Oliver clambered into the boat, his heart skipping a beat as the small wooden vessel rocked beneath him. He loved being out on the water, but he loathed the few seconds it took him to get on or off the boat, the moments where he was standing, struggling to maintain his balance, knowing one false move could see him thrown overboard into the icy water.
He sighed, relieved, as he cautiously eased himself down onto the wooden plinth in the centre of the boat, smiling as he carefully unhooked the rope from the dock and pushed off. Reaching for the oars he glanced up at the shore, at his grandparents' house beyond it, making sure he hadn't woken them. Satisfied, he dipped the oars into the murky water and pulled, propelling himself away from the dock and out towards the centre of the lake.
Normally he took his time, savoured the feeling of freedom that came with being out on the water, but he'd arrived at the dock later than usual. He knew the dawn was rapidly approaching, and while his grandparents weren’t early risers, neither did they sleep late into the morning. He needed to be back in the house within an hour of sunrise if he hoped to keep his nocturnal excursions a secret, so he pulled harder than usual, driving the boat through the water, his eyes fixed on the shimmering waves that danced in his wake.
By the time he reached his destination every muscle in his body ached, pleaded for relief, but already the world around him was lightening. Leaning forward he reached towards the bags at his feet, arm outstretched towards the nearest of the six, but as his fingers brushed the glistening black plastic something compelled him to look towards the horizon.
His eyes widened, a smile arching his lips as he gazed at the orchestra of colours that flooded the sky to the east. He’d seen some spectacular sunrises over the years, but none of them matched the beauty of the display before him. A myriad of colours, shades of blue and gold, of green and red, swept majestically across the horizon, and in the midst of them an ochre bulge clambered over the treetops.
His eyes fixed on the sky, he clasped the first of the bags at his feet, dropping it over the side. The others followed, one after the other, until only the last remained, the most important of them all. That one he held in his hands, caressing it, holding it to his chest until the last of the colours had faded and only pale blue remained.
“Pretty, wasn’t it?” he said, glancing down at the bag in his hands. For a moment he considered opening it, removing the girl’s severed head and gazing into her lifeless eyes, remembering how they’d looked as he’d choked the life out of her, but his time was short. Instead he dropped it into the water, silently promising himself that next time he would make sure to get to the dock earlier, early enough that he could spend some time contemplating whether Mother Nature’s artistry was any match for his own.
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