I hoped this was how it would end

©2022 Mel Reynes do not re-publish without permission

She carefully turned off the highway, making sure to slow to the right speed, use her blinker, and not draw too much attention. She was almost there. She couldn’t risk getting pulled over and having her car searched. 

Once she was off the highway, the streetlights quickly became few and far between. The big fields of corn were almost ready to be harvested. The moon was growing full alongside the corn. She was headed beyond the highway, beyond the corn, deep into the woods in the western part of the state. Only the moon would follow her. She drove in silence, tuned into the conversation in her head while she drove. 

Mandy had met him while cleaning up the podcasting booth. He let himself in, the front desk guy had already gone home. He had shockingly white hair, an unbuttoned shirt, tight jeans, and high top sneakers that cost more than she made in three months. He was Tommy V., host of the online viral hit known as the TeeVi $how. Against her best intentions, she instantly fell in love. 

Tommy had come in off the street looking for a place to record some lines for his newest episode. He was on a hype tour and needed to get new voice over for his editor to splice in for the midnight drop. He’d found their little community podcasting studio online and figured it was better than recording under a blanket in his hotel room. Later, lying next to his sleeping body, she’d watch his newest video with one earpod tucked in her ear. Her body flushed with warm satisfaction when she heard the lines he’d re-recorded in her booth. They sounded so high quality next to all the other parts. He even included a shout out at the end of the video to their organization. 

She pulled off the farm road and started driving up the mountain. The ground would be rockier and harder to dig, but it would be a good hiding place through the winter. The mountains were too small for skiing and too treacherous to drive in the winter. No one would be here for at least six months. Most likely, they’d never find him. The woods were too full of ticks and other nasties to be desirable for hikers. 

Earlier that evening, laying in his pale arms, she’d traced her fingers over the star tattoo on Tommy’s chest. The vibrant blue looked freshly inked, but he told her he’d had it a long time. He’d got it right before he hit a million views, from a bald guy with one eye and no name. Tommy said he’d been pretty drunk and couldn’t remember much else, then laughed at his youthful carelessness. It was his good luck charm. 

When he was looking at his phone, Mandy saw the colors of the star tattoo swirl under his skin. It whispered to her on ultramarine frequencies. It told her of fame and fortune. Promised she’d be even greater than Tommy V. It would be her time. 

She drove past one red house, dark and sleepy. There was no car in the driveway. Probably a rental property, unused without other modern attractions nearby. No one to see her come, no one to see her go. The road went from paved, to gravel, to dirt ruts in the road, and finally to short underbrush. Nobody had traveled this route in a long time. Even with many dry summers, the vegetation was still dense. 

A large rock marked the end of the road. Time to get out. She left the lights on, better to see with. She took a moment to tuck her pants into her socks to prevent ticks from getting at her. Then she went around the trunk and popped it open. Tommy lay next to the shovel she’d stolen from the hotel facilities department. They’d had so many, they wouldn’t miss this one. Tommy was quite a heavy sleeper, it had been easy to sneak out and move it without disturbing him. His white form shone like the moon against the darkness of the trunk. The star on his chest looked black in the moonlight.

For all his bombasticness online, Tommy had been sweet and caring when they were alone. Only talking in low tones, only touching after asking. Very respectful when she said she had to go. Even kinder when she asked him to walk her to his car. She could tell someone had hurt him, someone that forced him to build up that wall of vapid masculinity for online audiences. Soon he wouldn’t have to pretend anymore. The star told her that he wasn’t strong enough, killing him was her courtesy. 

He’d gladly walked her out to her car in the middle of the chilly night. The bathrobe he wore didn’t have a sash, but he probably wouldn’t have belted it anyway. His skin was surprisingly warm. She had to initiate one last good night kiss in order to get close enough to slip the knife in. The knife her dad had given her when she went off to college. The “just in case” knife she felt embarrassed accepting. Now it would never be forced into violence, only cutting a path towards her triumph.

Before burying him, she took out the pocket knife and carved off his star tattoo from his shoulder. Later tonight she’d carefully sew it into her arm with quilting twine.