Anger Serves a
By Heather Santo
Kelly paused, her shirt pulled halfway
over her head. Humid night air teased the bedroom drape corners, and soft rain
pattered through oak leaves outside the apartment complex.
She didn’t remember leaving the window
Body tense, Kelly dropped her shirt, the
silver locket she always wore thudding against her chest.
Something brushed against the screen, a
movement so slight it was barely visible.
Kelly approached the window, stubbing
her toe on a box next to the bed.
“Damn it.” The bedroom was crammed with
partially unpacked cardboard boxes. She had no idea which contained the
flashlight. A rumble of thunder startled her as she knelt at the window,
adrenaline chasing away the day’s exhaustion.
Kelly curled both hands into fists,
“Hello? Is someone out there?”
Branches answered, scraping the outside
wall. The rain fell harder and the wind picked up speed. Kelly squinted, making
out the shape of the oak’s large trunk in the darkness. Something moved under
the tree, near the twisting roots, a silhouette darting through layers of
“Hey!” Kelly said. She reached forward
and jerked the screen upward. Rain droplets pelted her blonde hair as she stuck
her face through the opening. “Who’s there?”
A flash of lightning momentarily lit up
the apartment courtyard. Kelly saw a man running toward the street, the hood of
a dark sweatshirt covering his head.
Thunder crashed again, nearer.
“Who’s there?” she yelled again, but the
wind stole the words from her mouth and carried them up through the wet oak
leaves and into the storm.
“It’s been...” Dr. Ward glanced down at
the file on his desk. “Six months since your surgery. How are you feeling? Any
The patient sat across from him, dark
spots of rain drying on his gray sweatshirt. The storm from the previous night
had become a steady summer drizzle. The morning news reports warned of
“Okay, I guess.” The patient lowered the
hood of his sweatshirt. A white scar flashed at the top of his head, visible
beneath his closely cropped dark hair. He fidgeted, not making eye contact and
instead looked nervously around the office. Rows of neurosurgery journals
filled the bookcases along the wall.
“Well, Jason, your incision seems to
have healed nicely,” Dr. Ward said. “And you want to be cleared for work.”
“Yeah, part-time at my uncle’s painting
business. It would be good to have a job again.”
Dr. Ward smiled. “Your depression was so
bad before the surgery you couldn’t leave your house. I’d say the implant has
made a big improvement.”
After a few moments of silence, Dr. Ward
tapped his fingers in time with the small clock on his desk. “What about social
interaction? Have you tried going out with friends, maybe dating again?”
“I’m still pretty torn up over my last
breakup,” Jason said. “That’s what really threw me into the depression. I mean,
I’ve always dealt with depression, but…”
Dr. Ward furrowed his brow and waited.
“I did meet up with some friends last
weekend,” he said, finally. “A couple guys I know are in a band and their
bassist moved away. I went to a practice to see if I’d be a good fit.”
“Yeah? And how did that go?”
“It was okay at first. Felt good to play
again.” He stopped, gulped in a breath. “But, something happened.”
“Please explain,” Dr. Ward said.
“Well, I was playing along with the
guys, really jamming out, and then I got mad. Like, uncontrollably angry. I
stopped playing and slammed my guitar against the wall.”
The young man shifted stiffly.
“It’s like I’m a different person
sometimes, you know? Not myself.” His eyes regarded the doctor, pleading for an
“The implant works through deep brain
stimulation, sending electromagnetic impulses to the area that control moods.”
Dr. Ward pointed to a diagram on the wall. “Prior patients have had success
battling their depression with these implants, but remember what I told you
before surgery? Emotions are complex.”
“Yeah,” the young man mumbled.
“My recommendation is to engage in a
period of introspection. Understand that your anger cannot be suppressed and is
serving a greater purpose.”
Jason nodded, but his expression
“Don’t give up on being social, either.
Try to meet new people.” Dr. Ward motioned at the framed photo on his desk. “My
wife likes that coffee shop across town, says it’s a popular hangout. Maybe you
should check it out, try to strike up a conversation with someone.”
“Yeah, maybe.” The tension in Jason’s
jaw relaxed slightly.
“Tell you what.” Dr. Ward closed his
file. “I’m going to clear you for work, but let’s do another follow-up next
“Do you think it was your ex?” Amber
asked. She opened her umbrella as they left the coffee shop, holding it
slightly to the right to shield both herself and Kelly from the rain.
“I don’t know,” Kelly said. They stepped
into the puddle-filled parking lot. “I haven’t heard from him in a while. I
don’t want to jump to conclusions.”
“Did you call the police?” Amber hit the
button on her keys, unlocking the car.
“Yeah, they sent a patrol car over, but
the officers didn’t find anything. They told me to call back if it happens
“Well, that’s goddamn comforting,” Amber
snorted. “If it happens again.”
“Yeah.” Kelly’s voice was distant. Amber
glanced over, noticing rivulets running off the umbrella and staining her
friend’s hair a dark honey color. She was clutching her locket with one hand
and staring at an old, blue Chevy truck parked next to Amber’s Honda. There
were cans of paint in the bed, rain bouncing off the metal lids.
“Hey,” Amber said, snapping Kelly out of
her reverie. “You okay?”
“Why don’t you stay at my place for a
few days?” Amber suggested. “It would make me feel better, too. We can
binge-watch Netflix and eat junk food.”
“Really?” The worry that had clouded
Kelly’s eyes broke. “I’d love that, but I don’t want to impose.”
“Oh, please,” Amber insisted. “What are
Jason exited the coffee shop, tossing
his mostly full cup into a trash can before running toward the blue truck.
The engine of the old C10 clunked once,
twice, then roared to life. Jason lowered the hood of his sweatshirt, slid the
truck into gear and reversed. The paint cans in the bed rattled and the rain
sluiced over the windshield. Cursing, he hit the wipers and gunned out of the
lot. He was fifteen minutes late for his first job.
The fingers of his left hand went unconsciously
to his head, rubbing at the scar, as he wondered how he’d lost track of so much
Traffic moved at a steady pace just
below the speed limit. Jason weaved in and out of both lanes, fitting into
spaces just wide enough for the truck.
He noticed a red Honda, the brunette
driver moving one hand animatedly as she talked. A gap widened in front of the
red car, and he whipped the truck to the right, cutting off the brunette. His
eyes darted to the dashboard clock.
A horn blared. Jason flicked his eyes up
to the rearview mirror. The woman driving the red car jabbed her middle finger
in his direction. She signaled, squeezing into the fast lane and attempted to
pass. He looked left, locking eyes with the blonde woman in the passenger seat.
Jason was swallowed by a hot, feverish
rage. The scar on his head burned. Paint cans jostled
around in the truck bed.
The Honda found room to cut in front of
him, the brunette’s middle finger still waving.
“Fucking bitch,” he shouted.
A bolt of lightning tore across the sky
like a brilliant, jagged arm. Jason slammed his foot onto the accelerator, and
the truck’s ancient engine struggled to power forward. The rusted front bumper
of the Chevy made contact with the back of the Honda, splintering a taillight.
Thunder boomed over the highway. Jason
accelerated again, ramming the red car a second time.
Nearby vehicles backed off from the left
and behind. Jason swerved into the fast lane, the top of his head erupting like
a live volcano. With one last, fleeting glance at the two women in the Honda,
he turned the wheel sharply, slamming the passenger side of his truck into the
The Honda flipped off the highway,
rolling sideways once, twice, and then coming to a stop on its roof in the
grassy area off the shoulder. His rage not yet spent, Jason cut to the right
again, jamming his foot on the brake. Cars veered around as he threw the truck
into park on the shoulder and hopped out, leaving the driver’s side door wide
open. There was a tire iron in his hand.
Bloody and broken, the brunette’s body
hung partially outside the driver’s side window. The blonde had managed to free
herself from the wreckage, one leg bent at an extreme angle. She moved at a
crawl on her stomach. Rain fell in buckets, leaving a red trail in her wake.
Jason raised the tire iron. The blonde
girl screamed and rolled onto her back, shielding her face with both arms.
Lightning slashed at the sky, and for a
moment an image of the tire iron was reflected on the surface of the silver
locket around the woman’s neck.
He swung his arm down with the next
crash of thunder.
Dr. Ward sat patiently, tapping his
fingers in tempo with the small clock on his desk.
There was a light knock at the door.
“I’m sorry to bother you.” His
receptionist stood outside, steel gray hair wound into a tight bun. “The police
are here, they need to speak with you.”
“Show them in.”
Two officers entered the office,
uniforms wet with rain. The taller officer removed his hat, expression solemn.
“Dr. Ward, I’m sorry to inform you there’s
been an accident on the highway. We can’t share details at this time, as the
incident is still under investigation, but your wife has been killed.”
Dr. Ward took a step back, steadying
himself on the desk with one hand.
The shorter, younger officer shook his
“We know you and Mrs. Ward were in the
process of a divorce, but decided it best you were given the news in person.”
Dr. Ward swallowed thickly. “I
appreciate that, officers.” He retrieved a business card from the desk. “Will you
please keep me updated on the investigation?”
The taller officer tugged on his hat and
took the card. “Of course.”
The door shut behind the officers. Dr.
Ward remained standing for a few moments, studying the brain diagram on the
wall. He then took a seat behind the desk, picking up the framed photo of a
A silver locket hung from her neck.
“Divorce hurts. Doesn’t it, Kelly?”
It had almost been too easy. He recalled
what he had told Jason earlier that day.
Understand your anger cannot be
suppressed and is serving a greater purpose.
Thunder boomed and Dr. Ward smiled.
Heather Santo is a chemist living in
Pittsburgh, Pa with her husband of three years, two dogs, four cats and a pet
tarantula. In addition to writing, Heather devotes her spare time to
photography, painting and world travel.
Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for
horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder
and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An
SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal
Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories
have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens
Call, and Tales from
the Moonlit Path, among others,
as well as in numerous horror anthologies
such as Night in New
Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big Easy, Thuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She
appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby"
in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for
lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides
in southern Arizona. https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/