's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" A Grave Reflection "

Submitted by Evan MacNeil

He deserved it, one-hundred percent. I never doubted that and I hope no-one else does either. The bastard wronged me, plain and simple, no two ways about it. It wasn't just that he humiliated me in front of my entire staff on a regular basis. It wasn't just that he burned my home down and then framed my son. It wasn't just that he embezzled from my own salary and eventually took my job. It wasn't just that. His very presence sent a shiver down your spine. That sounds like a trivial reason for murder, doesn't it? Well, you never met him. It made your teeth fuzzy when you made eye contact with him. It was like nails on a chalkboard every time you read his name. My blood ran cold whenever I heard his hand knocking at my door. He lurched around, day in and day out, in his damned three-piece suit, his dress shoes, his button-down collar, his slicked hair. He was walking evil, I swear it. That's why I killed him.

It was easier than I expected, I'll admit. I had never used my father's revolver before that day, and I ain't used it since, but it did the job. I walked into my office his office, rather, though it used to bear my name and cornered him. I didn't say nothing, and neither did he. I think he'd seen it coming. But even though he didn't talk, he did something worse. He was grinning. Smiling ear-to-ear the whole way through. He kept it up while I grabbed him by the tie, while I threw him to the ground. When I broke his nose, he looked like he could barely keep from bursting into laughter. I might have actually let him go with a beating if he hadn't looked so satisfied. I shot him in the face, and I still say he deserved it. But I do regret it. See, in that second, just when I pulled the trigger, I saw my mistake. For just a moment, before his skull and brain went all over the floor, his tongue flicked out. And I swear to Christ the thing was forked.

So I didn't hesitate. I spent about a half-hour cleaning up, wiping everything down, spraying it for the smell. That much blood is tough to get out of a deep pile carpet. Afterwards, I hooked my arms under his and dragged him out of the building. I put him in the bed of my pickup, shut the cover. Drove home, got my supplies: shovel, tarp, bottles of water -- burying a guy, even a mostly headless guy, is hard work. After that, I drove way out of town, past the last of the ghettos and the gas stations, right into the dunes. The vultures must have caught a whiff, because they followed me for a few miles, but they backed off. I turned off the road, went as far as I could without getting my wheels ruined, and opened up the bed. I wrapped him up in the tarp, laid him on the sand, and set to digging. I finally finished a number of hours later, when the sun was dipping slowly past the horizon and dappling the sand in red. Just like blood soaking into a deep-pile carpet.

I picked him up. Really heavy now, hard to move around, stiff. That's rigor mortis where the muscles in a corpse start locking up a couple hours after the guy bites it. Beautiful world we live in. So I hauled him across the sand. His feet left long furrows in the dunes, which covered up my own footprints but told a revealing tale of their own. I got him right over to the edge of the pit, where the sand gave way and dropped straight down. I didn't half-ass this thing. I went the full six feet. Nobody was finding this bastard. Nobody would ever see his smug face again, except in the obituaries.

I pulled him back and gathered my strength to hurl him in; I didn't want to nudge him over the edge and have the guy slumped in there unevenly. The rigor mortis would probably prevent that but I wasn't risking it. He needed to fall in cleanly and stick the landing. So I went for it but just as I was about to release my grip and let him sail into the hole, I saw something already in it.

It was a body. Not his, that was for sure. I was still holding his. It wasn't there when I was digging, and I never saw it enter. It was lying on its back, staring up towards me. I stared at its eyes. They were lively in spite of the obviously lack of life throughout the rest of the body. They were dull green, like mine. It was a man's body, a few decades older than me as far as I could tell seventies. His hair was gray-black, his stubble unshaven, his shirt tucked in, his sleeves rolled up, his suspenders striped in black and white. He was a mirror image of me in a couple years, I thought, and then it struck -- he was me.

I was so shocked when I realized that, I never even considered what it meant. But I've come to terms with it by now. At the time, I just dropped the corpse where I stood and raced straight back to my truck. I hit the gas and left it all behind his body, my body, the hole in the ground, the pile of sand I had dug up. I drove home and I never looked back. I threw daddy's gun in the river. I never went to our office again but I drove past it. I saw the police tape, the detectives coming in and out. It was because of the news crews around there that I didn't turn on the TV for a month, for fear of seeing either of us up there, for fear of hearing our names spoken by the anchors. I studied my face in the mirror for weeks, puzzling out whether it really was me in that grave. And for all that worrying, they never caught me. The cops never knocked on my door, in spite of the alibis I practiced just in case. I was safe.

So you might be wondering why I bothered writing this to you why I'd admit to a murder that was never connected to me. You see, I got away with it once. But I'm not sure I can do it again. I'm seventy-six now. Dad's gun is gone and I never bought another. I'm sitting here, on my bed, and I haven't slept in six days. I denied it to myself for the first couple nights, but you can't keep up any lie forever. I've heard it, you see. There's someone knocking at my door, and it's making my blood run cold.