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First, was my mother. Then, it was tourist. After that, it was a man of the name Fredrick. And all the ones that followed were just a blur of different people. They are looking for a dark skinned male, 35-45 years of age, 5 ft. 4in., of sturdy build. That is how I know I'm winning.
If people knew, they'd think I am insane and I guess that could be true. There are many instances in my life to prove that. But, to truly find the reason that I do it, you'd have to go back to the first time, the first person. That's where the dominos started to crumble.
I was at the tender age of 9. Despite what you think, I loved my Mother very much. She was my best friend, which made what I did all the much worse. She was a perfect goddess in my head. She had this everlasting beauty that I never thought was possible. She even looked pretty when she was mad. Though, I'm sure that every little child looks up to their mother, but still, to this day. I believe that my love was different, it was almost worship. Almost.
I can still remember everything as vividly as if it just happened. A hot, humid summer day mid-July. I wore my floral dress, with a red belt, pristine white keds, and an enormous amount of friendship bracelets that traveled up the length of my arm. I had a blonde ponytail on top of my head and a smile forever planted on my face. I looked like the picture-perfect child, and if I can say so,I was very photogenic.
My dad decided that we needed to get outside and have fun, so we put on our hiking gear (mine being just a pair of tights under my dress because I refused to change) and trekked up the mountains of the local range. It was then we came to the top of a cliff, our skin sticky with humdity, our hair slick with sweat. Though it was hard work, we got to the very top, and what a view it was. The land spread out underneath us, dark trees and brush that we trekked through extending out as far as the eye could see. In the distance, where the forest met the horizon, the sun was just dipping, not setting, but it was getting there. We were so high up, higher than I'd ever been, so high, I remember trying to touch the clouds, though with little luck. Even now, in just memories, it is still mesmerizing, still beautiful. The best part of that trip was standing on the tip of the cliff and spreading out my arms, feeling like in that moment, I could fly, like I could do anything. I felt so much like I was flying, I didn't even feel the ground on my feet, the ground forever planting me to the earth.
I can remember thinking that Gravity was just one of the other things that kept me imprisoned, one more thing keeping me from going somewhere else far away from the painful world we live in. Then, I felt the soft touch of hands on my shoulders Mom came up behind me, holding me on the cliff. The other thing keeping me here, family friends, my mother, in particular, because I thought she was the world.
"Isn't it beautiful, Ruthie?" Her melodic voice said behind me.
I nodded my head, unable to speak. I was so entranced with the view, with her beautiful voice. Everything was perfect.
"I should've taken you here before. I forgot you hadn't been here yet."
We stared off the cliff for a few minutes without any noises. There, I realized that silence was also beautiful too.
"Here, you should drink some water or you'll get dehydrated." The beautiful, calm voice came again.
I never disobeyed her, ever, and this time was no different. I turned around and ran towards Dad. He was the one that valiantly offered to carry the navy backpack that held all the water bottles and supplies. Obediently, I took the pink water bottle from Dad and gulped down almost all of the bottle. As I drank, I watched as Mother went closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. Once I finished, Dad, being the one that always had to be doing things, took all our water bottles to refill them at the station that was a ways away.
I couldn't stop staring at the graceful steps of Mother gradually closing in on thin air, her hair was ablaze in the setting sun, like her long blonde hair had become gold. Then she turned, her face shadowed, but still somehow illuminated enough for me to make out her perfectly rounded nose and her thin cheeks and sharp blue eyes. Something about it all teased me to come closer, and closer and before I knew it, I was getting closer, I was walking to her. Her lips upturned into a smile. She was there one second. Then, in an instant she was gone. If this were a Sci-fi or a Fantasy story, she would have vanished into thin air, but this is not either of those. It is my story, my true story and she had not vanished into thin air, but the ground crumbled under her. She had fallen. She had fallen off the cliff.
The breath caught in my throat. I wasn't able to move, I couldn't think. My legs locked in place, stunned by what is seen. The angel, the goddess I thought she was wasn't there anymore, replaced by the serene view of the setting sun over the treetops. I didn't know what to do. Terror flickered in my body, unsure of what I'd just seen actually happened. I stood there for what seemed like millenniums, confused and stunned and scared. I just stood there, not seeing if Mother was alright or if I could see her body at the bottom of the cliff, that is, until a boney hand appeared on the new edge of the cliff, the part that hadn't crumbled. Then, there was a groan of frustration, which seemingly freed freed me from where I stood and carried me towards the edge of the cliff. As soon as Mother knew I was drawing near, she screamed for me to stay away, but I didn't listen. The one time I didn't listen. The goddess, the Angel, my beautiful mother was hanging on the side of the cliff. Without hesitation, I thought quickly, I hooked my shoes on a tree root sticking out of the dirt and dangled half of my body over the edge.
There, hanging onto another root, Mother held on for dear life, perfect blonde hair in mess around her head, eyes wide in alarm, sweat beading her forehead, yet still unbelievably beautiful. It was then, a strange thought came to me, am I that beautiful? I am her daughter, shouldn't I be as pretty. I latched onto her wrist, dismissing the thought. It was not worth my time. With the little strength that I carried, I tried to thrust her up and she tried to propel herself over the cliff, gaining traction on the dirt of the cliff. We tried over and over again, but the effort seemed fruitless, we were getting nowhere and we both knew it. We need someone stronger, bigger to pull her her over. I was just too small, too weak, even if I didn't want to admit it. The thought hit me like a brick.
"Dad!" I screamed as loud as my little voice could go. "Dad!" Mother was stunned by the high pitched squeal, she almost lost her grip on the root. I knew the time we had before her inevitable fall was running thin. Her hold on the dirt on the side of the cliff dwindled. She was almost just hanging there. And then in one swift motion and the painful yank on my shoulder, she was. For a second, I thought she'd yanked my arm out of it socket it hurt so much. The searing pain was almost unbearable, but I managed to ignore it. There was much more important matters. Then, a sound, something I couldn't hear at first, but then, yes, it was leaves crunching, branches breaking. My heart lifted in my chest.
"He's coming." I told her. Pricks of terror prickled my skin. I couldn't be terrified in that moment, there was just too much I had to focus on.
She nodded to me, almost in tears. I realized then, that, I, too, was crying. My tears wet the ground, creating mud beneath me. Perhaps I was terrified, but just didn't notice. Crack. The blood ran from my face. The root. The one keeping my feet down, holding me on the cliff. Crack. Crack. My body tensed and Mother must have felt it in my grip.
"What was that?" Mother called up.
I swallowed the lump in my throat. I didn't want to tell her. "The root holding my feet down."
Her body tensed. She tried to free her hand from my grip. Crack. "Let go, Ruthie!" She didn't look into my eyes. I don't think she could.
"What?" The confusion showed on my face.
"I won't let you fall with me." Crack, crack, crack. Panic seared through her eyes. I saw something that could not be mistaken, the gleam of tears in her eyes. "Ruthann Darcy Gardener, I am going to count to three and you better let go of me or else. 1..."
"No," I screamed. "Dad!" Tears blurred my vision. The rustling in the woods was louder now, but not close enough, he won't get here quick enough. Crack. I winced. There was only a slim part of the root left.
Terror racks through my body. I've never gotten to three. I can't get to three. I've always listened. Like a punch to the face, the thought came back to me, am I as beautiful as my mother? I try to dismiss it, and make up my mind of what to do, but I just can't. It seems impossible. But the answer was on my mind. No, I'm not, and I never will be. Just then, I heard the brush of the forest parting and the unmistakable sound of Dad running. I let go. This, my friends, is the one decision that split the line between accident and murder. I could have held on, the root would have held long enough for Dad to get over to us, but I didn't, I let go. Purely for the reason that I was confused and jealous and something else, that may have just been insanity. After that, there is a sound, a heartbreaking sound I will never forget. Crack. It's my mother's root, the one she'd been holding.
"Ruthie!" Dad yelled behind me.
"Mom!" I screamed as her body plummeted towards the ground. I couldn't tell if I was happy or sad. Then, like a perfect snapshot, I have the perfect view of her face, not terror, but not calm, peaceful, but erratic. Even in that terrifying, heart-wrenching moment, she still looked beautiful. Three, I think I see her mouth to me. I had gotten to three. My first three. But it could have just been a an illusion.
My mother was the first person I murdered, with the many more that followed.