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News & Features » May 2017 » “The Valley” by Charles Roland

“The Valley” by Charles Roland

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, Charles Roland depicts the gradual descent of a serial killer. 

The Valley
By Charles Roland
Between Bardstown and Springfield, Kentucky

Gazing down at the farmhouses in the valley below, feeling the wind whipping against his face, Mr. Hawkins thought: I wonder if I’ll be able to breathe on the way down.

***

He’d first seen the valley nearly three years ago. He’d been checking orders in the warehouse when Mr. Ard stuck his head out of his office and called him over. Only he didn’t say “Mr. Hawkins”; he used his first name, which made Mr. Hawkins hate him. Over time, Mr. Hawkins grew to hate everything about the warehouse. Everything about Kentucky—all of it—except for the valley.

Mr. Ard introduced Mr. Hawkins to a driver whose name he instantly forgot, and suggested that his newest employee, being also new to Kentucky, ought to “learn the country some.” Mr. Hawkins was therefore to accompany the driver as he made deliveries to nearby Springfield and Danville.

They took the Dixie Highway toward downtown Elizabethtown. The driver grunted attempts at conversation. Mr. Hawkins said nothing. His childhood and adolescence were spent in a part of the South that smelt of magnolia and tended toward reticence, and he found the too-loud, too-friendly familiarity of Kentuckians vaguely obscene.

They turned onto the Bluegrass Parkway. The road was lined on each side by thick woods and rock formations, somehow both lush and austere, imparting the promise and sternness of nature. Then they turned from the Bluegrass Parkway onto Route 150 near Bardstown. They drove for another twenty minutes, and then Mr. Hawkins saw the valley.

It came out of nowhere. All at once one side of the road fell away, revealing a sweeping, glorious vista that sank Mr. Hawkins’ stomach to his knees. The valley was expansive and richly green, dappled with farmhouses and outbuildings, roads winding lightly between residences, farms, and one tall, white church. The hills on the far side were green, too, before fading finally into grey and brown mountains.

At that moment, Mr. Hawkins realized he knew nothing at all about the place to which he’d come.

***

He’d bought the house in Elizabethtown because of the basement. Basements were uncommon where Mr. Hawkins came from, the land generally being too low to allow for it, and the idea of a basement—a part of the house that would be entirely underground—raised in him a swirl of possibilities.

The day after he moved in, he ordered the kind of heavy-duty cage meant for large, uncooperative dogs, and went to work insulating the basement walls and ceiling with a thick layer of foam. According to the manufacturer, the cage was made of aircraft grade aluminum; it arrived in pieces and weighed several hundred pounds. Mr. Hawkins had used cages from this manufacturer before and could testify to their resilience.

Two months later, driving south on I-65 after a half-day in Louisville, Mr. Hawkins picked up a hitchhiker. The boy was young, unhealthily skinny, with twitchy hands and eyes. When the boy accepted Mr. Hawkins’ invitation to spend the night, he likely did so thinking the older man’s interest was sexual in nature. It wasn’t. What Mr. Hawkins wanted was to put the boy in the cage, lock the door, and watch him die.

Later that evening the boy drifted into alprazolam-induced unconsciousness, and Mr. Hawkins carried him down to the basement. He lasted nearly a week without water.

***

Thirty-two months and four boys later, Mr. Hawkins saw his own face on the morning news. The last boy was from nearby, the television said, and his family had pushed the authorities to investigate. Mr. Hawkins had picked him up outside a gas station—the boy was doped up and had nowhere to sleep—and had apparently been recorded by a security camera.

The boy had lasted eight days. He’d been disposed of, like the others, in pieces over time.

Now it was over, and Mr. Hawkins knew, without ever having thought about it, exactly where he would go.

Over the last three years he’d passed this way time and again, sometimes with the driver and sometimes alone, just for the valley. It was wondrous. He saw beauty in the boys, in the way they faded and flickered out, and he believed he saw beauty in the valley.

Standing just past the guardrail, Mr. Hawkins anticipated the weightlessness to come. The flapping of his clothing in the wind was nearly deafening. He felt the sun on his face, closed his eyes, and exhaled. Then he was gone.

***

CHARLES ROLAND lives in an area convenient to several major southern cities. His stories have appeared in Workers Write! Tales from the Casino and Mystery Weekly Magazine. He can be reached at charlesrolandauthor.com or charlesrolandauthor@gmail.com.

***

Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: May 22, 2017

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , ,



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