Horror Short Story
A new life awaits the happy couple. But freedom comes with deadly consequences.
18th March, 1998, Yorkshire
Peter Baker looked out at the crowd of people gathered around his front door, smiling and waving as he and Hattie prepared to relocate to Cornwall.
His friend Martin offered him a beer.
“Absolutely not, with his blood pressure? Peter will have a lemonade,” Hattie said, sternly waiting until Martin had retracted the offer.
“Come now, Hattie, don’t harp on,” Peter said in a long-suffering tone.
“If I didn’t give him his tablets every day he would be dead within the week. He has the memory of a goldfish.”
“You are still harping on, dear.”
“It is only because I worry about you, you silly old goat.” Hattie reached down and grabbed an oatcake with a miniscule piece of cheddar on it, grown sweaty from the sun. “Here, have one of these as a treat.” She patted him on the hand with a beneficent smile.
Peter looked at it with disdain and turned away from her to talk to their guests instead. “It’s so wonderful to see everyone here,” he said, stepping out onto the porch and reaching out to shake hands with some of the well-wishers. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to say a proper goodbye to all of you, but we’ll definitely be thinking of you while we’re away.”
Hattie, who had been standing behind Peter, embraced each of their friends in turn, hugging them tightly and bestowing kisses on their cheeks.
“You’ll be sure to send us postcards when you arrive, won’t you?” one friend asked, clutching at Hattie’s hand.
“Of course we will,” said Hattie, smiling. “You know us. We always keep in touch.”
“And please don’t worry about the house. I’ve been planning on renting it out for a very long time,” added Peter.
“Almost as long as he’s been promising to finish the wine cellar,” Hattie quipped.
Gritting his teeth, Peter continued. “I’m sure the management company will care for the home just as much as we did.”
“Better in fact. They might actually do some maintenance,” Hattie added, rolling her eyes to the laughter of their friends.
After a few more hugs and goodbyes, the celebration ended and the guests departed.
“Well then, time to load the car,” Hattie said. “I’ve made us a box of salad sandwiches for the trip and packed some bottles of water.”
“Before we go, my dear,” Peter said. “I have something to show you. My secret project.”
“You don’t mean to say you actually finished the wine cellar?” Hattie looked at him with concern. “In your condition? You silly goose.”
“Now, now, don’t harp on,” Peter said, trying not to grit his teeth. “It was all worth it in the end.”
“You are lucky your heart didn’t give out. Or your back.” Peter led Hattie into the house and down into the basement. The vinyl plank flooring had been rolled up and a large rectangular hole had been dug.
“Well, you're in no danger of a heart attack from that tiddler. What do you hope to—”
“I said, ‘Don’t harp on,’ you insufferable bitch!” Peter watched as her unconscious form fell into the makeshift grave, pent up hatred flowing through his veins as his breathing turned ragged from released emotion. Once he had calmed himself, he pulled on a facemask and gave himself over to the most important part of his plan. He emptied a few buckets of lye over the body, shovelled the soil back into the hole, levelled it, added a thick layer of sand, then topped the whole thing with paving slabs. Finally, he covered the basement floor with vinyl planking. He took a step back and admired his work. “A perfect job. Go on. Now tell me I never finish a project.”
The room was silent.
“Exactly.” He strode upstairs, two steps at a time and went to the fridge, helping himself to his first beer of the year. Taking a serious pull at this long denied treat, he raised the glass. “Good riddance!”
Peter finally made his way down the path, climbed into their car and waved with a smug grin. He took one last look at his wife’s final resting place and drove off.
He was filled with excitement as he started his long journey, looking forward to all the adventures that awaited him in Cornwall. A change of scene was desperately needed and Cornwall would be a welcome break from the smokestacks of the North. It promised to be utterly different from any of his previous homes, his wife’s choice really, and all of them had been in Yorkshire.
After many hours of uninterrupted driving, Peter reached the gateway to Cornwall. He feasted on the view as he crossed the Saltash bridge over the wide estuary. He felt himself to be arriving in another world. The sun shone as he drove through the winding Cornish lanes, each turn giving him a different glimpse of the lush countryside. It had been years since he had taken any time off for himself, and the freedom felt overwhelming in the best possible way.
As he continued his journey , he couldn't help but smile with satisfaction. This was exactly where he needed to be - a place where he could enjoy his newfound freedom and explore this enchanting land on his own terms. For the first time in years, he felt as though everything was finally falling into place.
It had been a gruelling drive from Yorkshire to Cornwall. He had stopped off twice for a coffee. One of those times he had enjoyed the luxury of a burger and chips. Freedom was utterly intoxicating. He could hear Hattie's nagging tones in the back of his head but now, ignoring them gave him a perverse pleasure greater than the sweetest wine. By the time he eventually arrived at the quaint country cottage he was renting, he was grinning from ear to ear. He jumped out of the car and began a quick investigation of his new home.
The furniture was due to arrive the next day. In the meantime, he would be camping out at his new workplace. He brought in the few basic necessities he had brought with him and threw away the salad sandwiches with a sneer.
He had a speedy shower and headed out to meet his new boss. As he pulled into the hotel car park, he noticed a trailhead for the ocean leading up the hill behind the property. He couldn't imagine a more perfect place for a hotel, and base for the start of his new life.
Peter climbed out of his car and made his way round the back of the hotel to the kitchen entrance. A tall man with curly black hair and an equally friendly smile greeted him.
"Hello," he said. "I'm Peter, the new head chef."
"Hello Peter, I'm Lawrence, manager of this fine establishment. Welcome!"
The two men shook hands before hustling around the kitchen, laughing and chatting about the challenges of cooking for a large staff. Peter felt at ease, as if he already knew everybody here. He was given a room key so that he could crash for one night gratis while he was waiting for the removal van to bring his furniture down from Yorkshire.
After he had unpacked his few personal belongings in his hotel room, he went straight back to the kitchen and set to work prepping the ingredients for the evening's meal. He was surprised to see a steady stream of guests coming in and out of the kitchen.
At one point, he looked up and felt his breath catch in his throat. Standing in the doorway was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
As Peter took in her striking features - her vivacious grin, her long auburn hair and her almond-shaped eyes which seemed to bore straight into his, he became aware that there was something about her that made him forget about everyone else in the room.
He couldn't resist it - he walked up to the woman and asked for her number. She looked at him and laughed. It was then that he realised she thought he was just being a humorous old man.
Never mind. He had done the deed. He'd killed the old bat and after thirty-five years, he had got his life back. The thought of sharing his new life with her relentless nagging had been driving him insane. A new job in a new location and a new house. In fact, a whole new life.
No, it’s much better this way. She's at peace and I… I'm more relaxed than I’ve been in years! I’ve done us both a favour.
The world was his oyster again.
When he had finished his beer, he capped it off with a scotch as a nightcap. Swirling the amber fluid round. He watched the tears drip down the glass. They were the only tears he’d be seeing in the foreseeable future.
Feeling utterly content, he made his way up to bed for an evening of cheap KFC and trashy TV. It was everything he hadn’t been able to do for years.
Peter awoke early, feeling more refreshed than he had done for a long time. The sun was shining in through the window. It was a welcome change from the grey he had grown accustomed to in his Yorkshire city life. He stretched lazily in bed before getting up and checking his phone. The furniture was due to arrive at lunchtime. He took a leisurely shower and dressed before heading out to his car for the short drive to his new home. Traffic was light as Peter drove between the steep banks of the winding Cornish lanes. The sun beat down through the car windows. He kept turning the radio on and off before finally settling on a classic rock station. Hattie had never liked his taste in music. He had spent years repressing his true self, letting Hattie push him down and keeping him in check. With a grin, he turned up the music and relaxed.
The day ran smoothly. After directing the furniture to its destination and unpacking the few boxes he actually cared about, he set out for the trailhead. He couldn't wait to explore the rest of this beautiful countryside. The cool wind whipped around him as he cried out in exhilaration. He was free! His adventure had only just begun and he looked forward to every moment of it. When he reached the top of the trailhead he sat down to take in the view, feeling as if someone had lifted a huge weight from his shoulders.
25th March, 1998, Cornwall
Peter returned from a hard day at work, humming a little ditty to himself. He picked up the mail as he sauntered into the kitchen. Opening the fridge, he pulled out a beer and looked around for a bottle opener. Finding one, he popped the cap and then used it to open the first of the letters. A redirected letter from his old address. He raised an eyebrow as he opened it curiously.
It was an invoice from a construction company. Along with it was a gift card. His eyes slowly widened as he read it.
Happy 40th anniversary. I know you've been so excited about your new wine cellar and given that our 40th is meant to be celebrated with ruby, like red wine, I've hired a group of contractors to finish the job for you.'
Peter clutched at his heart. Shooting pains ran through his chest. The date was set for this morning. Outside, he heard sirens as he collapsed against the fridge and slumped to the floor.
Oh, curse you. You interfering bitch.
His vision blotted.
Why couldn’t you leave well alone?
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