Artist Statement:

Born between blizzards in 1977, Scott William Foley grew up in Beardstown, IL. In
1999, Foley graduated from Illinois State University, majoring in English. Foley is the
author of the novels Souls Triumphant and Andropia, the short story collections The
Imagination's Provocation: Volumes I and II,
as well as the ongoing e-serial Dr. Nekros.
You can find Foley at his website (www.scottwilliamfoley.com), Twitter, Goodreads,
Facebook, and Amazon.com. He is a devoted husband and proud father, and currently
teaches in Bloomington, IL.

Send-Off

Scott William Foley

 

The sun squeezed through the canopy of leaves overhead and intermittently fell upon
Shane Putman's bare chest. It took forty-five minutes the last time he ran up Crawford's
Mountain, which, while hardly a mountain, did qualify as the highest summit around. Glancing
at his watch, he realized only twenty minutes remained to beat his best time. He adjusted the
runner's pack around his waist and then lifted his knees higher with each stride.


When Shane approached a descending young couple, the man said, "Hey dude, watch
out; I seen a copperhead back there."

 

Nodding in return but avoiding eye contact, Shane waited until well beyond them before
muttering, "Dumbass."

 

His thoughts strayed and he couldn't help wondering how that hiker had procured the
female's company.

 

While lost in contemplation, he rounded a rocky corner and his foot caught a root that
sent him reeling into a series of great lumbering steps. He'd trained on Crawford's Mountain
countless times and knew the trails well: directly before him, though foliage hid the ledge, a
twenty-six foot drop awaited should he fail to gain control.

 

Every muscle in his body tensed and his instincts told him to hit the ground. The strategy
worked. After sliding along the leaves and loose dirt, he finally came to a halt mere feet from
where the edge lurked.

 

After looking around to be sure no one witnessed his gracelessness, Shane emitted a long
exhale before dropping his brow to the earth. His arms and legs pulsed with tingles while his

stomach contracted and gurgled. After a few controlled, deep breaths, he forced himself to his
knees and wiped off his face and chest in case anyone happened along.

 

His every thought told him to start running again, to continue honing his physique, but he
noticed something pink beneath the flora nearby and couldn't resist its call. As soon as its plastic
casing met his fingers, he discerned it could be nothing other than a smart phone.

 

"Stupid chick," he huffed after the unsecured phone activated and a woman's Facebook
newsfeed appeared. Clicking on "Carolyn Denenburg," Shane noticed an update – "Crawford's
Mountain is beautiful!" – from earlier that morning. While studying the girl's brown hair,
symmetrical eyes, and fair complexion, he figured he'd run along and find her atop the mountain.
He imagined all the different sorts of rewards she'd bestow upon him for the returned phone.

 

But then his intuition suggested something different.

 

Shane leered at both ends of the trail, then dropped to his belly again. Inching forward,
he shoved the shrubbery aside and cast his eyes downward.

 

Carolyn Denenburg lay upon her back in the shallow creek below, studying a sun
overhead that revealed nothing.

 

No stranger to rock climbing, Shane stuffed her phone into his pack before carefully
shimmying down the rock face in order to get a better look. After a meticulous, ten minute
decline, he stepped into the shallow creek and cast his shadow upon her.

 

"Beautiful," he uttered.

 

Several minutes elapsed with Shane staring at Carolyn before he realized that his skin
baked beneath the unfiltered, October sun. It was that time of year when the days could still be
brutally hot and the nights terrifically cold. Action had to be taken, so Shane surveyed his

surroundings. A few paces away, a nook in the rock wall revealed itself. It looked large enough
to accommodate Carolyn's body – maybe even his.

 

"Better get you out of the sun," he whispered while clutching her wrist.

 

Carolyn's cadaver weighed less than one-hundred and twenty pounds and offered no
problems to a man of Shane's conditioning. Crouching to half his height, he dragged her into the
alcove and discovered that it receded further than initially thought.

 

Shane plopped down next to Carolyn and pulled a water from his running belt. He
removed her smart phone as well and continued to peruse her Facebook account. She had
hundreds of friends, and, judging from her wall, they were largely authentic.

 

"Single, huh?" he murmured after finding her relationship status. He chuckled a little and
added, "Me, too."

 

Taking out his own phone, he brought up Facebook and then "friended" her. He next
used her phone to accept his request, which brought his number of contacts up to eight. His
fingers tapped slowly as he updated her status: "Just met a guy while hiking; amazing body and
so funny!"

 

Within seconds her friends "liked" her status and left comments such as "Is he the 1?"
and "We can double-date!" Her apparent brother wrote, "Make sure he's not a creep, sis. I don't
like you hiking alone."

 

Shane growled, "You're the creep, douche bag."

 

He read through her Facebook updates and messages, enraptured, until he discovered that
her gmail account had also been left unsecured.

 

Hours passed as he familiarized himself with Carolyn. He finally picked up his own
phone, considered inculpable possibilities, and subsequently updated his Facebook status: "This
is my lucky day!"


His eight contacts offered no feedback.


Twilight arrived too soon. Shane decided a recovery crew could never retrieve Carolyn's
body in the waning light, so he put their phones back into his pack, ran his fingers slowly against
her check, and then ascended the rock face. It proved far more complicated a climb than he
envisioned, but, after twenty-five minutes, he finally reached the top.


Placing Carolyn's phone back where he found it, he next pulled a small headlamp from
his pack and continued his workout in the chilling dark.


The ensuing day, Shane returned after visiting the gym. He retrieved Carolyn's sleeping
phone, slid it into his backpack, and climbed back down. When he entered the cave, he found
Carolyn covered in flies. He pressed his lips together, nodded, and then shooed them away.
Slipping off his pack, he pulled out several insect repellent bands and put a few on Carolyn's
wrists and ankles. Her body did not move nearly as easily anymore. She appeared slightly
bloated as well.


Laying down a blanket, Shane sat and activated Carolyn's phone. He made sure to leave
his own phone at home with music playing through iTunes.


His eyebrows lifted as he learned she had over one hundred comments regarding the man
she met while hiking. They ranged from "Go get sum!" to "He dont deserve u" to "Sign a prenup!" Some family and friends also left concerns about her whereabouts and well-being.

 

"You are one popular lady."

 

His status update from the night previous received only one comment, from his mother,
that read: "if its about a girl don't screw up you need one to give me a granbaby."

 

On Carolyn's page, he updated her status once again, writing: "You might be wondering
where I was last night. I'll never tell, but it involves Mr. Sexy:)"

 

No more than five seconds passed before the comments filled Carolyn's page. Friends
and family were both congratulating and chiding her. Shane made a point to answer each and
every one of their comments, thanking them, appeasing them, humoring them.

 

He never felt so loved.

 

Time got away, and once more he determined that the sun had sunk too low for her body
to be collected. It would be several days before he could report Carolyn's accident anyway if her
status updates were to keep him innocent. In fact, he'd already decided to report it anonymously
in order to remain above suspicion. The thought emerged that perhaps he should not get
involved at all. He could simply drag her body back to the creek bed, shove it down into a
deeper section of water, and be done with it.

 

But that was a concern for tomorrow. He had two more days with her at best until the
odor started, and he wanted to make the most of them. Gathering his belongings, he climbed the
rock wall again, put her phone back, and headed home.

 

The following day, he arrived just before dusk with his backpack. Preparing proved
difficult because the weather called for an unusually frosty night, and he didn't want to arouse
too much notice by appearing as though he planned to camp out. As a result, he brought the
barest essentials – a flashlight, a small pillow, hand warmers, a thermal blanket, water, protein
bars, and several condoms.

 

Had he brought his phone along, he would have updated his Facebook status by writing:
"Best night of my life!"


Shane woke up early next morning to something writhing upon his groin. Without
thinking, he flung aside his blanket to see a copperhead snake warming itself. The serpent struck
in less than a second as Shane catapulted away and leapt over Carolyn's body.

 

"God, no, no," he whined while watching the copperhead abscond.

 

The tears ran freely and before he could stop himself, he vomited. The sick ran down his
chin and chest, sticking to him in clumps. The snake bit right through his underwear; his entire
groin already prickled even as the penetrated skin ignited in pain. Shane shook his head when he
peeked into his shorts and saw that his testicles were now as swollen as Carolyn's body.
His vision blurred and his fingers felt disconnected. An ascent could not be achieved in
such a state – he could only call for help or …

 

Grasping Carolyn's smart phone, he used a trembling thumb to tap "911."

 

His thumb wavered from "send" to "off." Shane had but only one choice. He slumped
upon Carolyn's body, kissed her lips one last time, pressed the button, and then waited.

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790