Anne Breen

The June Featured writer is Anne Breen

Feel free to visit Anne at:



by Anne Breen 

There it is again! A shadow that looks like a man has appeared on the garden wall, and I want to throw up. It could be standing there, watching the quaking trees—quaking like I am. Or it could be watching me.

Could it be watching me?

I try to convince myself of the other possibilities, but I have the sticky, paranoid feeling it’s the shadow of Jerome—a man who, in my darkest dreams, wants to kill me. In a powerful flash, I see his rifle aimed at me as he stands over.

I lean forward, my forehead hits the window. It’s not really a dream. Sometimes it is, but more than a dream, it’s a memory. I see the solemn look on his face, a total failure to respond to the bewilderment on my face.

Until his jaw suddenly tightens…

Even though I need to go out and shop for food, the shadow I imagine to be him is too close to the gate. There’s two ways out of this house. The other way out leads to the street, and I worry even more about him being there. He could plough a car into me, or walk up the footpath and shoot me on the spot.

Back then, he didn’t actually kill me, of course. He turned the gun away without a word—like it didn’t happen. Like he didn’t mean it at all, and I might as well have imagined it.

But maybe he wants to finish what he started. Maybe he does!

I know it’s unlikely. I know it. That means I can’t be crazy, doesn’t it, if I know? And I know that I could go out there, if I chose. If I was genuinely crazy, I wouldn’t have the choice. This is all me. It’s not some kind of madness.

Yet I am mad, in a sense, in the sense that some people would call me that. My eyes remain fixated on this shadow. How long has it been? I pull my eyes away and turn them to the computer in the corner.

It’s black. What was the sleep timer, again? Fifteen minutes? So it’s been that, at least. It could be more, but I choose to believe it’s been that. I do the calculations in my head. I have two hours until the shops close. Plenty of time, I guess.

If it’s a man, it has to move at some point. No man can stay perfectly still for that many hours -- not unless he’s absolutely determined.

But I guess Jerome would be that determined.

I haven’t spoken to him in over a year, and I never found out why he aimed his rifle at me. I can make some guesses. He was depressed, he was scared, he was seeking the thrill of it. I’ve run through this in my head over and over.

Could I have upset him? We talked about politics sometimes and that could lead to arguments -- but they were never violent. Sometimes we’d poke fun at each other’s flaws. He was pudgy, I was bony. He was lazy, I was less intelligent so had to study harder.

We were friends, though, and our insults were jokes.

We used to stay up late at night gaming—sometimes until early morning. Competitive games, shooting games, strategy games. I’d have my earphones on and speak to him through the microphone. I can almost hear his guttural laugh now.

Video games don’t lead to real life violence. I’m not violent. And even though we were rivals in game, we knew it was just a game.

He loved guns. Real ones as well as the ones on the screen. I remember his Facebook posts. Pictures of them laid out on a table with a dark red cloth. Pictures of him holding them, caressing them.

He handed one to me. He put his finger over his lips and muttered, “Don’t be a pussy. You’ll like it.”


We’re on a ute. His girlfriend, Missy, is lively and smiling. She’s also a licensed gun owner, but, she declares, she’s a better shot. We’re at Jerome’s father’s farm hunting rabbits. Rabbiting, they call it.

At the far side, we stop. Missy leaps out first. She wears khaki and her yellow hair is pulled back in a ponytail. When she looks at Jerome, it’s easy to see she loves him. There’s so much happiness in her eyes, which glint bright blue in the afternoon sun.

The rabbits prick their ears when they notice us, but when we’re still, they’re calm. I’d always thought of them as flighty creatures, but as I watch them in this setting, I begin to think of them as too easy-going. They should be more cautious.

Jerome and Missy have done this before, but it’s my first time, and I try to conceal my uneasiness. When they make a kill, I congratulate them, but I don’t hint at wanting to do it myself. Still, I know I’m going to have my turn. When Jerome gives the gun to me, it’s after he’s killed two already.

“Go ahead,” he says.

I’ve done target shooting before, so I have the practical knowledge. Plus, I had wanted to do this. I was genuine when I told him that. It’s just that, seeing it happen, actually being here—it's changed my feelings. I’ve become doubtful.

Missy adds, “It’s kinder than myxomatosis.”

That’s true. Myxomatosis causes skin tumors, blindness and fever as it slowly kills.

I’m crouched, looking through the crosshairs. I need to aim for the head or neck, to prevent its suffering. I think about how they’re pests, how, in their proliferation, they endanger native animals, how, if they’re not shot, they’re usually poisoned, which is much worse, much more painful.

And I’ve eaten meat. I love meat. For lunch we had beef burgers and I made a joke about the farm’s cows.

“Go on,” whispers Missy.

Hurried, I purposefully miss. I’d probably have missed anyway, I figure. The rabbit dashes away.
“Dammit,” Jerome mutters.

I become aware of my pounding blood. After the weapon sounds, I feel an incredible rush. I feel powerful and attractive.

Suddenly I regret missing. I see what it is now, what they do this for. It feels good. It feels exciting. I want to try again—and this time to hit it.

I’ve been looking at my hands. I’ve forgotten about the shadow on the wall. I glance up and see it’s still there. For a brief moment, I think I can do it. I think I can go out.

It’s a brief moment, and the dread rushes in again and I can’t.

I know what I should do. I go into the kitchen and take a knife—a large one, with a smooth edge. I make my grip firm, practice making the right thrusting movements. I think about it going into a human being, the initial resistance and the easy feeling as the tension in the skin gives way.

My thoughts turn again to the past, but this time I think about how I should have killed him then.
Missy isn’t with us anymore and I’m on my knees. My hands are bloody. He’s turned away and he still has the gun. Apparently, he’s decided now is not the time to murder me. He returns to the ute, a swagger in his steps. The bunny bag is slung over his shoulder.

I remain rigid for a moment. My mind isn’t working straight. I’m not even sure if what I thought happened actually happened. Maybe he wasn’t aiming the gun at me. Maybe… I don’t know. Maybe he was checking something. Maybe the safety was on. Maybe he was daydreaming.

There is no textbook course of action. I don’t know what to do, but he calls out:

“Are you coming?”

I get to my feet. What else to do? I follow him and ride shotgun. The rifle is in the back seat. There’s a knife, too. I could try it. I could.

But I don’t.

In fact, the thought doesn’t even occur to me until after we’ve parked.

It should have, though. I never did get my chance to kill my rabbit. I’m disappointed in myself. But it must feel a great deal more exciting to kill a man.

With rabbits, it’s merciful to do it very fast so they don’t know what’s happening. They don’t have the ability to understand.

When it comes to a man, though, I think it would be more merciful to let him know what you’re going to do, so he can come to terms with it. I’d give Jerome that. I’d see how he responds. Let him see if he does anything other than stare and wonder why.

He thinks he’d fight back. So did I, before it happened. I used to fantasize about what I’d do if I were held at gunpoint. I’d be brave and rational—not confused and paralyzed.

But now it’s actually happened to me, I’ve discovered I’m weaker than I thought. I’m not a hero. I wasn’t and he wouldn’t be, either. I’d let him discover that about himself. One last lesson before all lessons are obliterated.

Adrenaline pounds through me. I can almost see why he did it. That doesn’t mean I can forgive him, but it means that, perhaps, we share something in common. Maybe all people do.

Humans are meat-eaters, after all. Lions and wolves must also derive pleasure from the act. If meat-eaters don’t derive pleasure from killing, how would they know to do it?

But I know most people don’t think this way. I didn’t. And, even though I enjoy this fantasy of murder on one level, on another level, I don’t. I don’t think this way. I’m only pretending to. I want to feel as if I’d enjoy committing a murder so I can understand why Jerome did what he did. It’s my coping mechanism.

I have all these violent thoughts, but at the same time, I’m revolted by them. Even now, as I hold this knife in the kitchen, I hate myself. I think I’d rather die than kill a human being. I think if I kill a human being, I’ll kill myself. Who has that right?

I’m not a psychopath. I’m having these thoughts because I want to feel powerful. I want to feel as if I’m strong and capable—how I used to feel about myself before Jerome held the gun at me and revealed I’m a fucking pussy.

I never even said anything. After it happened, I was silent. I never said anything. I convinced myself I must have misread the situation. I must’ve imagined it. It was too strange, too unlike him. Too traumatic. And it would only hurt Jerome if I mentioned it.

At that point I still considered him a friend. I don’t know why. Habit, I guess.

I could have said something. I was asked. It would have made a difference and things would have been better.

My mind turns to the moments before it happened. We’ve circled around the paddock and come back to the ute. Then we see a fox. It moves with strange and colorful fluidity. I smile.

“Buggers,” Missy mutters as she scrambles to get her ear muffs on. She aims her gun and, as it darts into the woods, she shoots without hesitation.

Her shot hits. The fox topples and lies still. She shouts, runs towards it.

It begins to move. Even though it’s wounded, it’s not dead. In my peripheral vision I see Jerome raise his own rifle. As it gets to its dainty feet, he fires.

His shot misses. The fox escapes, but, seemingly in slow motion, Missy’s feet trip over each other and she falls to the ground. Her arms don’t reach out to slow her fall.

There’s a pause that lasts forever. I expect her to get up and laugh it off, but it becomes apparent she won’t. I run over as Jerome continues to shoot at the fox. Why is he doing that? Hasn’t he seen Missy fall?

One of her eyes is open and the other is half closed, looking in a different direction. Her mouth is ajar. She’s warm, but that’s all she seems to be. I look for injury and see Jerome’s bullet has gone through her heart. She’s dead. She was dead before she hit the ground.

“Missy’s dead!” I cry.

He finally approaches. I think I read fear in his face as he leans over and tries to feel for a pulse. When he feels nothing, he also seems to stop breathing. He stares through her, into space.

“Shit,” I say. “Fuck!”

That’s when he aims at me. I expect him to shoot me too. Honest to God, I expect him to shoot me.

But he doesn’t, and I should’ve killed him in the car. If not for my sake, then for Missy’s. God, she deserved that.


I’m in reality again—not a memory—and I drop the knife. No, I think. It’s a heroic daydream, but that’s all. I pick it up again and put it back. I don’t want to go out into the yard waving a knife, in case the neighbors see me. They already think I’m crazy.

Besides, I couldn’t even shoot a rabbit.

I return to the window. I’m not sure how much time has passed, but it’s more than it feels. Already the sun has lowered significantly, and I can’t see the shape of the shadow anymore. Neither can I see if whatever cast it is gone. If it was a man, he could still be in the space behind the garden shed.

Why is the shed at such a weird angle? I wonder. It’s not aligned with the rest of the house. The entire yard is bad. The grass is scraggly and ill kept, covered in prickles, and morning glory grows over the walls. For a plant with such a fantastic name, it sure is an ugly weed.

My stomach growls. I need to get food. But first I need to be sure it’s safe.

I slide the door open quietly and wait. My heart pounds. I’m ready to shut it in a flash. My fingers clench around the lock.

Nothing comes out at me. I dare to put my phone around the edge, at such an angle so I can see everything on that side of the wall. There’s the window of my mother’s bedroom, the curtains drawn shut.

Again, I pause. Nothing moves, so I take another step. All this time I’m ready to run back inside should so much as a fly startle me. My hand is on the lock.

A fly does land on my arm, but I’m not startled. I’ve become braver by doing this small thing.
Step by step, I make my way over. I film everything, holding my camera with one hand. The other hand stretches out in the direction of the door. I often glance back, in case something gets in while I’m turned away.

Now I’m just a step away from the shed. Come on, I know it’s not real. I know it’s not him, I think to myself. Still, chills go down my spine. Water fills my eyes, blurring my vision. For fuck’s sake.

My eyes watered like this the first time I saw him after a long break, after the court ruling. I feel sick when I think about it now.

I think about the court proceedings first, and how I took the witness stand. The memory is so real, it’s as if it’s happening now.

I take the witness stand and his expression is unreadable, stony. I guess mine must be, too. I don’t say anything about what he did to me. At that point, I still believe it was a misunderstanding. At that point, I don’t know what’s about to happen. And the trial has been about Missy, so I think that, if I claim to be a victim too, it will seem as if I’m playing down her loss.

Besides, I’ve been coping, at this point in time. I didn’t know I was going to develop crippling anxiety.

I don’t remember what he was charged with. Murder or manslaughter. I think it must have been manslaughter, but for some reason my mind keeps coming back to ‘murder’. Something about a threat he made once.

For a long time after that, I didn’t see him.

And then I did, and my eyes began to water, as they do right now. I see that moment in my mind.
I’m woken suddenly in the dead of night and a figure stands at the end of my bed. At first it’s a vague outline of someone. A shadow. As I sit up, it fills out with colour.


“Jerome?” I ask. What’s he doing here? How did he get out of prison?

He’s there again, looking directly at me! His eyes glimmer in the starlight.
Instinct tells me something is very wrong. Very, very wrong. And, as I watch, he glides sideways without moving his legs.

He passes through the window and disappears behind the garden shed.

I found out, the morning after I saw him, that he’d died that night. He committed suicide. Couldn’t live with the guilt of what he’d done.

But if he was already dead, who did I see in the yard? Who did I see in my bedroom, watching me as I slept? Or, maybe, not who, but what?

I can’t shake the feeling it was him, and that he wants to harm me. Now I’ve learned this, it’s become obvious he wanted to kill me back then, too. It hadn’t been an accident.

For some reason, he wants me to die, and he’ll follow me even after his own death.

He won’t, though. That’s an insane thought, and I don’t believe in ghosts—there’s no objective evidence. I’ve never seen convincing footage of one.

That’s why I have my phone film everything right now. Because, if there is a ghost, it won’t allow itself to be filmed. If I film everything, then I can’t be hurt by a supernatural force. Because they don’t get filmed.

And they don’t exist.

I only have these thoughts because I am crazy.

I swallow air, which gets stuck in my throat. Then, with a burst of frantic power, I jump around to the back of the shed and aim my camera.

There’s nothing there. Except for an oddly placed tree stump, it’s clear.

It’s possible the tree stump cast the shadow I saw. I try to imagine how the angles would work, but I find that difficult. My mind is racing too fast, and I’m dizzy. The neighbor’s dog barks.

Why is it barking? Is it barking at me? Did I shout?

I glance around me again and again to make sure it’s clear.

It’s not real. It’s not real.

I repeat this to myself over and over.

It’s just fear.

There is no way he can be a ghost, and there is no way he can have faked his own death. He was in fucking jail for fuck’s sake. They found his fucking body.

I storm into the shed, throw things around as I search for a tool. An axe. When I go back out outside, I bring it down on the stump. I do it again and again. As I do it, I imagine I’m doing it to him.

And then I hear the crunch of a footstep around the front of the shed, where he might have moved. I raise my axe, grip it hard. Air hisses through my teeth.


Born and raised in Perth, West Australia, Anne Breen has been creating stories since she was a child and recently began to have them published.