouble as children, and it still did, seeing as they were sixteen years old.
She felt the stabbing pain in her gut again, as if it were trying to tell her something. She gritted her teeth, determined to not let her father or brother see her in pain. Her dad, Gavin, lowered his paper and looked down his nose at her.
“You’ve barely touched your food, Rowena,” he pointed out, as if she hadn’t already noticed that.
“I’m not hungry,” she lied. Well, it was partly truthful, the pain in her gut had made her lose her appetite.
Gavin nodded, accepting this. This was a usual exchange between the two, both of them not the type of people to talk more than necessary. “Must be your boyfriend, huh? What’s his name? I can’t remember.”
She felt heat rise to her cheeks and quickly turned her face away. “Morrie,” she said, now remembering that she had told her family about her “boyfriend”. In truth, she was dating a girl named Morwenna Morrison, who went by the name of Morrie. Just thinking of her sent shivers down Rowena’s spine; her glossy scarlet hair, her beautiful brown eyes that Rowena could get lost in, the way her hips swayed when she walked, the way herーshe was jolted from her thoughts as Lucian nudged her foot under the table. “What?” she growled, noticing that her heart was pounding.
“Dad just asked you when we can meet your boyfriend,” he responded, not seeming to be bothered by her annoyed tone.
Rowena’s palms felt suddenly sweaty. “Well, um, Morrie’s not exactly comfortable meeting new people.”
Dad lowered his paper to look at her. “I’m your father, and I’m going to meet this Marty whether you like it or not.”
“It’s Morrie,” she mumbled, trying to shovel down another bite of breakfast, but her stomach protested. She pushed her chair back and stood up, bringing her mostly-full bowl to the kitchen.
Rowena pulled on her boots and laced them up before heading out the back door and walking across their backyard to the edge of the woods. She paused briefly at the edge of the treeline, looking over her shoulder at her home before plunging into the darkness of the forest. She continued into the woods for about ten minutes, at which time she reached a large clearing dominated by one giant sycamore tree in the center, its large outstretched branches drooping down to nearly touch the ground, creating a protected area at the base of the tree. This was the usual home of Rowena’s boa constrictor companion, Devastator Putnam, and as she expected, the giant reptile was curled around the base of the tree several times, fast asleep. She walked up to the snake’s head and lifted her heavy eyelids, looking into her bloodshot orange eyes. “Putnam,” she urged, gently slapping the creature’s multicolored scales.
The fearsome-looking constrictor unwound herself from around the tree, stretching her muscles and tasting the air with her tongue. Scenting her counterpart nearby, she turned her half-blind eyes on Rowena, a reptilian smile brightening her face. “Rowena,” she hissed happily.
“Hey, Putnam,” she greeted, giving her scales a gentle rub. “You must me hungry.”
Devastator seemed to tilt her head at Rowena. “No, I had a large deer last night, I’ll be good for awhile.”
“A simple ‘no’ would have sufficed,” Rowena muttered.
“Why did you wake me?” the snake asked her, not in annoyance, but general curiosity.
“I need to show you something,” Rowena replied, pulling the mysterious letter from her pocket and reading it aloud to the reptile.
Devastator took a moment to think about it. “If it’s only one letter, it’s probably nothing, just some kids messing with you I bet.”
“Maybe,” Rowena said. “But what if it’s someone who needs my help? This person sounds desperate.”
“What happened to you? The Rowena I know wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if someone needed help. Morrie must be a good influence on you.”
Rowena chose to ignore this, gesturing at the letter.
Devastator rolled her half-blind eyes. “It could just be Lucian playing a prank on you. Don’t worry about it, Rowena. But if you get a second letter, then it might be something, and you should tell me. Okay?”
“Alright,” Rowena agreed, realizing Devastator would know a thing or two about pranks, seeing as she pranked Rowena and others constantly. “Thanks, Putnam. I’m heading to the studio now, see you around.”
Devastator hissed in annoyance. “Why do I have to stay in these infernal woods?”
Rowena sighed. “We’ve been over this. What do you think would happen if a giant boa constrictor were seen with a teenage girl in the middle of town? Companions are rare in this area, I don’t want either of us to get hurt.”
The snake relented. “Fine. Good luck with the sculpting.”
Rowena locked her bike to the bike rack outside the art studio where she worked on the main street of the small suburb she called home. As she walked by a bench on the sidewalk to get to the doors of the studio, one of the men sitting on the bench whistled and snaked his hand out to grab her wrist. He tried to pull her closer, but she twisted, causing his arm to be an awkward angle and she heard something crack. He released her and howled, staring at her.
She glared at him, not caring. “If you ever do that again, you’ll be running home to your mother with more broken bones.” She walked off, not looking over her shoulder and pushed through the doors to the art studio, greeting Olive at the front desk.
“Hey, Rowena,” she said, her usual smile on her face. “Finishing your sculpture today?”
She nodded, continuing to where her sculpture sat in a dark corner. To the untrained eye, it still looked like a blob of clay and plaster, but to her, it was a beautiful half-finished sculpture of a boa constrictor, inspired by Devastator Putnam. Even though she hadn’t started sculpting or art in general until relatively recently, she often got comments and compliments from the more experienced sculptors, telling her she had raw talent and finesse. She worked on her sculpture for hours, but it felt like minutes to her. She added more details, marking each individual scale on the boa sculpture, and painting it too. She had just stepped back and was wiping off her hands on a towel when she felt a hand rest gently on her shoulder. She tensed, but then relaxed when she saw it was Morrie, her scarlet hair gleaming in the sunlight. Just the sight of her girlfriend made Rowena smile broadly, something she rarely did. “Morrie!” she exclaimed, wrapping her dirty arms around Morwenna.
“Whoa, Rowena,” Morrie laughed patting her on the back awkwardly. “It’s not like we’ve been apart for a year.”
“I know,” Rowena said, regaining her composure and stepping back. “But a day feels too long for me, I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you, too,” Morrie whispered. She looked over Rowena’s shoulder. “Wow, babe, is that your sculpture?”
Rowena nodded. “It’s a boa constrictor.” She leaned close and whispered in Morrie’s ear, “It’s a sculpture of Devastator.” Morrie was one of the few people who knew that Rowena had a companion, and one of the only people who had actually met Devastator. Therefore, the snake was aware of Rowena’s relationship with another woman, and she greatly approved of it, to Rowena’s delight.
“Wow, Rowena, you truly have talent, this is amazing,” Morrie breathed in awe. Her soft brown eyes met Rowena’s steely hazels. “It’s beautiful, but not as beautiful as you.”
Rowena’s heartbeat quickened, and she got a strange feeling in her gut, like hunger of a different kind. She grabbed Morrie’s hand and pulled her out past where Olive sat to a supply closet on the far end of studio, closing the door to the closet behind them.
“What are we doing in here?” Morrie asked, and Rowena chuckled at her naivete, pressing her lips to Morrie’s. At first, Morrie didn’t respond, but then her lips softened and molded to Rowena’s, placing her hands on either side of Rowena’s face. Rowena kissed her fiercely and passionately, her fingers tangling in Morrie’s long and beautiful scarlet locks. Rowena’s lips traveled along Morrie’s jawline, and she licked the skin behind her ear, causing Morrie to let out a very quiet moan.
Just then, the door to the supply closet opened, with Olive standing in the doorway. Rowena quickly jumped back from Morrie, straightening her shirt and hair, while Olive pretended not to notice what had been going on. “I, umーfor you Rowenaー” she cleared her throat and tried again. “There’s a letter here for you, Rowena.”
Olive nodded and handed her a folded sheet of paper, avoiding Rowena’s gaze.
Rowena took it and stared at it. “No envelope?”
Olive shook her head. “Someone came in and asked me to give it to you.” Rowena unfolded the note and read it.
To whom it may concern,
Help me before I die…..I’m running out of time. All you need to do is help me, and I’ll be saved. Please, please, I need your help before I die. I need you to save me….please.
Rowena looked up at Olive. “Who gave you this?” she demanded.
Olive’s brow furrowed in concentration. “IーI can’t remember,” she said, confused.
“You have to remember, you said you saw the person just now,” Rowena answered, growing impatient.
“I know, I know,” Olive said, tears springing to her eyes. “But I can’t remember, you have to believe me! I knew just a moment ago, but I just can’t remember now…”
Not once in all the years they’d known each other had Olive lied to Rowena, and Rowena didn’t see why she’d start now. “I believe you,” she sighed. Without another word, she brushed by Olive and out onto the street, closely followed by Morrie. She walked to her bike, and noticed that another note was taped to the seat. She ripped it off and opened it to see another note begging for her help, written in strangely familiar handwriting, but she couldn’t quite place it. “Damn it,” she said, unlocking her bike.
“Where are you going?” Morrie asked her.
“I need to talk to Putnam. Come along if you like.”
Rowena and Morrie arrived at Devastator’s sycamore home, and were surprised to find the clearing empty.
“Putnam!” Rowena called several times, louder each time. But there was no response. “I told her to stay here,” Rowena growled in annoyance. She decided to wait in the clearing for the snake to come back, and she didn’t have to wait long. The sound of plants cracking and undergrowth being shoved aside alerted her to Devastator’s presence just before her gigantic reptilian head came through the brush and into the clearing, her body wrapping around the edges of the clearing, creating a wall of scales and flesh with Rowena and Morrie in the center of it.
“Such a pretty thing,” Devastator said, looking at Morrie, her forked tongue flicking in and out of her mouth. The way she said it made the hair on the back of Rowena’s neck stand on end. The voice didn’t quite match Devastator’s usual tone, and her eyes seemed milkier and cloudier than usual. Rowena eyed the mass of Devastator’s body, and noticed she was slowly and subtly creating a smaller and smaller circle around the two girls.
“Putnam,” Rowena began uncertainly. “Where were you?”
The snakes orange eyes flicked to Rowena, strangely unfocused. “That’s none of your concern, child,” she hissed.
Something wasn’t right. Her hand stealthily snaked to the knife she had tucked into the waist of her jeans at the small of her back, not that it would do much good against Devastator’s armor-like scales. Suddenly, with shocking speed for such mass, Devastator wrapped her body around Morrie, squeezing tight. Morrie’s eyes bulged and Rowena could hear her ribs crack under the pressure, as Morrie struggled to breathe.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” she roared at Putnam, rushing at the snake’s body with her knife, but the blade bounced right off one of the reptile’s orange scales. “Let her go! Putnam, it’s Morrie!”
“Precisely,” the snake hissed.
“Stop, Devastator, you’re going to kill her! Please!” Rowena’s voice was filled with desperation as tears rolled down her cheeks. For a moment, the snake stopped squeezing and looked at Rowena, her eyes now bright orange instead of milky as they had been a moment ago. But then her eyes hardened again, growing milky, as she turned back to Morrie. Before she started squeezing again, her head reared back and she let out a tremendous hiss. She seemed conflicted, as if her mind were fighting itself.
All of a sudden, there was a laugh behind Rowena, and she turned to see a man standing at the edge of the clearing. He had short dark brown hair and a neatly-trimmed beard, his nose a mangled mess from repeated breakings, and his sleeves were rolled up to the elbows to reveal heavily-tattooed forearms.
“You have a strong bond with the snake for her to be able to resist this much.” He had a deep voice and grinned wickedly as he said this.
“What is going on?” Rowena demanded, confused.
“Isn’t it obvious?” the man said with a cackle. “Do you know who I am?” he stared at her, as if he expected her to say she did. After several moments of confused silence, he sighed. “I’m Travis McCarthy,” he said, clearly disappointed that she didn’t know.
The name set of alarms in Rowena’s head. She remembered that last year, a man named Travis McCarthy had been arrested and charged with murder, and transported to a state prison. How he was back here, she didn’t know, but she was sure it was the same Travis McCarthy, he matched the wanted pictures she had seen back then. “You’re a murderer,” she said softly, slowly backing away from him.
“Indeed,” he said, grinning wide to reveal that he was missing many teeth.
“H-how did you escape?” she asked, genuinely curious and to stall for time.
“You see, there’s something people don’t know about me, something I can do. I can influence minds, make you do things you don’t want to,” his smile spread as he said this, and Rowena gulped nervously. “And you won’t even remember doing it.”
It took a moment for this to register as Rowena connected the dots. “You’re influencing Devastator’s mind so that she’ll attack Morrie. And you were the one who gave Olive the letter.”
“You’re a smart one,” Travis said, slowly advancing on her. “You know who wrote those letters? Your lover over there that’s dying.”
Rowena looked over at Morrie, who lay unconscious in Devastator’s grip. “Why?” It was the only word she could muster to ask Travis.
He shrugged. “I was bored, thought I’d have some fun.” He looked into Devastator’s eyes, and uttered something under his breath that she couldn’t hear. In response, Putnam wrapped around Morrie even tighter, and Rowena heard the sounds of more cracking bones.
“NO!” she roared, running at Travis with her knife. She rammed the knife into his gut, and he stumbled backwards clutching his stomach. With his concentration broken, his grip on Devastator’s mind released, and stared around confused. Noticing she was killing Morrie, she quickly unwound and slithered to Rowena’s side, noticing that she was in danger. Travis pulled the knife from his gut with a sickening squelch, and rushed at Rowena with it, but the snake intercepted him, creating an impenetrable wall of scales, and the knife rebounded harmlessly. With extreme speed and reflexes, Devastator sank her fangs into Travis, impaling him through the heart.
Rowena rushed over to Morrie where she lay on the ground, struggling to breathe. “Morrie!” she breathed, kneeling beside her. “Morrie, are you okay?”
Morrie croaked in response, barely able to turn her head to look at Rowena. Rowena’s hands searched Morrie’s body, looking for wounds. Her breath caught in her throat and tears poured down her face. Every single bone in Morwenna Morrison’s body was broken. Both her lungs were punctured, and she had a huge bloody gash in her gut where Putnam had apparently bitten her.
“Rowena,” she choked, blinking slowly. “I love you.” Her eyes closed, and what little breath was left in her ruined lungs whooshed out, never to return.
“No, Morrie, no. You can’t leave me.” Rowena shook Morrie’s shoulders urgently. “Don’t leave me, you’re all I have. Stay here, stay with me, don’t leave me.” But it was too late, she was gone, her spirit traveling to another world, where she and Rowena would be reunited one day many years from that moment. Rowena buried her face in Morrie’s neck, embracing her broken body, hugging it close to her chest. “I love you,” she whispered against her scarlet hair, her tears mingling with Morrie’s blood in a cruel concoction.
Rowena had overcome obstacles and pain in her life before, but never anything like this. Morrie had meant everything to her, she had been her world, she had saved Rowena in so many ways. Without Morrie, she would be a weak and hollow shell of what she could have been. Yet another scar in Rowena’s heart, but by far the deepest, and it would never stop bleeding. She could never love again.
“Goodbye, my love,” she breathed. “I love you, Morwenna Morrison. Goodbye."
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