Salem | Teen Ink


December 11, 2019
By hunterpickrell, Gresham, Oregon
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hunterpickrell, Gresham, Oregon
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Author's note:

I had to write a short fiction story for a Creative Writing class I was taking, and at minimum I was supposed to write 3 pages, I ended up writing about 9. So when she asked us to turn in one of these assignments to this website, I figured my best one was this short story. Enjoy!

The author's comments:

I had never separated this short story into chapters, so I hope that this works.

“Jack! Come here and chop up the rest of this firewood!” Aunt Liz yells as she realizes Jack never finished his chores.
“Give me a sec! I’ve b-been working on that for the last hour and a half! I’m grabbing lunch!” Jack responds, as he makes a cold cut sandwich. He sets a plate on the tile counter and heads to the cupboard to grab bread. He quickly realizes that there is no bread other than the loaf that is green with mold. He throws away the loaf and resigns himself to going hungry for now. Setting the plate back into the cabinet, he returns to the firewood.
“Well that was quick.” Liz says as she sees him walking out of the back door towards her.
“T-there wasn’t any bread,” Jack mentions as he grabs the axe.
“We’re out again?” Liz quizzically responds. “We just got some last week.”
“It got m-moldy real quick I guess,” Jack retorts.
“Well blame your uncle I guess, he should’ve gone shopping again,” Liz says as she walks inside. “Maybe you should grab some yourself with all of that money you’ve been saving,” She continues as she walks inside, shutting the sliding glass door aggressively. Jack sighs and starts to chop the firewood up again, thinking to himself about how nice it would be to be living on his own. Thirty minutes or so passed, and he finally finishes his job. He heads inside and over to his room, which is just the small guest room he was given when he went to live with his aunt and uncle at the age of 2. He pulls out the picture of his parents he found lying around the house and has been keeping in his wallet ever since. He studies their faces, and looks in the mirror like he does every so often, looking for some sort of familiarity. The dirt and dust on the mirror is making it difficult for him to see, and he mutters to himself “m-m-maybe I should clean this dang thing.” He lacks the energy however, and rolls over on his twin size mattress to take a nap.
Jack is awoken abruptly by the sound of his uncle knocking on the door. “What’s up champ? How’s your day been?” His uncle Jeff quietly asks as he walks in and realizes Jack was asleep.
“Not b-bad, tiring I guess.” Jack says between yawns as he rubs his eyes.
“Yeah, splitting firewood after work isn’t ideal on a weekend huh.” Jeff remarks with a slight smile. Jack grows a small smile as well.
“Not exactly, i-it might have been easier if I could’ve eaten a sandwich without m-moldy bread.” Jack responds. Jeff looked a tad crestfallen.
“Really? I just bought that stuff last week.” He said, relaying the information already told to Jack by Liz. He picks his head up quickly. “You know what, let’s go get some food, you, me, and Liz. There’s that new diner down the road and I love me some classic diner-setting food.” Jeff says with an almost kid-like excitement.
“A-a-are you sure? Aren’t we a little tight on money?” Jack questions, concerned about the three of them.
“Of course I’m sure, I wouldn’t mention it if I didn’t think we could afford it.” Jeff assures him. Jack gets his small smile back.
“Well okay then, if you’re sure.” Jeff, Liz, and Jack all pile into Jeff’s Toyota Camry with 200,000 miles on it, and drive down to the diner. The car is filled with small retorts from Liz about how they can’t afford to eat out, and assurances from Jeff that they can handle it. When they get to the diner, Jeff exclaims.
“Another Cruiser’s?They’re everywhere now! Good thing I love these guys.” He says while smiling back at the other two. They head into the diner and sit down to eat. They are just exchanging small talk and deciding what to order, but after their drinks have been delivered and the food order has been taken, Jack decided to pipe up.
“S-s-so, could either of you tell me what happened to Daniel and Rebecca?” Jack quietly but confidently asks Liz and Jeff. Jeff was in the middle of taking a drink from his Arnold Palmer, and almost spits it out when the question hits the table like a semi-truck. Liz is the first to respond, and she starts off angry.
“Why do you need to know about those two?” She spat out in almost a whisper. Jeff is still recovering from his traumatic Arnold Palmer experiences, but he soons regains the ability to talk.
“Yeah, what do those two have anything to do with right now?” He more tenderly asks.
“W-well, they were my parents, I-I’ve been living with you guys for the last 15 years, and I w-would kind of like to know where I came from.” Jack responds, his stuttering growing worse the more nervous he gets. Jeff wipes his mouth and sighs in resignation, realizing that it was time to tell young Jack about his parents. Liz was not ready to give up however, and she somehow almost grew angrier with the question.
“You do not need to know about those deadbeats, we are you-” Jeff cuts her off quickly.
“Jack, I think it’s high time you know the truth about why you live with us.” Liz begins to speak up again but Jeff is ready this time, waving his hand to signal that she wasn’t going to keep the secret this time. “Your parents, were amazing people, but they had a really bad habit. They both had a pretty serious drug problem, and eventually, that problem took them out of Seattle. They moved down to Salem Oregon, and eventually, they were killed over this problem.” Jeff explains all of this while staring straight at Jack. Jack looked like he was in shock, and he solemnly excused himself from the table so that he may go to the bathroom.
When he came back, the food was on the table. The trio ate, paid for the ticket, and had a silent ride home. Jack went up to his room and lay down on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He began to hear a voice in his head, beckoning him.
“Salem.” A man’s voice uttered in his head. A single word that before Jack wouldn’t have paid any attention to, but now held an infinite amount of power over him. “Salem.” Jack only heard this man’s voice once, but he knew immediately who it was. Jack whispers once into the darkness.
Jack couldn’t sleep that night, which worked to his advantage because he formulated a plan that took him out of the house before anyone else woke up. He got out of bed at around three in the morning, and wrote a letter to his aunt and uncle explaining that he was leaving. He was headed to Salem. He told them not to worry, that he would be fine, but he needed to find out exactly what happened to his parents. He grabbed the shoebox where he had been stashing the money he got from his job for the last year and a half, taking enough for gas and food for his five hour car ride, leaving a plentiful amount for his aunt and uncle on that tile counter, and got into his car. Luckily, Jack had invested in a car he knew wouldn’t break down, it was just a Honda Civic, but he knew when he bought it that it would last.
He started up his car, and began to drive away, it was going to be a long trip, but he had a lot to think about on the way there. Time didn’t exist in that Honda Civic as he drove miles and miles away from the only home he knew, and before he knew it he was approaching Salem. He was definitely going more than a few miles over the speed limit, and as he was going down a straightaway, he saw a cop car sitting on the side of the road. He knew right away that he was done for. He started to slow down and pull over to the side of the road, and the red and blue lights trailed behind him almost immediately. The cop waits in his car for what seems like a lifetime to Jack, but eventually meanders over to Jack’s car.
“Son, do you know how fast you were going?”
“Yes officer, I’m r-real sorry sir, and I know that it’s not a reason affecting you, but I had to get somewhere fast.” Jack was shaking with anxiety.
“I will say, that was pretty fast for that little Honda Civic you got there.” The officer says while cracking a slight smile.
“Y-yeah,” Jack replies with a shameful grin. “I-it’s just that I need to get to Salem as f-fast as I can.”
“Salem?” The cop exclaims incredulously, but with a grin, “Why in the world would you ever need to go down to Salem?” knowing full well they were only a few miles away from the city.
“You s-see, I think my parents were killed down there, and I wanted to see if I c-could find any answers,” Jack sorrowfully relays.
“I see, and why is it so important for you to find this out? How long has it been since this happened?” The officer questions.
“I d-don’t know.” Jack truthfully replies. “I’ve been h-having like these, premonitions, or voices, from someone just saying ‘Salem,’ and my uncle had just t-told me l-last night that my parents were killed in Salem.” As Jack grew more excited about sharing this information, his stutter grew worse as well.
“Well son, it seems like an awful thing befell your family, and I hate to see such a young man, who although was speeding,” The officer cracked another grin, “otherwise seems to be rather upstanding, so lost. I can’t do anything to help you out sadly.”
“Oh d-don’t worry about it sir, just sharing this s-story is helping me out plenty. However, I understand that I am probably going to have a ticket to pay before I can get to Salem.” Jack says with another grin creeping onto his face.
“What’s your name, son,” The officer says with a deep sigh.
“J-J-Jack, sir.”
“Well Jack, I think today is your lucky day. You’ve been very straight-forward with me, and held yourself one hundred percent accountable for your crime. I’m going to let you off with just a warning today.”
“R-really sir?” after a long moment of silence Jack continues. “Thank y-you so much for your kindness, I promise t-to do the speed limit the rest of the way to Salem.” The officer shakes his hand and walks back to his car. Jack shakily pulls off of the side of the street and continues on his way.
Jack finally reaches the town of Salem at around nine in the morning, and people are just beginning their day. Jack drives around until he finds the public library, and he pulls into their parking lot. He turns off the car and just before he opens the door, the voice in his head returned.
“Salem.” But it wasn’t a whisper this time, almost a shout. “Salem.” voices echoed around his head like the Grand Canyon. “Salem.” Jack grabs his head in agony, begging the voices to stop. “Salem.” He stumbles out of his car, trying to grab anything to stop his fall. “Salem.” He falls to the sidewalk, yelling in pain. “Salem.” Jack’s vision begins to go dark. “Salem.” Jack is unconscious on the sidewalk.
Jack wakes up startled, wondering where he is and what happened. All of the sudden, the memories of what has transpired floods him at once, and he is jerked awake by the realization of his current situation. He checks his phone: 10 missed calls from Liz and a text from Jeff asking if he’s okay. He sends both of them a message, saying that he’s fine and in Salem, and then shuts his phone off. Shortly after, an elderly man walks into his room carrying a tray of food, almost immediately exclaiming “Ah! He’s awake!” He sets the tray of food down on the bed. Jack begins to say something, but the elderly man cuts him off. “No need to thank me, no need to explain anything. I saw you on the side of the road, and I brought you here for rest and recovery. When you are finished eating, you may stay as long as you like. No payments are required, and there is no need to check out.” Jack looks puzzled.
“M-may I just ask, why?” He questions. The elderly man smiles.
“Well of course you may, I am helping you because I was once a young boy in trouble too, and no one helped me back then, I saw you fall over across the street, and I knew you were in distress. I wanted to help you. Now with that, enjoy your food, and I hope you find what you are looking for.” The old man begins to walk away, but Jack quickly asks.
“Wait! Sir, w-what’s your name?” Jack quickly shouts. The old man turns around with a smile.
“Don. You can call me Don.” And then he walks out of the door.
Jack sits, confused for a little bit, and then hungrily wolfs down the meal left for him by Don. English muffins, eggs, yogurt, fruit, coffee, and orange juice were all given to Jack, and he ate all of it. Afterwords, he gets up, makes his bed, cleans the room, and then walks across the street to the library.
When he gets inside, he walks up to the librarian and asks, “C-could I see a record of all major crimes in Salem over the last 20 years?” She looks back up to him or a second quizzically, looks back to her computer, and then relays the information she found.
“Row 17, right side. However, it’s a copy for the last 50 years.” She responds. Jack walks to row 17 and finds the book. He sat at a table and began poring over the extensive book of crimes. He is turning pages until he finds a headline that draws his attention. “Man and woman dead in double murder over apparent drug war.” He recognizes the faces of the man and woman, and pulls the picture of his mom and dad folded away in his wallet. He continues reading. “Two suspects in custody.” And then a continued edit. “No suspects were found guilty.” Jack is outraged at the statement. No one had ever been convicted over the deaths of his parents? He knew that he had to do something, but what? He was just a kid. He read out the names of the two suspects, and decided to track them down to see if he could figure anything out.
He finds out that his parents were actually living with two roommates while they were in Salem, and coincidentally, the two suspects were their roommates. He tracks down the address of the house they lived in, and decided to see if they were still around.
He drove to the old home his parents used to live in, and immediately the voice began again. “Salem. Salem. Salem.” he knew that this was it. The place where his parents had been killed. He was also more prepared for the voice, he wasn’t knocked unconscious this time. He looked at the house, trying to figure out how he was going to approach this. Finally, he walked up to the house. The voice kept growing louder. “Salem. Salem. Salem.” He knocked on the door, and all went silent. A man who appeared to be about 55, with a huge beer gut, a staggering six foot tall frame, and a stench of cigarettes and weed answered the door. And he started off immediately with
“What do you want little man.” Burping right after the sentence ended. Jack took a deep breath, preparing himself.
“I-I-I was just wondering i-if you know who D-Daniel and Rebecca Straight were.” Jack finally says. The man has a flash of memory and fear across his face for a half of a second, and then says,
“No, I’ve never heard of them, why are you asking me about random people? get off of my property punk!” The man gets louder with every word, and is nearly shouting at Jack by the end of the sentence. Jack retreats, and comes up with a plan on how to approach these guys.
Jack knows the police will never accept his evidence of hearing voices, and so he decides after much deliberation that he needs to try to catch these guys in the act. Try to get them to repeat what they did 15 years ago. He chooses to steal from them, knowing that this will provide the incentive for the pair to attempt a murder. He returns late at night the next day.
Jack creeps into their backyard, hopping multiple fences on his way over. He peers through the window, seeing that they’re asleep, one on the couch, the other passed out on a recliner. and quietly slides it open. Jack walks through their living room like a phantom, on a carpet that is the same color as dirt, disturbing nothing. He is thankful that he hasn’t seen a chew toy or a dog bed, much less the animal itself. All he smells is the prominent smell of cigarette smoke, and he is trying to find something worth stealing. He walks into the kitchen, opening up cabinets to try and find a hiding spot for the drugs he knows they have, eventually stumbling upon a basement door. He traverses down the staircase using the flashlight on his phone, and when he reaches the bottom, he sees a huge room full of drug paraphernalia. He grabs the first thing he sees that look expensive, and creeps his way back upstairs. He gets near the window, and he knows that the part that comes next will be what kills him or not.
Right as he climbs out of the window, he pounds on the glass with his fists, waits until the two men inside startled awake, and as soon as they make eye contact with him, he waves around the bag of narcotics that he has stolen. They start shouting, but Jack is already gone, hopping over fences to get back to his car. The two men have already climbed inside their car, and he hears a roar of a muscle car engine. He gets into his car, ducks down, and immediately phones the police. When an operator picks up, he quickly tries to explain.
“T-t-these two g-guys are chasing m-me in a car!” Jack shouts. “They a-are in s-some kind of m-m-muscle car, I’m in a Honda Civic, we are by Cleveland St.! Please help m-m-me!” The operator explains that he needs to stay calm, but Jack has hung up and is currently speeding down the road. The pouring down rain provides a solemn scene as everything has gone quiet except for the silent screaming in Jack’s head. The pair of drug dealers finally spot him, and are immediately on his tail. They are chasing him everywhere he goes, he can’t shake them. Jack knows he can’t stop yet, he is waiting for the red and blue lights in the distance to make his next move. It’s getting dicey for Jack, the pair start ramming into his little Honda Civic with their powerful car, and he knows that he can’t keep going much longer. He starts to see the tint of red and blue pulsing through the air, and he starts to slow down, he pulls over with the pair of dealers right behind him. The cops haven’t shown up yet, and Jack needs to stall the two for a little bit. He jumps out of the car with the package above his head. The dealers get out of their car, each holding a pistol.
“What do you think you’re doing kid, why would you try to steal from us?” The large man from before asks. He has to yell over the almost stormy conditions.
“W-well I needed to know w-why you killed my parents.” Jack responds nervously. Everything he has ever wanted to know about his childhood is coming to light all at once, and the chants of “Salem, Salem, Salem.” Almost overtake the sounds of rain. The drug dealer looks confused for a moment, but then a flash of realization comes across his face.
“Daniel and Rebecca right? We didn’t pull the trigger on them kid, we just sent the hit out.” The gun hasn’t lowered from Jack’s face and he grows more scared.
“S-s-so you’re saying you didn’t kill m-my parents? Then w-who did?” Jack asks
“Well I guess it doesn’t matter anyway since you’re about to die, it was a man by the name of Robert Lee. Assigned hitman. We had him kill your parents after we realized they had been stealing from us while living with us, and I guess you’re a lot like your folks.” The second man who had been silent up until this point decided to speak up.
“Give us the drugs kid, you got your answers, now it’s time for you to make your peace with God.” Jack started to see the sirens reflecting off of a building near them, but the loud AC/DC coming out of the dealer’s car radio prevented anyone from hearing them. Jack gave them the package of drugs and backed away a little bit. The cop car came around the corner as the dealers raised their guns to Jack, and right before they pulled the trigger, all the three of them heard was “Freeze!” from the cops megaphone. The dealers panicked, trying to get back into their car, but before they could drive away, their tire was shot out. They got out of the car with a murderous look of ferocity. They stared down the terrified Jack and got into the back of the police car.
In the following days, the dealers were taken into custody for possession of paraphernalia and attempted murder, but after the house was searched because of the drugs found in the car, they were also arrested for distribution of illegal substances. The cold case of Jack’s parents was reopened because of the same address having such a huge drug problem, and the drugs found in the basement were matched with those in the systems of Daniel and Rebecca from so many years back. Both dealers were given life sentences. Jack contemplated visiting them in jail, but decided to let them rest in peace as his parents now could.
Jack was driving back home from Salem, content with all that he had done, he was embraced by both his aunt and uncle, who were worried sick about where he had gone. All seemed well in world, but Jack still felt like something was missing. When he sat down in his bed for the first time since the Salem incident, he heard the voice of his dad one last time, but this time, instead of Salem, all he heard was, “Thank you, son.”

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