The newspaper printed a double-sided, full length feature article about Little Red. His mother was quoted, his teachers, his friends. A good kid, they all said. He loved his little sister and brother, his parents. He loved his friends. He didn’t listen to  that ‘heavy metal, devil music’ and he didn’t play violent shooter video games. He liked cars and bikes. He was well-focused, ready to learn, eager to please. Everyone loved Little Red and his always-smiling face. He wrote birthday and valentines day cards to all of his class-mates. He played barbies with his sister, weaved magnificent stories and built them houses out of shoe boxes. He always walked the dog, spent hours playing fetch with her in the park. Red took out the trash, kept his bedroom tidy, let old people and pregnant ladies have his seat on a crowded bus. Red did not do drugs, and he drank alcohol to a minimum. He never got into scrappy punch-ups at house parties. Even the bullies had a soft spot for Red. They liked to protect him, not that he needed protecting because he was a good kid and everyone liked him. A good kid. Kind, friendly, genuine.

I don’t read the newspaper. Not anymore. Not after the article. They used ugly print – big block letters and blunt words. Little Red’s article was particularly ugly. The ugliest, in my mind. It was a bare, bold-faced lie. No-one could quite comprehend why this perfect kid did exactly what he did. Of course they couldn’t. They never did. But, then again, they never thought to quote me in their article. I could’ve told them about Red, I could’ve told them the truth. Well, I could have. If I weren’t dead. Unfortunately, that can’t quite be helped. It’s too late. And nothing is quite what is seems.

There was nothing little or red about Little Red. In fact, he was the polar opposite of little and red. Tall, lanky, at least six foot two, with a mop of unruly, dark hair and even darker eyes, Little Red was the perfect conundrum. From a distance, his appearance was slightly peculiar, looming and ominous, slightly unnerving. At first, it made strangers wary, but as soon as Red smiled, his face evolved, split in half, lit up the room. Or so his mother said. Aaron, she murmered, then coughed and corrected herself, Little Red. He got his name from a toy he had when he was young, Three, maybe. Three and a bit. A little red fire truck, about the size of two matchboxes. Took that freaking thing everywhere. Little truck. Little red truck. Get it? Little Red.

Red was the eldest of three. A younger brother and sister both talked fondly about him in the article. He dressed up my dolls funny, smiled little Martha. He stuck feathers on their head and made felt tops for them. Her quote is accompanied by a picture of a dark-eyed girl with two perfectly weaved braids, not a single hair out of place. His brother Mark wasn’t smiling in his photograph. ‘I miss him’ was the only shisper that the reporter could capture on the recorder, so faint and tired that she was almost sure it wasn’t really there. ‘I miss him real bad.’

Everyone missed Little Red. The community was in mourning. A shrine was constructed in the church, the school gymnasium, in the convenience store where Red used to enthusiastically deliver the weekend newspapers from. Little Red’s face was plastered everywhere, beaming down and watching the townspeople. ‘Like a guardian angel,’ Miss Robeck, Red’s third grade teacher nodded. Dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. Making sure that her mascara remained perfectly applied for a photograph. Just in case. She didn’t want to miss out on her fifteen minutes of tragedy based fame. As I said earlier, I don’t read the newspaper anymore. Well, I can’t. But even if I could, I wouldn’t The print is ugly. Not just in the sense of font, layout, grainy pictures. Ugly in the chosen words, the fake, masked people blinking away crocodile tears, sobbing out rehearsed quotes and prayers. Insidious words that burrow under the skins of the readers, only to be regurgitated over the dinner table that night as gossip.

Everybody knew Little Red. They thought they knew him. They wanted to be there for him, seen as loving and caring for him. Bu no-body knew me. No-body asked about me. I wasn’t quoted. I was a few lines, jammed somewhere in the middle of the article. An assumed rumor, an inconvenience. Scandalous, hideous words branded my forehead. Words that will last longer than those on my tombstone. I was a head shake and a pity grimace. I’m dead because of Little Red, the town golden boy. The only two people who know the truth – myself an Aaron – have been buried six foot under with our mouths duct taped shut for eternity. Nothing is as it seems.

To put it bluntly, Aaron Desmon, a.k.a ‘Little Red’ was born in a goddamn shit-hole of a town. Not quite in the middle of nowhere, not quite anywhere in particular. Barely even on the map, not even included on most. More of a paper town, a fake place to mark the maker of a map, than a real place with real people. Snowden was a little like Red – nothing even remotely close to it’s namesake, the polar opposite. No snow, or ice, or even frost, had ever been recorded in the history of Snowden. Population 1824 (subtract one! Cried the mayor emphatically for the flocks of reporters), Snowden is grey and dusty and hideously humid. Abandoned subdivisions are scattered around the outskirts of  the town. Two gas-stations, a post office, a decaying strip mall including one pizza place and a stand alone supermarket employ the majority of the town. The land at Snowden is no good for raising livestock or farming. There isn’t even anything to mine. It’s no good for anything reputable, really. Apart from raising generation after generation of heavy drinkers and children with snotty noses and grazed knees. When you think about it, maybe there was a good reason that Snowden wasn’t included on the map, it was an unpleasant, surprising singular-hotelled, over-taverned dusty spot for the uninformed traveler to find themselves stuck in.

God-damnit, Red! Why’d you have to put us on the map?  In the freaking paper? On the god-damned national news? You don’ fucked up there, Red, cursed the older members of the town over their bitter beers and salted peanuts. Under-exposed Snowden was now an over-exposed hot-bed of poky reporters and disheveled men and women with cameras and microphones. Snowden, that goddamn shit-hole of a town, was now firmly on the map. Now Googled on the Internet. A little town now added to the itinerary of murder freak obsessed with the morbid and macabre.

“God-DAMNIT, RED!” rumor has it his father was found on the main street, bent over the in howling wind, dust swirling everywhere, screaming into the sky above him. No-one knew quite what he was referring to – Red hadn’t just ruined his own life. He hadn’t just plunged himself into the dark, he hadn’t just changed his own life. He’d gone and ruined another 1824 lives, plus one.

Published by Samantha Anderson