Palms Up

📅 Published on January 30, 2022

“Palms Up”

Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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The town my wife Violet was raised in is almost unremarkable. You won’t find it on any ‘Best of’ lists or see it signified on any map or atlas. She said she was happy as heaven to get out of there when we met. I saw little signs that things may have been…different there than where I was raised.

One of the most notable times was our very first 4th of July together as a couple. We got invited to a co-worker of mine’s house for food, fireworks and the like. It was my first unofficial company function as a married man, and I was excited to show off my new bride. I imagined her eyes sparkling under the fireworks for most of the evening. It went well until the sun set.

The children were all confined to a large screened-in porch while the adults lit a bonfire and began bringing out armfuls of fireworks. Violet and I were canoodling and drinking like usual, but the second she smelled smoke, her shoulders went rigid. The smile on her face melted away like a burning photograph as she rose from her chair. Once she turned and saw the fire, she screamed. The pupils of her eyes swam around frantically through blankets of tears as she surveyed the area. “Jesus, honey,” I exclaimed. “Are you alright?”

Her tears were too much to contain, and it broke my heart to see them jump off of her lower eyelids, invading her beautiful cheeks. The look of fear from moments before was replaced with one of deep embarrassment. She stammered out an apology before excusing herself to the bathroom.

My friend Daniel rushed over to me the moment she was inside of the house, his gaze full of question and concern. “Yo, Derek… uhhhhh,” he stammered. “What the fuck was that? Like, is she okay? My neighbors could have called the cops, man.”

“Honestly I have no idea what that all meant. I’m just as surprised as you are,” I replied.

“Oh, okay. Right on,” he commented. “Is it like a Tourette’s thing? How much do you really know about this girl?”

I almost got angry, almost. But if I were honest, if it were his girlfriend or wife, I’d have had questions too. So instead of getting an attitude, I just shook my head and grabbed a firework bundle.

Violet joined me soon after. Relief flooded me as I wrapped my arm around her and felt her melt into the embrace. “Are you okay, Lettie?” I asked, genuinely concerned. “Do you wanna get out of here?”

She tilted her head up towards me and smiled. “No, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with me. Let’s stay. Please?”

The party finished without incident. But I noticed my future wife stayed as far away from the fire as possible for the rest of the night. We didn’t talk about it on the way home. I didn’t press her for information on it that night or for many, many nights after—God, how I wanted to, though.

Anyway, as I said- the town, suffice it to say, there were more reactions after that one, more puzzles I didn’t have the pieces to. If you noticed, at the start of this thing, I made sure to say almost unremarkable. There is one very distinct difference. However, nothing in Heaven or Hell could prepare me for what it was.

Whatever mysteries my wife kept were on their way to being revealed after the phone call we received on that random Sunday night. My wife didn’t recognize the number, so she handed it over for me to answer. It was a fun little game we played.

“Hello there!” I yelled. “Thank you for calling Lester’s Morgue! You stab ‘em. We slab ‘em. How may I help you today?” I waved my hand to hush my heartily giggling wife to hear what the caller had to say in response. This was usually the funniest part.

“Erm….uhh,” the man at the other end of the line cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, friend, I must have the wrong number. I was looking for a Violet Parth. The poor girl’s father is dying, and I misdialed and got a morgue. What a tragic coincidence…” he trailed off.

Oh fuck, I thought. I felt the wind spew out from under my sails, like a hypodermic needle into a tit full of air. Violet rushed over and wrenched the phone out of my hand before running into our bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

Now I know I shouldn’t have. When most of you hear this, you’ll clutch your hands to your hearts and say, oh, you couldn’t. But I did. I pressed my ear right up against that door and listened like an eight-year-old child listening for their punishment. You know how you used to get grounded as a kid, but they couldn’t talk about in what way in front of you in case they disagreed. So they’d deliberate in private before giving the verdict. You know what I mean.

What I heard didn’t make sense at the time, but it sure as hell does now.

Caller: How are you, Violet? We’ve missed you since you left us.

Violet: I’m okay, Father Madrigan. You said you were calling about my dad?

Father Madrigan: That’s right, dear. I’m afraid you have to come home.

Violet: No, Father, I can’t.

Father Madrigan: I understand how you feel, but you have a duty. You missed your mother’s funeral. Do you want to miss another? Violet, it has to be you.

Violet: I understand.

Father Madrigan: I’ve set the travel details. All you need to do is show your ID at the airport and get on the plane. Your father’s car will be there to pick you up.

Then the line disconnected.

“You don’t have to come with me,” she mumbled, pre-flinching from the reaction she knew she would receive.

My loving wife took a trip in college with some girlfriends. They ended up being gone for way longer than they said they’d be. And what was worse was, half the girls I contacted that she said would be there claimed to know nothing about it. I will never know what happened during that week. Nevertheless, she knew I was uncomfortable with her traveling without me. Call it a type of PTSD, if you will. And no, I’m not entirely sure it was an affair. But something happened, something bad.

She saved me (and herself) from the argument and threw up both hands in concession. And before I knew it, we were packed up and on a plane. A black car was there to pick us up, just as promised. I couldn’t help but feel out of my element riding to a place I didn’t know. It would have made me feel much more comfortable to have my vehicle, but the suddenness of things left me without the necessary funds to rent a car. I selfishly hoped he had some sort of life insurance plan in place to help absorb the cost of the flight.

We hardly had time to settle into her father’s dusty, spare bedroom when a nurse began yelling for my wife, saying the time was near.

I’d never had the misfortune of seeing someone who was dying before. Walking into that bedroom, seeing his frail form hooked up to machines and gadgets, was the only time in my life that I wished to die young. He looked like he had been wrapped in a skin bag and then had all of the air sucked out of it. A sheath of white blanketed bright blue veins and seemed to hug even the sinew of his flesh. His breathing grew hollow, and the length of time between drew much longer. His limbs twitched spasmodically as I prayed it was almost over.

“Help me,” Violet ordered, rushing to his frail side. “Hold his wrists. He needs to feel that he’s not alone.” Her words trembled with the threat of oncoming tears as I grasped his twitching,  gnarled hand. “No!” she barked. “He needs to have his palms up and unobstructed. Hold his wrist.” There was a venom of emphasis in her last word, one I’d never had the displeasure of hearing before. Her threatened resolve finally crumbled as he passed from this world into the next. She collapsed into me with heartbroken sobs.

The funeral wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I at least had that solace. There hadn’t been a proper time to interrogate my wife on what exactly happened when we said our final goodbyes. It didn’t seem pertinent to anyone else. I passed it off to a symbolic rite of a religion I was unaware of. People paid their respects, came back to Violet’s father’s house for food and then went on their way. I held her as we attempted to sleep that night. There were so many tears, so many. He was the last living member of her bloodline, and even though we had forged our path for a family, I knew a part of her felt alone.

The silence of the atmosphere was almost palpable- like we had been enshrouded in a soundproof blanket. Except the air had taken on a chill that hadn’t been there before, an unspoken symptom of new grief, I gathered. My wife suddenly seemed so small, so defeated in the face of the tragedy. I wanted to reach out and hold her, but I thought better of it.

As hard as it is to explain, I couldn’t feel her. I can’t tell you if it’s telepathic or just mental muscle memory, but I could usually feel how my wife felt. If something was bothering her or she was angry or sad, I could feel it on my skin, like how sand clings to you after you’ve been to the beach. I looked over at her and nothing. Her spirit revealed neither light nor shadow. I know people become… docile almost when they’ve been together for as long as we had, but this was wildly different.

She darted out from behind me without a signal or warning, running past me without a glance. I took off after her, following as closely as possible without tripping myself up. My left knee throbbed from the exertion, and I could feel the arthritis that had begun to take hold in my ankles. Bursts of sound came from the direction we were running towards, like little horrified birds. The sounds had made their crescendo into fully formed words by the time I’d caught up to my wife.

At least a dozen or more of the town’s people gathered in the middle of a local playground. The back of our bodies was bathed in flashes of blue and red as police followed us on the scene. Voices of alarm climbed over each other as officers processed the situation at hand. A red-haired woman sobbed on her knees, resting on the jagged cedar chips that lined the evening floor. A much more substantial crowd had gathered by then, and before long, everyone but the street residents was ushered away to cut down on the drama and chaos. From what we had gathered, an eight-year-old named Brandon Miller had gone missing while playing. The red-haired woman (the boy’s mother) said she stepped away to help a little girl off the monkey bars, looked back, and her son was gone.

The sun was swiftly setting, and by the time the moon had taken over, they still hadn’t found the boy. The search disbanded, promising to be back to resume the process just before the first light. Something that I think to this day was a fatal mistake. However, it wasn’t my call. They did accomplish locking the town down, no one in or out. Something that would be near impossible in a more industrial, booming. I daresay normal town. While that was good for Brandon’s parents, it meant we were forced to reschedule our flight home. And with such little information to go on, we weren’t even sure we would be able to make the next one.

Not that Violet seemed to mind. As much as she denied being thankful to be stuck there, she still mumbled her halfhearted apologies for my inconvenience through smiling lips. Her eyes glistened with pleasure as she assured me we would be back home soon. “Give it a chance,” she said. “This’ll feel like home before you know it.”

So after spending our fourth unplanned night in her father’s house, and with not much else to do, we joined the townsfolk at the first hints of dawn. The sun had just begun to stand above the trees when roars of barking rang out. The crowd rushed the area in waves, rendering any order previously held useless. This time, officers had the wherewithal to bring their dogs to help in the search.

Faint screams resonated through the woods as one of the officers ran through the crowd. He was utterly breathless with an almost green complexion. He covered his mouth with a trembling hand as he sputtered information to the boy’s parents about what they had found. Mr. Miller- the father- fell to his knees in anguish. “BASTARDS!” he wailed. “They took my boy’s hands. They took my boy’s hands before they slaughtered him.” More mortified wails came from the depths beyond the trees.

One thing I couldn’t wrap my head around was why nothing was being done. I mean, sure, they had to examine him, but no one made any efforts to stay with the body after it was discovered. My worries were somewhat put at ease when I heard a deputy call for backup. However, when asked about notifying the coroner, the officer deemed it unnecessary. “Too late for that now,” I heard him say solemnly. The crowd had fled to a nearby hill as if the higher ground would keep them safe. Or maybe it was to get a better vantage point. Hell, I don’t know.

“What the hell is going on?” I demanded to no one in particular. “Lettie, let’s get out of here. There’s nothing we can do about this now. The family needs privacy to grieve.”

My wife muttered the same words that the officer had mere moments before. “It’s too late for that now,” Her eyes grew as large as pissholes in the snow. The sounds of horror had died away, leaving the unsettling music of breaking branches and stomped grass in its wake. I dropped to my knees in shock when I saw the small boy stumble his way through the woods.

It’s culturally believed that the undead make grunt and groan noises, but that’s not what happened here. See, Brandon’s lungs contained no breath, so none escaped his battered lips. He stumbled wildly around the clearing. As horrific as it was to see, he reminded me of an infant Bambi on ice, except you know… dead. The boy’s tongue writhed in and out of his mouth like a snake sniffing out food. His hands remained in rotting, gnarled stumps between the twine binding. His once lifelike tone is now replaced with shades of grey. By all accounts, this boy had been and still was dead. We’d all seen in for ourselves moments before. His brain had ceased to function, and he was driven only by the need for hunger.

I looked back over to the Millers, and my gut wrenched to notice that Mrs. Miller was no longer there. Damnitt, I chastised myself. I only took my eyes off of her for one goddamned minute. A hunch began haunting my heart, and bile rose in my throat as I recognized the flash of yellow racing across the nearly empty field. The woman flew through the grass, arms outstretched for her only child.

In desperation, my eyes darted to her husband, who hadn’t moved an inch. His face grew pale as his bleary eyes darted from his wife to their son. He knew something wasn’t right here. His body turned away from the direction of his family as his eyes met my own. His shoulders shrugged helplessly in question of what to do. I shook my head forebodingly in warning, hoping to god it was enough. He held my stare for a brief moment, just long enough for us to hear his wife begin to scream.

Arterial spray glossed his tiny teeth crimson like candy coating on an apple. He had buried his head in his mother’s chest and ripped a chunk of flesh away upon departure. Blood spilled through her fingers as if flour through a sifter as she continued to scream, clutching her chest in an agonizing panic. Mrs. Miller had plenty of breath left, and she was using every bit of it. The sound caused physical pain to my senses.

Instead of joining his family, I found Mr. Miler running in the opposite direction. My mouth hung open incredulously at his cowardice. It was no surprise he picked up on it. “Lookit that kid,” he breathed. “He’s got brown eyes. Ellie and my eyes are blue. I’ve sacrificed enough for a kid and wife that were never really mine.” His words died out under the sound of gunfire, to no avail.

Police officers and paramedics approached the field slowly, knowing in their hearts what the end result would be. I mean, sure, a few of them fled. But the good ones, the true heroes, honored their promise to serve and protect.

Despite the heartbreak of the situation, I, for one, had seen enough. This wasn’t my problem or my family’s, and this wasn’t my town. I grabbed my wife’s hand firmly. Only she didn’t budge. Come hell or high water, lockdown or no lockdown. We were getting the fuck out of there.

“I’m sorry!” she wailed. “I can’t!” I can’t abandon them, Derek.” Her eyes were glazed over with a shimmer of thick resolve. And I knew I had lost her. Memories of the first time we met, kissed, made love and married all flashed through my mind and heart at once. The pain was almost palpable as if I could reach out and twist its inside like it was twisting mine. A better man would have turned tail and gone down with the ship next to his lady. But I wasn’t ready to die yet, and that’s precisely what was going to happen to the lobotomized citizens of this hellhole that stayed. The selfishness in my heart allowed me to steal one last glance at my Lettie before coldly turning away. She certainly hadn’t allowed me the same courtesy. In fact, all I saw was the tattered shirt on her back as she ran away. She seemed to be running so fast, running right to her gruesome death.

The beauty of all the things I’d come to admire about the town seemed to curl away as if burned and charred around the edges. My feet increased speed as I raced for my vehicle. The shining blue of the paint reinvigorated me, allowing me the last swift steps to my freedom. My hand paused upon reaching the door handle. My body became momentarily incapacitated as I struggled to accept exactly what that freedom meant. It meant forging onward with life without the girl that I’ve loved for so long. It meant looking into faces for the rest of my life and picturing the rotting animation of Brandon Miller’s face. It meant always looking twice at souls laid to rest at open casketed funerals.

I let my mind free itself, throwing the car door open and plopping gratefully into the front seat. I hadn’t realized I’d been crying until I felt the tears freeze on my cheeks. Flecks of snow fell from my boot like flour through a sieve, glazing the gas and brake pedals beneath me. That was another thing I hated about this literal God-forsaken town, the damn snow. Southern traffic can be way more aggressive, but it’s not much compared to the slipperiness of the roads up here. The war between my brain and feet began as I tried to fight the urge to speed out of there.

My spine shuddered with unease as I came upon a surprising sight, even after all that I’d seen. About a quarter-mile up ahead, an old, abandoned wheelchair sat collecting snowflakes just on the edge of the highway. I had initially thought it was growing in size because I was on the approach. I didn’t figure out it was moving until it was too late. It was rolling right into the highway. My brain lost the war, and I found myself slamming on my brakes and swerving before my better judgment kicked in. The back of my SUV began to fishtail, and before I knew it, the vehicle was airborne.

I can’t tell you how I came to a stop or how long I was out. I woke up just long enough to realize I’d been crushed between my steering column and passenger seat. A sizeable shard of glass jutted out from the side of my neck, and I could feel myself fading fast. It seemed cruel for the Lord to bring me to consciousness just for me to greet death with open eyes. I should have just hit the damn chair.

One last thing flashed through my mind before a sense of peace took over. My hands were broken into fists, unable to free themselves from the wreckage around me. I couldn’t help but notice that my hands were forced into a face-down position. The mile marker for the next town over was still miles away. I didn’t wish to die young anymore. My eyelids fluttered as a rush robbed my breath of blood.

Her words floated through my dying mind like an epitaph: “This’ll feel like home before you know it.”

I’ll see you soon, Lettie.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: N.M. Brown

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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