A branch snapped behind her, and without a chance of protest she felt herself being flung to the soft dirt. She sifted the cool soil between her fingers, hanging onto a piece of sanity as her blouse was being ripped thread by thread. Panic flooded through her as she felt blood leave from her body. Unimaginable pain electrified her as she prayed with all her might for anyone to find her.
“Someone...help me,” she croaked, before everything went black. A gold badge flickered in the moonlight; a sheriff’s badge. Her last thoughts were of acting revenge on her attacker.
Wind rattled the loose nailed window of a corner diner, disrupting the conversation of two seasoned police officers.
“Have you heard the boss is thinkin’ of cutting down on men?” gruffed one, a man made of more wrinkles than teeth. He’d been crucial to the team twenty years ago, before his daughter’s mysterious passing. Arguably one of the best sheriff’s the small county had, bringing down crime with an iron fist. Now, however, he could feel the countdown of being let go ticking down in his withered bones.
“Yeah, the newbies were twittering about it like some fuckin mating birds man,” the younger man, Lucas Smith, scoffed, punctuating his sentence with a smart smack to a waitress’s bum. The old man grimaced as the young girl ran off, mortified of his acquaintance's language and actions.
“And ya know what,” continued Lucas, “maybe it’s a good thing some ol’ timers are getting the boot. I mean c’mon Sal, you assholes have been hoarding all the good paychecks, how am I supposed to be an alcoholic if I ain’t got no money?” At that, he howled with laughter. The other gentleman, an old timer by the name Sal Harris, rose to leave with a sick pit in his stomach.
“Well, you enjoy your...drinking, sir. I’ll be heading home,” snipped the old man, his words obviously clipped from his displeasure. Lucas sat there, a pit of fury slowly cooking in his stomach. He never liked that man, too pious and up-tight for his tastes. Let him think he’s better than you, Lucas thought to himself, because soon you’ll be sheriff. Good grief, he chuckled to himself, the man hasn’t even realized he lost his badge after all these years. Soon, Lucas vowed, Sal would be gone for good. At that, he threw a twenty down for their meal and drove off to his cabin in the nearby forest. Time to pay someone a visit, he whispered.
Oblivious to Lucas’s dark thoughts, Sal waddled away, cursing his legs for not being strong and as nimble as they once were. Passing a reflective mirror, he saw a petrifying sight. An all too familiar girl was standing behind his left shoulder. Dark brown hair, his same silver eyes, and a mouth contorted into a wordless plea. Emily. He spun around, ignoring people passing by with strange looks, thinking only of the slim chance that his daughter was back.
There was only air behind him. Sal felt his shoulders sink and tears welled in his eyes. The image of his daughter had been plaguing him for the past month, and sightings had become persistence the entire day. It seemed she would not be ignored on the twentieth anniversary of her leaving. What did her image foretell? That she was safe? But then why did she look to be in such pain? Taking a shaky breath, he counted to ten and prayed when he turned around the image be gone. No such luck, the all too familiar face was still behind him in the window.
He shook his head, and continued on his way home. No matter how much he wished, Emily would only leave on her terms it seemed. Sal wondered what damning action he’d committed to warrant living in this sort of hell, as he made his way to the once happy brick house he called his home.
At one point, before Emily’s tragic disappearance, the house had been happy, with inviting white windows and a massive yard. The house with the best Halloween candy, a safe place for fighting spouses to go to for a reassuring pat and/or a shot of something strong. But now, it looked as if sorrow itself haunted the place. With his head down and hands still shaking from seeing Emily, Sal walked into the creaky house. His frail heart gave a leap as a ghostly visage of his daughter stood with her back to him.
“Who are you?” he howled, as a shadowy figure leaned against his kitchen stove. It turned what appeared to be its head and Sal got a glimpse of gray eyes. She was back. He turned to run, but the door behind him was inexplicably locked.
“Emily, why are you doing this?” Sal cried, as his heart started beating faster and faster. The shadowy figure of Emily crept closer, and her muddied hands wrapped ‘round his throat.
“You killed me papa, and now it’s time for a little payback,” she smirked, her grip growing ever tighter. Sal’s eyes widened, his little girl couldn’t possibly think-
“No, no Emily it wasn’t m-,” she cut him off with a sickening snap of his neck, and glided through the door behind him. Her shadowy hands fell to their sides as she waited for some relief, a white light signifying she could finally rest in peace. But none came. After twenty years of waiting to enact justice, Emily thought, and I murdered the wrong man. With that, Emily slowly sank to the ground, her foggy appearance growing dim with grief.
On the other side of town, out amidst a voluptuous forest, soundly slept Lucas Smith. As his chest rose up and down, he clutched a golden sheriff’s badge. Another anniversary, and he still hadn’t been caught. A sallow shadow appeared outside near a withering grave, her sobbing awakening Lucas from his rest.
“Seems I won’t have to worry about our ol’ dear pal Sal anymore,” Lucas chuckled. He tossed the glistening sheriff’s badge, and smiled.