Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
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by Jeani Rector

The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is read my horoscope.

I do that even before I have a cup of coffee.

I read it in the newspaper. It's not my newspaper; it really belongs to my mother. In fact, everything in this house belongs to my mother. I live with her.

Yes, I know; I'm a forty-two-year-old man, and I live with my mother. Some people think that's weird, but my mother needs me. Well, I sort of need her too, but I think she needs me more.

But anyway, I read my horoscope. I'm a Leo, and I'm really proud of my sign. I mean, it's symbolized by a lion, so it's royal and all that. King of the jungle. Plus I was born in summer, and everyone knows that summer is the best time of year.

A couple of years ago, I started reading books about astrology, and I learned how great the Leo sign really is. What I learned in those astrology books is that Leo is a special sign. At that point, I started realizing that I'm special, too.

Soon I found out that reading about my birth sign was only the beginning for my understanding about my full potential. Yes, I am very special. I stand apart.

It isn't always easy to stand apart. Being better than most people has a price. Sometimes I don't exactly fit in. People think I'm weird. Oh, they don't always tell me to my face that I'm weird but I know they think it by the way they look at me.

That's okay. I'm aware that other people simply don't understand me. How can anyone understand something as unique as me? People are used to the norm, the commonplace...the average things in life. Average people are used to other average people. Anything that stands apart is considered weird. But weird just means different. And different means special.

So, I don't hold rudeness against anyone. I am mature enough to overlook it and to forgive average people for their inferiority.

Well, at least, most of the time I can overlook things. Maybe not all of the time. Even I will admit that sometimes I get upset at certain people. Like, I hate it when people don't appreciate my efforts to make them happy. Sometimes I lose control when I am not appreciated.

Anyway, we're talking about my horoscope -- let's get back to that. I told you I read it first thing every morning. It's important to me and I won't start my day without it. Because it's all written in the stars, man. We don't have control of our lives, that's for the stars. But it's okay, because the stars give excellent advice. Horoscopes give guidance as to how we should go about our days. Without horoscopes, people would be lost and just flounder. Without horoscopes, nobody would get anything done. So everybody needs horoscopes. It's just that most people don't know how to read them correctly.

You see my point, right?

Of course you do.

The problem with my life is that I've always been under appreciated. I haven't been able to stay on one job very long because my bosses always hold me back. I mean, I'm certainly not going to start any job as a janitor. Half the time I know more about the job than the damn supervisor. But do I get any credit?

And anyway, I can't go out of the house on days when my horoscope tells me I'm about to have a bad day. You see the sense in that. And all of those jobs only give a guy a limited number of sick days. None of it's been my fault.

But you want to know about the women.

Where do you want me to start? Oh, at the beginning. You want me to start where I think was the beginning.

Guess that means the hooker. I don't know the hooker's name. Guess it doesn't matter.

On the day I find the hooker, I have a good horoscope. It tells me I'm going to have a good day so I know I can leave the house. Let me look in my scrapbook....oh, here it is.

Okay. This day, my Leo horoscope says: Outlook for the day: Good. You get cooperation and good fortune comes your way. A loved one will be agreeable now. Don't count on current romantic conditions to last very long because there could be a change of mind. Still, chances are good you will achieve objectives today.

There, you see? My horoscope is predicting that I would meet a girl and she'd be initially agreeable to my advances, but that a little while later, she'd change her mind. So everything that happens is pre-ordained. I can't alter what is supposed to be. I just have to do what my horoscope says. And since my horoscope didn't specify what my objectives were, I figure that part is up to me.

Anyway, this day...when is it...oh I know, I'll look in my scrapbook. Let's see; yes, it is March third.

You know I don't drive because I'm supposed to take medication. So I take the bus when I go downtown. I figured I'd go downtown looking for love, because my horoscope says someone would be agreeable to my advances. And since my horoscope says the love wouldn't be permanent, I figure the stars must be talking about a prostitute.

So you see, sometimes I have to interpret my horoscope. I mean, it's there in black and white, but the newspaper only has so much space in which to print the horoscopes every day, so they can't be including names and places and stuff. But I'm really in tune to the stars. So my horoscopes never need names and places, because I can figure out that part on my own.

On this particular morning, I decide to take twenty dollars from my mother's cookie jar; ha -- real original place to hide money, isn't it? Anyway, I sure don't want to spend more than twenty dollars on a hooker, know what I mean?

I put a hammer underneath my coat. I figure the hammer would work just fine to knock someone out.

I get on the bus and ride downtown. I get off at Twenty-Third Street because everyone knows the cheaper hookers walk around on Twenty-Seventh. That only means four blocks from the bus stop for me to reach the streetwalkers.

So I get to Twenty-Seventh and look around. It's about one o'clock in the afternoon so there aren't a lot of hookers around. They usually come out in full force after dark. But there're always a couple of them strolling the street no matter what time of day or night. It's a twenty-four hour deal. It's just that there's more to choose from at night.

So I see this girl, right? She's white, and I want someone from my own race. I'm not prejudiced or anything; it's just that I have to have one with red hair. A redhead is a must, and this hooker has red hair.

I have confidence. I know the hooker will be okay with me because my horoscope told me so. She'll say yes.

I walk up to her. She's wearing this really short pair of cutoffs, showing her butt cheeks in the back and all. She's got on high heels and some sort of sweater-top. She looks sort of skinny but I figure she's probably more concerned with finding drugs than with finding food most of the time.

“I got twenty,” I say. I don't feel like negotiating. My horoscope promised she'd say yes. And she does.

“Where'd ya wanna go, big fella?” she asks me.

“Somewhere private,” I tell her. She says she knows the place.

I follow her behind a building. There're dumpsters and other crap back there. But it's sort of an alley, and she's right, it doesn't seem like anyone could see us real well.

She takes off her sweater. No bra. I'm not excited; the girl is scrawny, but that's not why I'm so ho hum about it.

“How're we gonna lie down?” I ask her. “This is nothing but an alley.”

“For twenty, you don't get to lie down,” she tells me. “You want a motel, you pay thirty. For twenty, I'll lean against the wall. I'll face the wall and you can get me from behind. Not in the ass, though.”

Perfect, I think. She's gonna turn around.

The minute she does, I grab her. I'm a big guy; you see my muscles? So I take out my hammer that I have under my jacket. Right there in the daylight.

But she starts to fight. I had forgotten that part about my horoscope. My horoscope warned me that the girl would change her mind. Stupid of me to forget. Anyway, she really fights hard. I'm surprised. She looks so scrawny.

Somehow she gets away. She starts screaming. So I turn and run. Nobody catches me. A few minutes later, I'm back on the bus headed to my mother's house. I wouldn't be surprised if at about the same time as I'm on the bus, that hooker is back on the Twenty-Seventh Street stroll as though nothing happened. Just another day in the life of a cheap hooker.

But my horoscope is right, because it's still a good day. I learned something. I learned that I needed to be more prepared for the next time. And that hooker wouldn't have done me any good, anyway, even if I had bopped her over the head right there in that alley with my hammer. I need a girl I can bring home. What am I going to do, bring a hooker home on the bus?

No, I didn't kill anyone that day. What about the time I did commit murder, you ask? Listen, who's telling this story, anyway? I'll tell you about the murder in a minute.

I begin to search my horoscopes every day for guidance. I figure I want the next time to be just right.

Then, one day, there it is. I get all excited.

Wait, let me look in my scrapbook and I can read to you exactly what it says. Looks like March twenty-sixth. Anyway, here it is: Outlook for the day: Excellent. This is a good day to follow up on new prospects while putting a high value on your skills and knowledge. A major decision you make now can lead to good results if you show courage and faith. In order to take advantage of what is offered, you must see things through to completion.

Now, you can just bet that's a direct order from the stars telling me I need to act again. Can't you understand this? I keep telling you that all things we do are pre-ordained. It's in the stars.

So this time, I decide to stick around closer to my mother's house. I need to bring the girl home with me. I figure, maybe a nicer, inexperienced girl might be easier to grab than that stupid hooker. But no matter who it is, she has to be a redhead.

So I do what my horoscope says. I decide to have courage and faith, and to use my skills and knowledge. I gained knowledge after that hooker incident. I know what to do this time. I will take advantage of what is offered. I won't go seeking. Instead, I will wait for a redhead to come to me.

I decide that since my horoscope says the outlook for the day is excellent, I can go out of the house. I can run some errands. I have courage, and I have faith that the stars will put a redhead in my path. I know that my destiny is about to be realized.

Anyway, I put the hammer under my jacket again because I'm sure the stars are going to provide someone for me. I go to the grocery store because I need a gallon of milk. I don't need a car for that, because it's only two blocks away from my mother's house and I can walk.

I go in to the store, and sure enough, there's a redhead working there. She's a checker. She must be new because I've been to the grocery store lots of times and I've never seen her before. See what I mean about the stars? They have control of our lives. Everything is pre-ordained.

So I'm not surprised to walk into the store and what do you know, there's a redhead. Now, I will grant you that she's not very good-looking, sort of dumpy and all, but who cares, it's only the color of the hair that matters.

I decide to forget the milk and buy something simple just to get nearer to her. I pick up a diet soda and stand in her line. When I get near to her, I feel sort of tingly inside. I feel happy. I know I have courage and faith, and that this is the opportunity my horoscope promised. I know I must see things to completion, which means that although I will leave this store now, I'll be waiting outside for this woman. Waiting just for her.

What do you mean, did I choose her at random? Aren't you listening? Nothing in this world is random. It's all in the stars. That woman was put in the grocery store for a reason. So to answer your question, no, I didn't choose her at random. The stars chose her for me. I only do what my horoscope tells me. You just don't listen, do you? No wonder I think you're inferior. It's because you are.

Oh is that right? Well screw you, too.

Listen, jerk, you want me to go on with this story or not?

You know, the only reason I'm talking to you in the first place today is because today's horoscope told me to. Otherwise, I'd sure blow you off.

Well, I've got to remember to be patient with people like you. I'm special; I'm in tune to the stars. Most people are just average, so they don't have the ability to tune in to the stars. Only special people have the ability to read horoscopes correctly.

Okay, back to what I was saying. Where was I? Oh yeah.

Anyway, I wait until the store closes. I hang around, because I mean, what if the redhead only works part time? She'd leave early, before closing, and if I go back home, I'll miss her. Now, I know I look weird hanging out for a couple of hours in front of the grocery store, but I keep remembering that my horoscope says to have courage and faith. So I hang out in the parking lot.

It's a Ma and Pa store, so it closes at eight-thirty. It's only March, so it's dark already. Days are still sort of short. I'm glad it's dark; I know it will make things easier.

I see the woman come out of the store, and again I feel good, sort of tingly. Maybe it's anticipation. I don't know, but it's really cool how I feel. I feel excited, happy, powerful. I feel superior over this woman who is too dumb to realize that she shouldn't be walking all alone in a dark parking lot. But then I remember, this is all pre-ordained by the stars. Maybe the woman is smarter at other times. But tonight is not her night; this is my night.

I silently follow the woman, crouching among the parked cars. There're not many cars right now, but it's dark and the woman seems preoccupied anyway so she has no idea that I am stalking her. I am thinking to myself, This is so easy. I am meant to do this.

I sneak up behind her. I glance around quickly. All is quiet. There's no one around to interfere. This parking lot isn't very well lighted. And this store makes the employees park in the farthest parking spaces so that the customers can park close. All to my advantage.

I slide my hammer out from underneath my jacket. I feel the rough wooden handle in the palm of my hand. I grip it tightly but the hard wood does not give. I move the hammer and see the dim streetlight reflecting off the metal top. It looks very powerful in my hand. The hammer makes me feel powerful.

I know it's time. I can feel my heart pound. This is really happening! I am this woman's destiny. And this woman is my destiny. My heart soars.

I am right behind her. I watch as she fumbles in her purse for her car key. That gives me the right opportunity. With courage and faith, I lift my arm and swiftly bring the hammer down on the woman's head.

It's more than I could ever ask for. The woman drops silently to the ground, landing in a heap. She is sprawled on the black tar of the parking lot, motionless.

I feel exhilaration. I feel potent; almost omnipotent. It is glorious how I so efficiently fulfill the commands of the stars. I am special. Looking at the woman lying unconscious on the ground merely reminds me of my superiority. I am better than this average woman lying limp beneath me.

You keep interrupting me. You keep asking me about the murder. I'm not at the murder part of this story yet, okay?


You want to know why I murdered? Listen, I told you I'm not at the murder part yet. So far I haven't killed anybody.

Hey, I'm going to tell this story either my way or no way. If you want to hear the rest, then you can just shut up and listen. You already read me my Miranda rights, so I know I don't have to talk to any cops, much less a rude one like you. Consider yourself lucky that I am talking.

Damn, you keep interrupting me, and now I forget where I was. Oh yeah, the redhead. I just bopped her one over the head.

Well, I need to take this girl home, see? So I figure, she has her car keys in her hand. Probably the stars planned that too. Anyway, I told you I don't drive because the DMV won't give me a driver's license, but that doesn't mean I can't drive.

So I pick up the redhead from the ground. I'm surprised at how heavy she is. But she's none too slim, you know? And dead weight and all that. Ha, that's funny; she feels like dead weight but she isn't dead. She's only unconscious.

I realize it's easier to drag her, so I do that until I have her at the passenger side of the car. I push her inside, and sort of prop her up. She looks like she could be sleeping. Works for me.

I go back around the car and get in the driver's side. All this time, I keep thinking, Man oh man, my horoscope will never let me down. This is just so cool.

I feel like I want to rejoice. I am drunk with power. I can do anything, as long as the stars guide me.

I turn the car towards my mother's house and drive off. I am bringing home my prize.

I am so excited. Only two blocks away.

Finally I reach my mother's house and I park in the back. I am taking the girl inside the house, going in through the back way. Nobody has caught me, because my horoscope said there would be good results if I follow through to completion.

And now is the time for completion.

This woman I'm dragging into my house is supposed to be my sister. My sister was a redhead. Now you see why the hair color is so important?

What do you mean that you don't understand how a stranger can substitute for my sister? God you are so dense. Don't you get it? My sister was killed when she was little, run over by a car. I figure she'd be grown up by now if she were still alive.

My mother always wants my sister. My mother still cries over her. My mother tells me all the time that I'm second best. You know, how it should have been me who got run over by that car instead of my sister because I'm, well, damaged...and my sister was perfect.

My mother needs to quit thinking I'm damaged. I'm really just different. And as you know, different means special. I told you that I am superior to the average people in this world. I'm different, not damaged.

But my mother always wants my sister. So I figure, what the hell, I'll bring my sister back. Maybe then my mother will like me, too. We could be a real family again.

So, this here redhead is my gift to my mother. This is my sister.

There you go again, interrupting me. Don't worry, I'm getting to the murder part. Quit rushing me.

I figure if this redhead isn't quite right, and my mother doesn't think she's good enough to be my sister, then I'll just get rid of this redhead and find another one. I could try this or that one on for size as my sister. You know, life is really very simple if people are smart enough to put things in perspective. It doesn't have to be rocket science.

But because my horoscope is so positive for this day, I am pretty convinced that this is the right redhead to be my sister.

But something is wrong now. To this very moment, I still can't figure it out. I can't understand what is wrong. I keep looking at my scrapbook, and my horoscope doesn't change for that day. Horoscopes are always right. So what is wrong?

Do you think I lost that special ability to be able to really be in tune with the stars? Did I suddenly stop being able to read my horoscope correctly?

It's confusing and upsetting.

But now I'm getting to the murder part. You happy? It's what you've been waiting to hear.

My mother's reaction is what's wrong. Here I have her daughter in my arms. Alive. Here's the perfect daughter that she's been wanting all these years.

I have done the most wonderful thing in the world. I have brought my sister back from the dead.

Why is my mother screaming? What the hell?

Shut up! Shut the hell up!

Look at your daughter! Don't you want her back? What's the matter with you? I did this for you! Don't you appreciate it?

Oh man.

I let the girl go, and she falls to the floor. I am really confused now.

I decide that this must not be the right redhead. So I have to kill her.

I reach into my jacket and pull out the hammer.

But then I realize that my sister is already dead. She was run over by a car, a lot of years ago.

How can I kill someone who is already dead?

Okay, here it is -- what you've wanted to know. We're finally reached the murder part of my story. I don't kill the redhead. But my mother is being so rude.

Now do you finally understand why I am justified in killing my mother?


© 2008 Jeani Rector

Bio: Jeani Rector grew up reading Stephen King novels. Halloween is her favorite holiday. Her two children sing "The Rector Family" to the tune of The Addams Family. It is all in good fun and actually, most people who know Jeani personally are of the opinion that she is a very normal person. She just writes abnormal stories. Doesn't everybody? For more about Jeani Rector, check out Open Grave - The Book of Horror. This is Ms. Rector's sixth Aphelion short story entry; her story of how a dark and icky crawlspace can be a haven, Under the House, appeared in the November 2008 issue.

E-mail: Jeani Rector

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