The Killing Vision - By Will Overby


9:00 PM

Although the heat had baked the ground hard and dry throughout the day, the sun had now set, leaving a layer of humidity over the town like a wet blanket. Hoards of people—some from Cedar Hill, some from other communities, a few of the students still in town at the college for summer classes—had converged on Riverside Park for the annual band concert and fireworks spectacular. Families had spread picnics over the grounds, and many were enjoying a watermelon or a cool drink in the deepening twilight, slapping away the mosquitoes that had swarmed up from the sluggish river below.

At precisely nine o’clock, the first bursts of color exploded in the velvet sky, bringing cheers from the crowd. Smaller children squealed with delight, and some of the older teenagers took advantage of the distraction to sneak off underneath the old grandstand to make out.

Missiles screamed through the sky, then erupted in showers of spinning sparks, their smoke trails extending into the darkness like the legs of giant descending spiders. Several large explosions shook the ground; a young woman screamed with surprise, and several people with her laughed.

The booming of the fireworks echoed throughout the river valley, stirring the brackish water as well as the debris of tree limbs clawing at the shore. With each vibrating explosion, a pile of rotting logs at the water’s edge shifted a bit more until it finally broke apart and the trees drifted away, leaving a mangled, twisted bundle that floated and bobbed in the darkness.

Kelly Sutton and Mark Davis had slid down the bank away from the crowd to a small landing at the edge of the river. Mark’s plan was to get Kelly away from her parents and friends so the two of them could fool around under the fireworks. They had been together now for a few weeks, and the time was nearing when Mark expected more than just a goodnight kiss.

Kelly repeatedly shoved Mark’s groping hand away from her breasts as they kissed. “Not here,” she said.

“Why not?”

“Somebody might see.”

Mark looked around. “There’s nobody else down here.” With one finger he slipped a strand of her hair out of her eyes and kissed her forehead. “Come on.”

She slid away from him slightly. “It’s too hot. Let’s wait ’til we get back to my house. Besides, it stinks down here.”

“It’s just fish.”

“Smells like something dead.”

“Probably a ’possum or a cat or somethin’.”

A large explosion over their heads made her jump, and she settled back into the crook of his arm. The boom vibrated the ground beneath them, and Kelly felt the stirring in her chest that only added to the intensity of her pounding heart. Mark kissed her lips again, and this time she kissed back. After a moment, she pulled back to catch her breath; both of their faces were slick with sweat. “Come on, let’s go. It really stinks down here.”

A bright flash of colors briefly illuminated something at the edge of the water. Kelly squinted at it in the sudden darkness. “What is that?”


“There. Floating. See it?”

“Yeah.” Mark grabbed a stick and scooted toward the water. He poked at the bundle, then stiffened.

“What is it?” Kelly asked. She moved up beside him.

More fireworks exploded over them, and in the flare, Kelly saw the rotted, green upturned face, its mouth yawning open in silent agony.

Kelly screamed, but her voice was lost in a barrage of erupting shells.


6:01 AM

If he kept his eyes closed, maybe he could fool himself into thinking he was still asleep. Maybe the soft light filtering through his lids was just some sort of sleep-induced hallucination. Beside his head, the clock radio droned on in his right ear. Toby Keith.

Blindly, Joel reached out and slapped the snooze button and blessed silence filled the room. He rolled over and opened his eyes. Fuck. But today was Thursday, and that meant he only had to make it through two more days before the weekend. It had felt good having a day off yesterday, even if it had been close to a hundred degrees.

He stretched his massive frame spread-eagle across the double bed and stared at the ceiling. There were several cracks snaking across the white plaster, like tiny highways on a barren landscape. It reminded him briefly of the Martian canals. But that made him think of something else, something dark, so he pushed it from his head.

The light through the dusty curtains was subdued. It was going to rain today for sure. What was