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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Dark · #2305463
Till death do us part...
Merit Badge in Deadly Betrayal
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Thank you for trick or treating in my port and helping to find all those pesky witches! Happy Halloweeeeeeen!

I woke up trembling, in a cold sweat. The dream felt so real, I wasn't yet sure I was really awake. I sat up and looked across at my husband Darien, snoring in the other bed as the cruise ship rocked gently on the open sea. A sliver of crescent moon glimmered through our porthole window.

I stared at his face for a while, trying to convince myself that what I had dreamed of was impossible. We had met on a dating site and had known each other for a year before getting married. The extravagant vacation was his idea to celebrate our first anniversary.

I was no dummy about men. Before marrying, I tested his character. I exposed him to children and animals to see how he treated them. I argued with him about politics and religion to see how he reacted. I even lost my temper, accused him of infidelity, and made petty stinks about things (which is honestly part of my personality—I wasn't faking it.) At every occasion he had behaved with nothing but kindness and love. His successful career as a physician had earned him a fine reputation and afforded us a comfortable living.

So why then had I dreamed that my husband would murder me? I was not by nature a highly nervous person, nor given to fanciful imaginings. It seemed to come from nowhere, with little basis in reality. Yet I was badly shaken, fearful to return to sleep and dream it again.

As I watched, he stopped snoring, his eyes opened, and he noticed me sitting up.

"Is something wrong, Fern?" He asked.

"Oh, it's just a—a nightmare I had. About you…" I said apologetically.

He reached for his phone on the table between us and tapped it on. It was 12:45am.

"How was I involved in your dream?"

"I feel so bad telling you now that I'm awake, but my god, it was horrible." I shuddered. "I dreamed that you tried to kill me."

"I'm sorry to hear that. It must have been very frightening for you, Fern."

"Of course it was." Since I wasn't about to fall asleep again anyway, I got up and went to sit on the bench at the dresser. "I was sitting here, putting my makeup on…" Darien got up as well, coming to stand behind me, smiling at me in the mirror. "And you came up behind me just like that, and—and—" He placed his left hand comfortingly on my shoulder. His right hand slid across my chest and reached for the other one in what seemed like a loving embrace. Relaxing in spite of myself, I leaned into him and smiled back in the mirror.

Suddenly I couldn't breathe. His right arm moved up under my chin and the embrace turned into a chokehold. I saw our faces reflected dimly, me with my green eyes bulging, mouth open in an unheard scream; him with his dark hair, dark eyes and strong, sharp features. I had always thought he was handsome, but now it was as if a demon was watching my reflection, his smile cold and mocking.

I struggled, my nails digging into his arm. It was impossible to break that hold. I felt myself slipping away as fireworks burst upon my darkening vision. Then, he released my neck. I slumped forward on the dresser, gasping for air. He kept his hands on my shoulders, pressing me down.

"What—why—?!" I coughed, barely able to speak.

"Did I make your dream come true, Fern?" Darien's voice, always so gentle and reassuring, had a cruel sarcastic edge to it that made my heart skip several beats. I lay there for some moments catching my breath, limp and stunned. He let go of me, moving swiftly to the bedside table. I watched helplessly as he took both of our phones and locked them in his suitcase, withering any hope I might have had that this was only a joke.

Taking a deep breath, I straightened up and reached for a glass vase on the dresser, dumping its contents to the floor and grasping it by the neck. He turned, approaching me.

"You come any closer and I'll smash this across your face," I said, feeling an energizing flush of fury.

"Easier said than done, my dear."

"Why did you do that? You tried to kill me!"

"That was not attempted murder, dear Fern." He folded his arms and smirked down at me. "That was simply a warning. By this time tomorrow you will indeed be dead."


"What motivates a serial killer?" Darien laughed and tossed his head. "I did the same to two women before you. An amusing hobby."

"You think I'll let you get away with that?!"

"You have no choice. Go ahead, try telling everyone about me. I dare you."

I'd heard enough. I stood up, ignoring the wave of dizziness that swept over me, shoved past Darien and rushed out of our stateroom and down the hall.

The only part of the cruise ship where any great number of people would be at that hour was the bar, nightclub or dance floor—whatever that party section was called. Normally I wouldn't be caught dead hanging out there, but… well, it was better than being caught dead.

I must have been quite a sight, bursting in upon the noisy, crowded bar; thankfully I had the sense to never wear anything to bed that I wouldn't want to be seen in, but my hair was a mess and I only had socks on my feet, and sloppy fleece pajamas aren't exactly evening wear.

I pulled aside a security guard and tried to explain what had just happened to me.

"Dr. Darien Blackstone? Are you serious?" He looked me over like I'd fallen off of a UFO. "Why would he do that?"

"It's true, I'm telling you! I swear it's true!" I felt panic rising within me. "What can you do about it?"

"I'll go back with you to your room and we'll talk about it."

"I don't want to go back! I don't want to see him ever again! He's a monster!" Our interchange was garnering stares. People gathered around.

"Oh come now, it can't be as bad as all that. We'll just go on and—" At that moment Darien himself entered the room, looking concerned and upset and asking for me. When he saw me he hurried over.

"Oh, there you are, Fern. I was so worried about you."

"No you weren't either! You're a murderer! Get away from me!"

"Please, honey, you know that's not true," Darien spoke soothingly and reached for my hand. "Come along now and try to rest." To the guard he said, "I'm afraid she's having a psychotic attack. She suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and the past few days she's refused to take her medication. She started having nightmares this evening, and when I woke up a few minutes ago she was gone. I apologize for the disturbance."

"Oh, is that right?" The guard gave me a knowing look, as if a loose dog was running around and its owner had just showed up to collect it. I felt a burning humiliation as everyone else began snickering and whispering remarks. It was like being the heroine in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Okay then, if that was all it took to convince them I was crazy, then surely they would at least remove me from the source of my agitation if I played it up enough. No use trying to be calm in a situation like this! I pulled away from Darien's grasp.

"Please, get him away from me," I begged. "He's lying—I'm not on any schizophrenic medication! He's going to kill me!"

"Oh Fern, you're hurting me." Darien's eyes filled with sickening crocodile tears. "You know how much I love you…"

At this point another security guard, a woman, strode up to us. Her name tag read Penelope.

"Excuse me, what's going on?" She asked. Darien and I started talking over each other. She held up her hand. "One person at a time."

Darien told her his lies first. Then I explained what was really happening. She crossed her arms and looked from him to me and back, eyes narrowing, brow furrowed.

"Is that so?" Her tone of voice made my heart sink. "I'll inform you of three things, Ma'am: first, everyone on board this ship is required to take their prescribed medication or be expelled. Second, you have no right to be causing a public disturbance like this. Third, we have no evidence of any abuse on your husband's part. Allow me to escort you both back to your room."

I stood paralyzed in shock, my mind racing as an idea occurred. If they weren't going to prevent him from killing me, what would they do if I turned the tables? Darien reached out for me again. I yanked away.

"You monster!" I hissed. "If I have to stay in the same room with you another minute, I'll kill you!"

"Now Fern, you're being silly." Darien couldn't help laughing at me. I lunged at him with a wild yell, digging my nails into his throat. Several men quickly dragged us apart. I thrashed and fussed as much as I could. At this point even being arrested would have been okay as long as it got me away from him.

Darien leaned towards me once more.

"This will help calm her," he announced, pulling a wet wipe from his pocket and pressing it to my forehead. I smelled sharp fumes and realized it was drugged. The room started spinning. I sank limply into his arms as though a plug had been pulled and all my energy was draining away.

"Move away, give her air!" Darien ordered, waving everyone aside. "I'll bring her to our room and manage her condition. As her primary care physician, I am fully qualified to handle this."

It was all I could do to whisper a faint protest, which they ignored as Darien led me away. The last person I saw was Penelope, staring after us, frowning and shaking her head.

"You see," he said, half-dragging, half-carrying me down the empty hallway, "no one believes you."

"They would have separated us if you hadn't drugged me," I gasped.

"Comes in handy to be a doctor, huh?" His mocking voice was low in my ear. "It'll be quite easy to kill you, send your body overboard and say 'oh dear, she was trying to get away from me and slipped…' precious few security cameras these ships have."

Good God, there was no way I'd survive Darien without a miracle. I prayed frantically, silently as he pulled me into our stateroom and dumped me unceremoniously onto my bed. I struggled to maintain consciousness, eyes scanning the room, looking for some kind of weapon or a way to summon help. He stood over me for some moments, gloating.

"Darien, please..." I met his eyes, trying to find some mercy, some vestige of our relationship, but he was a man I no longer knew.

"Might as well get it done now." He reached for my neck. I twisted away, managed to stand up, and stumbled towards the door. Darien came up behind, grabbing me and putting me in a chokehold again. He kicked my legs out from under me, forcing me to the floor. I knew this time it was final, and it wouldn't take long. It made me remember all the police brutality videos I'd seen over the years. Not the way I'd expected to die.

My head felt like it would explode. Suddenly through the ringing in my ears I heard footsteps. Someone knocked on the door.

"Mr. Blackstone, is everything okay?" Someone called. "Just checking up." It sounded like Penelope.

"Fine, thank you," Darien had the nerve to reply.

"May I speak with Fern, please?"

"No. She's resting peacefully."

I reached out desperately, scrabbling my hand blindly on the carpet. I felt one of my shoes, grabbed it and hurled it with whatever strength I had left at the door. It hit with a sharp clunk and a thump.

"What was that?"

Silence met the inquiry as I tried to get the other shoe. Darien twisted my arm back. I was fading fast.

"Open up!" The person banged on the door. It burst open. People surrounded us. A final thought flashed red in my brain like a dead battery warning: too late. Then, blackness descended.


I came to in the medical ward. Penelope was sitting patiently by my bed. She reached out and patted my hand.

"I'm sorry, Fern. I did believe you. Are you okay?"

I managed a wry smile.

"I'm alive, surprisingly. But…?"

"I'm an undercover agent, not a security guard. The reason I'm on this ship is to investigate Dr. Blackstone and the deaths of his two girlfriends. I thought the best way to proceed was to set a trap. I apologize for putting you at such risk."

I sighed. My nightmare was over. So too was my marriage.

Author's Notes:
© Copyright 2023 Amethyst Angel🌊🌿🌞 (greenwillow at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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