A Favor For A Favor

April 25, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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It must have been the most run-down, filth-ridden, motel room I had ever seen – the kind of place where cockroaches didn’t feel the need to scatter at the flash of a light bulb. I wouldn’t be surprised if a whole civilization of the nasty things were living between the walls, laying their repulsive egg sacks wherever they pleased, and multiplying faster than an Asian kid on Adderall. I was seated at the edge of the bed, shifting uncomfortably atop its warped mattress while trying to ignore the rank funk radiating from a pile of unwashed sheets bundled up in the corner. It was the type of room people did everything but sleep in. That was fine by me – I didn’t come there for shut-eye, anyways. In my left hand was a half-drunk bottle of Jack Daniels. In my right was a 32 caliber Smith and Wesson.

The extraordinarily depressing location was poetically fitting in a way – I was extraordinarily depressed after all. It was my wife who was the cause of my misery. She had broken my heart, leaving me with nothing but a vacant grief-stricken soul, like a teenager who listens to Fall Out Boy and writes poetry on Tumblr. For a while suspicions of infidelity had loomed over our marriage, but I had always chalked up my conjectures as nothing more than paranoid delusions. They say denial is the best remedy for heartache. It wasn’t until I stumbled across a series of implicitly sexual emails between her and the pastor of our church (a married man in his own right), that I was faced with the morbid reality of my wife’s secret sexcapades.

Pastor Alonso was a slick, fast-talking, cut-throat, shark who dressed more like a U.S. senator than a man of the cloth. He pulled in a far bigger salary than one might expect a holy man to earn. A lot of people would be surprised to find out just how profitable the preaching business can be, especially when you head up the 2nd biggest mega-church in California. Alonso had a taste for life’s opulent luxuries and wasn’t afraid to flaunt it. It wasn’t uncommon for him to drive a Mercedes Benz to church or showoff his collection of Rolex watches during Sunday services. I guess that’s why my wife gravitated towards him. She always did have a weak spot for material things.

There was one thing that all the pastor’s money couldn’t buy him though: kids of his own. His wife, Darcy’s, on again off again battle with the big C had thrown a monkey wrench into his plans to start a family. Recently, her cancer had taken a turn for the worse and while she lied up in the hospital on her death-bed, the pastor and my wife were getting together for some “extra bible study sessions”.

When I confronted my wife about the emails, things got ugly. Names were called, expletives were hurled, and threats were thrown out (by her mostly). She explained to me that the pastor invited her and the kids to move in with him once Darcy passed – an offer my “better half” had accepted. She said she was going to give him the family he always wanted – my family. I didn’t have the money to fight a long drawn out custody battle or hire big time lawyers, but Pastor Alonso did. Couple that with the fact women usually win these kinds of disputes (even if they don’t always deserve it) and you can see why things were looking so bleak for me. Another man had stolen my wife, my children, my life, and there was nothing I could do about it.

The room slowly started spinning and I realized my good friend Jack was up to his old tricks again. Nausea was beginning to settle in and I didn’t want to spend my last moments alive vomiting the Carl’s Jr. cheeseburger I had wolfed down an hour earlier, so I decided to stop stalling and finish what I came there for.

I placed the revolver’s barrel in my mouth and rested my finger on the trigger. In case you were wondering if my life flashed before my eyes, allow me to be perfectly blunt – it didn’t. I was thankful for it too. I’d have rather taken a bubble bath with Bruce Vilanch and Ron Howard’s little brother than relive all the agony that woman put me through. I shut my eyes as tight as possible in preparation for the bullet to pass through my brain.

**

They say that he who hesitates is lost. In short, the proverb means that spending too much time deliberating on an important decision can ultimately lead to disastrous consequences. Although in my case, one tiny minute moment of pause may have actually prevented said consequences and saved my life. The cold metallic taste of the revolver’s barrel on my tongue caused me to question my actions for only the briefest of seconds, but sometimes even that can be more than enough time to change a man’s fortunes. As I sat there, trying to talk myself into pulling the trigger, the telephone in my motel room began to ring. I slid the gun out of my mouth, sat good old Jack (the only friend I had left) down on the nightstand, and answered the phone.

“Hello?” I said in my best possible not-about-to-kill-myself voice.

“Jacob! I’m so glad you picked up!” I had no idea who the voice on the other line belonged to. I never heard it before, but whoever it was, they seemed to know me. “Listen, Jake,” he continued, “before you go and…redecorate the walls with the inside of your skull, we need to have a talk first.”

I hadn’t told anyone where I planned on being that evening, but this guy not only knew my name and location, but even the fact that I was contemplating punching my ticket to that big toga party in the sky. Had he been watching me? I needed some answers. Using every working brain cell in my head, I came up with the most rational, thought-out, intelligent question I could construct.

“Uhh…what?”

“I said we need to have a talk, Jacob. Now sit tight, I’m on my way over to your room right now.” And with that he hung up the phone.

I stared blankly at the wall, completely dumbfounded – my mind still trying to process what happened. I wondered for a moment if I had just been the victim of a prank call. It seemed from our short conversation, that the guy on the other end of the line had been watching me. My first inclination was that he might have been some sort of pervert. After all, the motel wasn’t exactly a four star accommodation and I did notice that the place looked to be a magnet for weirdos, freaks, and other types of seedy characters when I checked in. I took a swig of liquid courage. For some reason I always felt braver when Jack was around.

Knock Knock

The knock on the door nearly caused me to lose control of my bowels (that Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger was coming out one way or the other). I tried to convince myself that I was just being neurotic, but something about the call made me feel uneasy.
I had become aware of a dark inexplicable feeling that began bubbling from within the pit of my stomach the moment the phone first rang – an awful combination of dread, fear, hate, and a myriad of other terrible emotions all simmering together into some kind of unspeakable brew.

“Who is it?” I called out. No one answered. I waited for a response and then tried again, this time with a little more base in my voice, “Who is it?”

Knock Knock

I stood up from the bed, tucked the gun into the waistband of my pants, and zipped up my jacket, making sure it was properly concealed before making my way towards the door.

Knock Knock

“I SAID WHO IS IT!?”

“House keeping.” The voice on the other side of the door sounded like it belonged to an elderly Hispanic woman.

“Oh,” I chuckled at myself for letting a maid get me so riled up. “Please come back later. Thank you.”

Knock Knock

“House keeping.”

“I said come back please.”

“I clean now?” By this point, the woman was seriously trying my patience. Either she didn’t speak English or she was a complete moron. “I come in?”

“There’s a sign on the door knob! Can’t you read!?” I swung open the door, ready to give the woman a piece of my mind, “It says do not dist – ”

There was no one in the hallway. I leaned my head out of the room to see if the irritating maid wasn’t bothering some other poor sap, but the corridor was as empty and barren as a Blockbuster Video store. Convinced that I had officially lost my marbles, I retreated back inside and closed the door behind me.

Knock Knock

Not a second later the knocking started up again.

“House keeping.”

“GO AWAY!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. Where had she come from? Just moments earlier I was alone in the halls.

Knock Knock

“I change towels?”

“Listen, please just leave me alone,” I begged. “There’s no way in hell I’m letting you in.”

It was getting harder and harder to ignore that strange dark sensation that was still stewing inside my stomach.

Knock Knock

“I SAID GO AWAY!”

Once more I opened the door and once more there was not a cleaning woman in sight. This time, however, I was not alone. Doubled over in laughter before me, was a teenage boy, no older than sixteen. He was wearing a forest green hoodie and a matching flat-billed baseball cap tilted off to the side – a fashion choice that made him look spectacularly douchey. His baggy jeans sagged halfway down his ass, exposing a pair of striped boxers and accenting his douchiness even further. A black bandanna hung out of his back pocket as if he was some kind of gangbanger. I found this to be particularly stupid since he appeared to be type of suburban white kid whose mom drove him to soccer practice in a minivan.

“Can I help you!?” I said. I was about ten seconds away from ringing the little twerps neck. By the way he was convulsing in laughter, it was clear that he was the mastermind behind my harassment.

“Ho-ho-ho man!” he managed to squeeze out between breaths, “You should have seen yourself. You look like you just got caught with your dick in the family goat!”

“What?”

The boy wiped a tear from his eye and took a deep exhale in an attempt to rein in his laughter, “Damn, did that go over your head? Sorry, now that I think about it, the expression is a little before your time. It originated in Scotland in the mid 1700’s. A lot more people owned goats back then so I guess it used to be funnier. When you’ve been around as long as I have, it’s hard to stay caught up with the latest lingo. What are all the kids saying these days, Jake? Is YOLO still a thing? You know what, never mind. I came here to talk to you about something else. May I come in?”

“No, you may not,” I extended my arm across the door frame to block the entrance of my room, “Why don’t you get the hell out of here kid? I’m busy.”

“Oh yes, I can see that, but I’ll only take a minute of your time.” The boy ducked under my arm, scrambling past me before I could stop him. Once inside he paused for a moment, surveying the room, and smiling snidely to himself. “Jeez Jake, this place is a dump! Why the blazes would you want to blow your brains out here? I personally would have chosen the Ritz Carlton uptown if I was going to off myself. Oh, but not before ordering some of those delicious sweet potato truffle fries from the bar in the lobby!”

“You’ve got about three seconds to get out of here kid!”

“I’m shaking in my boots.” He giggled to himself briefly before continuing, “Honestly man, intimidation isn’t your forte. I promise I’ll leave in a second, but as I said before, I wanted to have a little chat first.”

“What do you want?”

“To help you out.”

“You can help me by getting out of my room.”

“A bit snippy aren’t we? Jacob, I know you’ve had a rough day, but it doesn’t have to end the way you think it does. So what if your wife hurt you? Buck up! There is a way to remedy this situation.”

It was then that I realized the darkness inside me had never gone away. Instead it had been flourishing – spreading from my core as it pervaded throughout the rest of my body. How did this kid know so much about me? For a second time that evening I was so rattled I could hardly spit out a sentence.

“Wh-who are you?” I said. He leaned in and cupped his ear like an old man who’s hearing had waned over time. “Were you w-w-watch – ”

“Was I w-w-watching you? Is that what you were going to say? Learn to ENUNCIATE man! Sorry to interrupt, but if I let you do all the talking we’re going to be here all night and believe me when I tell you, I’ve got other places to be. Now then, why don’t I answer your second question first? Yes, I was w-w-watching you, but not in a creepy staring at you through the window kind of way. You know, like Ryan Gosling in Drive? Did you ever see that movie? It’s surprisingly good. And that Gosling, he’s got chops I tell you! The guy is so damn handsome too! Some lucky bastards just hit jackpot in the genetic lottery, am I right?”

The kid was giving me a bad vibe. I slid my hand into my jacket pocket and felt through the fabric for the handle of my revolver. All the while, he continued to blabber senselessly about how The Mickey Mouse Club was the greatest thing to ever happen to the entertainment industry. I needed to somehow get control of the situation.

“Shut the hell up kid! You better give me some straight answers right now. Why were you watching me?”

The boy’s smile quickly disappeared. He scanned me up and down, probing me with his eyes as if he was examining every inch of my body – a look of utter disgust on his face. It was bizarre; his very stare made me feel ashamed and violated. “More questions, huh? First off, you should probably make sure the hammer isn’t cocked on that little lemon squeezer of yours. You’re going to shoot your dick off and then you’ll really have a reason to kill yourself.”

Somehow he knew about the gun I was hiding under my coat. I unzipped my jacket and pulled it out from my pants. He was right. I had left it cocked.

“I was watching you because I saw a doomed soul – a lost spirit so to speak, who was about to let the bad guys win and I just couldn’t bring my self to allow you to do it.” He moseyed over to the television and dragged his finger down the screen, leaving a spotless streak across the otherwise dust-covered glass. “Take it from a guy who’s been there before. I know exactly how you’re feeling right now. I too have been betrayed by someone I loved – cast down and thrown out in favor of another.”

He paused for a moment, looking at the dust that collected on his fingertip when he wiped it across the screen. “But I haven’t answered your first inquiry yet, have I? Who am I? Well, that’s a loaded question. I’m a man of many epithets. Over the years I’ve been known as The Bearer of Light, The Son of Perdition, even The Proud One. In a story he once wrote, Washington Irving referred to me as Old Nick. I have been anointed a prince, while at the same time branded a beast.”

“You’re telling me that you are The – ”

“Please to meet you! Hoped you guessed my name!”

“But that’s impossible.”

“Why? You go to church, don’t you? Is it so hard to believe that asinine little book – the one you people so arrogantly proclaim to be God’s true word, actually got something right? Don’t go patting yourself on the back for being a Christian though. The bible’s filled with more half-truths and garbage than a supermarket tabloid.”

I was completely taken back by what the boy was saying. A couple minutes earlier I was getting ready to lodge a bullet in my brain, now I was talking to a teenager who had just declared himself to be the embodiment of evil.

“If you’re the devil,” I asked, “then why do you look like a kid?”

“Why not? I do as I please. I can appear as whatever or whoever I want. You think this is weird, once I made myself look like a snake just so I could talk to a hot naked chick.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Neither did Carlos Mencia’s comedy career, but it happened anyways. By the way, I assure you I had nothing to do with that.” He shook his head, “I suppose it’s proof you require, eh? I miss the old days where you people would blindly take me for my word. It made it so much easier to cheat at poker.” The boy gave me a mischievous wink. “Alright, why don’t you pick up the phone? There’s someone who needs to speak with you.”

Not a second later a shrill, earsplitting, sound cut through the motel room. The telephone on the end table was ringing. I shot a skeptical look over to the teenager. He was holding his hand to his ear as if there was an invisible phone in it.

“Hello?” I said as I picked up the call.

“House keeping. I clean now?” As the boy’s lips moved I could hear the cleaning woman’s voice over the telephone. “No hablo Ingles. I come in?” He burst into a fit of laughter.

I was floored. I tried to play it cool, but I’m certain he could read the shock on my face.

“Check this one out.” He cleared his throat. “I’m leaving you, Jacob.” Now he sounded like my wife, “Pastor Alonso has a bigger house than you. As a matter of fact, that’s not the only thing that’s bigger.” This sent him into another round of giggles. After he had his laugh, his voice returned to normal. “Not bad, right? I mean, I’m no Danny Gans, but I bet I could still play The Nugget.”

And when he said that he smiled, but it was just a little too wide – wider than a mouth should stretch. Ever so briefly I caught a glimpse of his teeth. It was as if hundreds of tiny daggers were protruding form his gums. He shifted his head ever so slightly and his peculiar facial features had disappeared. Once again he looked like a typical douchebag teenager.

“You can’t have my soul,” I said, “It’s not for sale.”

The boy scoffed, “Come now, do you really think I just go around buying people’s souls from them? Ye have little faith in humanity, Jacob. Most people are too smart to fall for that kind of thing. What’s a lifetime of happiness compared to an eternity in hell?”

“Then why are you here?”

“Like I said before, I do as I please. And it would please me very much to do a favor for you. No contracts or souls involved. Honest Injun!”

“What kind of a favor,” I asked.

He turned and started out the door. “Why don’t you accompany me for a walk and I’ll explain? Oh, and bring that little pistol with you.”

As the boy exited my room, I picked up the phone again and held it to my ear. I didn’t hear a dial tone, so I followed the cord only to find that it wasn’t even plugged into the wall. Jack was still sitting on the nightstand, waiting to provide consultation for me if I needed it. He was going to have to wait just a little longer. I followed the boy out the door.

**

I caught up to him halfway down the hall and together we headed down the rusty metal stairs that lead to the parking lot.

“I see that you’re in a bit of a bind, Jacob. You’re wife of fifteen years is leaving you for that idiot pastor, and taking the kiddies with her. What were there names again? Oh yes, Hunter and Elizabeth. Such darling children – ”

“Leave my kids alone!” The mere thought of him mentioning my kids sent my anger into a tailspin.

He stopped halfway down the stairs and jabbed a bony finger into my chest.

“Listen here, tough guy. Just because I look like the lost member of the Backstreet Boys, doesn’t mean I won’t turn into some sort of ten foot tall Lovecraftian monstrosity and bite your legs off if you continue to disrespect me, capiche?” I nodded my head. “Good, I don’t know what all the fuss was about anyways. I love children. I’d have one of my own, but it’s so hard to find a suitable candidate to bare the antichrist. There’s something about heralding in a millennium of Hell on Earth and bringing about the apocalypse that turns most women off. The only people whoever volunteer for the job are nut balls and whackos. And trust me Jake, I don’t want no baby mama drama anymore than you do!”

I think he was making a joke because he paused for a second and glanced over to me as if he was expecting to hear laughs. He continued talking once he realized I didn’t find him amusing.

“If you ask me, you have three options.

Option number one: You go back to your room and blow your brains out. You never see your kids again, and your wife continues fucking the pastor.

Option number two: You don’t do anything like a pussy. Go back to your boring and now lonely existence. You’ll see your kids the second Saturday of every month, and your wife continues fucking the pastor.”

“I suppose this is where you tell me about option three?”

When we made it to the base of the stairs, he gestured towards the parking lot indicating the direction he wanted to walk. “Smart man,” he said. “Option number three is this. You take that 32 caliber Smith and Wesson over to the pastor’s McMansion tonight. You’re wife’s there right now, discussing church business.” He made a set of quotations in the air with his fingers. “I’m sure he’s got her down on her knees taking communion as we speak. You know? Accepting the holy body inside her mouth and all that – ”

“Ok, ok, I get it, but that’s a terrible joke. We aren’t even Catholic. What are you trying to say? You want me to kill Pastor Alonso?”

“Kill the pastor, kill your wife – hell, kill his annoying little shih tzu while you’re at it. You have to kill them, Jacob. Don’t let them take your children from you. End their lives for trying to ruin yours. I’d do it for you, but no killing is one of the few rules I’m bound by on this miserable plane of existence.”

I have to admit, it was an idea that had crossed my mind earlier that night – more of a fantasy than anything. I never actually considered going through with it. “But that would be a sin,” I said, “Now that I know Hell exists, there’s no way I’d do anything to risk damnation.”

“Look who you’re talking to, Jacob. Don’t you think I have a little bit of pull down there? For this one particular night I will absolve you of your sins. Think of it as a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. And don’t worry about the fuzz either. I have friends in high places. You won’t even be considered a person of interest in the murder investigation.”

I couldn’t believe I was even entertaining the idea. I had become so engrossed in what the miniature Kevin Federline was proposing that I didn’t even realize he was leading us to my car until we were standing right in front of it. “So if it’s not my soul you want, what are you getting out of this?”

“Ah! I see my reputation precedes me. Like I said before, I’m just doing you a solid, man.” He stuck his fist out waiting for me to bump it. I left the devil hanging. “Maybe one day in the future, you’ll repay the favor…or not. You certainly wouldn’t be obligated to.”

“What kind of favor?”

“I don’t know, pick up my dry cleaning? I haven’t thought of it yet. Who cares? I may never even bother you after tonight.”

I reminisced back to when my wife and I were young. We were so in love and now I was standing in a parking lot, under the neon lights of the worlds dirtiest roach motel, letting the baby faced demon talk me into murdering her. How did it come to this? “She’s my wife,” I said. “Part of me still loves her. I don’t know if I could do anything that would harm the mother of my children.”

He rolled his eyes, “Oh and clearly she loves you too! Why else would she be on her back right now letting that idiot pastor plow her into next week?” And when he said that his voice got deeper – a thousand octaves lower than anything I’d ever heard in my life. The sound was maddening. It made me want to bury my fingers into my ear canals until my eardrums burst. “You’re adulterous, whore of a wife sins with that slimy, two-faced, sorry excuse for a human being as we speak! If that wasn’t enough, she plans on ruining you by taking your children! And for what? Because you don’t have a big house or a fancy car? She used you, until something better came along and he did the same thing to his wife. Hell is filled with men and women like them! Send them where they belong.” It felt as though his voice was microwaving my brain from the inside. I grabbed my head and fell to my knees. “That pastor sins in God’s name and you’d really sit there and do nothing!? Send them to hell, Jacob! Send them to me and I will make sure they suffer until the end of time!”

“OK! I’LL DO IT!”

“Excellent!” his voice had conveniently reverted back to normal. “Let’s get started, shall we? I’ll meet you at the pastor’s house. I’d ride with you, but I’m The Lord of Fucking Darkness and you drive a Prius so…you know.”

**

Even though he wasn’t in the car with me while I drove over to Pastor Alonso’s home, I knew that I was far from alone. Every time I doubted my sanity, every time I started to question if what had transpired was even real, he was there. Standing on a street corner, waiting at a bus stop, even watching me from the windows of other cars as they passed me by. I realize now that he was keeping an eye on me, making sure I didn’t get cold feet. It came as no surprise to find him already waiting for me on the front steps of the pastor’s massive home when I pulled up.

He placed a hand on my shoulder when I got near and spoke some final words of encouragement to motivate me, “Do it for your children Jacob.”

From the moment I nudged open the pastor’s gaudy, oversized, front door, I could hear he and my wife wailing away from the bedroom upstairs. I drew my gun and followed the moans up the steps.

“Jeez, Jake. It sounds like a couple of pigs getting slaughtered in there. Is that what it was like when you two used to bump uglies?”

I brushed off his inconsiderate quip and leaned against the door. The boy was licking his lips in anticipation. It seemed as if he wanted them dead worse than I did. Doubt began to seep into my mind. I was no killer. The very thought of murdering the mother of my children was beginning to make me feel sick.

Perhaps sensing apprehension, he started whispering in my ear, “Do it Jake. Send them to hell.”

His words were easy to ignore. I was too busy thinking about my kids. Could I really take their mother away from them? Even though I had let the boy manipulate me that evening, I still had my free will. I knew that I had the power to walk out the front door if I wanted to. No one needed to die.

“He who hesitates is lost, Jake.”

How could I even pull the trigger? For God sakes, I still loved the woman. That’s when that dark inexplicable feeling that had been growing inside me started to dwindle. In its place I felt hope. Hope that maybe if I could talk to her, even hear her speak, I would come to my senses. Then, almost on cue, her voice rang out, resonating through the air like a magnificent melody plucked from the fingers of a master harpist.

“Fuck me preacher man!”

I kicked in the door.

**

My gun had six bullets, but it only took me three. It would have been two, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to relieve the pastor of his holy scepter. It’s strange how draining murder can be. All I did was point my gun and pull a trigger, yet my body felt like I had just ran a marathon.

“I knew you had it in you, Jacob, but holy hell, I didn’t expect you to blast off his pecker too!”

It wasn’t his wisecrack that startled me. His voice had changed. It was deeper than a teenager’s now, more dignified too. Perhaps most alarming, it was a voice I knew very well – one I heard echo off the stained glass windows of my church every Sunday for years. Pastor Alonso’s voice. I whirled around to see the man I just shot smiling at me from the doorway.

“Relax,” he said as he entered the room, “It’s just me, Lucifer, King of The Underworld, Father of Lies, yada yada yada.”

I looked back to the bed. The real pastor’s bullet riddled body still lied motionless next to my wife’s corpse, their cadavers entwined within a set of tacky bloodstained bed sheets. “Wh-why did you make yourself look like Pastor Alonso?” I asked.

“Why does it matter? I do as I please.”

Before I had a chance at a follow up question, the thunderous sound of the pastor’s front door being slammed shut carried through the house and up to the bedroom. My heart began to race as a bevy of heavy footsteps made their way up the stairs.

“What the hell is going on!?” I demanded, but he didn’t answer. The wicked grin painted across his face sent a wave of fright through my body.

“Do you know what they’re going to do to you in prison, Jacob?” he said. Two uniformed police officers strode into the room.

As the policemen made their way towards me, my panic began to intensify. All I could think about was wasting the rest of my life away in an orange jumpsuit and playing housewife at the behest of my cellmate, a tattooed skinhead named Knife Face.

I still had three bullets left and I knew there was one way out of the situation. I raised the revolver to my temple as the cops marched towards me. I don’t know if I really would have pulled the trigger if they attempted to arrest me. Thankfully I didn’t get the chance to find out because instead of drawing their guns on me, they brushed right by without saying a word. I watched in awe as they started wrapping the pastor and my wife’s bodies’ in the soiled silk sheets. To my surprise, they appeared to be cleaning up my mess.

You-Know-Who fell to the floor and began howling. “HA! Now you really do look like you got caught with your dick in the family goat!” He thrust a finger into my bewildered face. “I’m just joshing you, Jake! These fine gentlemen are with me. Them too.” He motioned over to the doorway. Two more men I hadn’t noticed before wearing plain clothes, but still brandishing badges were waiting in the doorway. “Jerry, come over here for a second!”

The older heavyset man sauntered towards us. His somber face and reluctant gait made him look like a kid who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The no-longer-baby-faced-demon patted him on the back, “Do you know who this man is, Jacob?” I shook my head. “Jerry here, is the head of the police department. That means he’s very important.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I said. I really wasn’t, at that point all I wanted to do was distance myself as far away from the pastor’s house as possible and forget the whole night ever happened. The police chief remained silent. The shame and discomfort in his eyes told me the feeling was mutual.

The demon gestured over to the other man still standing at the door. “That guy over there just made detective.” He turned his head in the detective’s direction. “Congratulation’s on your new promotion, Bill!” The man looked away to avoid eye contact. Once again he focused his attention on me. “Guess who’s going to be heading up your wife’s murder case?”

“What about the Pastor?” I asked, “Who’s going to be looking into his murder?”

He stretched his arms out and twirled around as if he was showing off a brand new coat. “What are you talking about? Pastor Alonso wasn’t murdered? He and his wife just decided to move away so they could do missionary work in Africa. See? Everything wraps up neat and tidy and you get off scot-free. Now Jacob, before you leave tonight, I wanted to speak to you about that favor.”

“What?”

“You know? We talked about this. I said that maybe one day I might ask you to return the favor I did for you.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I remember. I guess I didn’t expect it to come so soon.”

“Well, life’s funny like that sometimes. Don’t worry though. It’s really nothing you can’t do in your sleep! I’m not going to ask you to pick up and dispose of dead bodies like these guys.”

“What do you want?”

He leaned in close and looked at me with a solemn expression on his face. “Listen to me, Jacob because this is the only favor I will ever ask of you. It is imperative, that you never attempt to contact Darcy Alonso. Do you understand?”

“What?” his request had left me puzzled for numerous reasons, “But Darcy Alonso has cancer. She’s dying.”

His lips curled into a devilish smirk. “Well, let’s just say I did her a little favor.”

“What are you going to do with her?”

“What’s it matter to you? I do as I please.”

I waved my finger in his face, “But you said I’m not obligated to listen to you right? If I wanted to, I could go over to the hospital right now and tell her about everything that happened tonight.”

“Of course you can, Jacob! Like I said, there’s no binding agreement between us. Your soul is yours and you’re free to do what you want with it. As a matter of fact, I stake no claim to any of these men’s souls. They’re just people who were kind enough to repay the favor I did for them!

I’ve done favors for a lot of people, Jacob – cops, judges, lawyers, even pedophiles who take pleasure in the rape and murder of children. Hey that reminds me, don’t your kiddies walk home from school every day?” And when he said that, he looked me right in the eye. It was as if his stare caused my mind to play out a thousand different scenarios, each one more heinous and vile than the last. It was like looking through a window into Hell. “Darcy and I are going away,” he continued. “All you have to do is forget about her. Forget about this entire night if you want! But don’t forget that I’m always watching you, Jacob.”

He didn’t need to say another word. The message was clear. I turned and exited the pastor’s house without looking back. The next few hours were a blur to me. I remember driving back to my home, vomiting in the kitchen sink (that Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger finally did make its escape), and passing out on the couch in my living room.

**

My wife’s body was found 48 hours after I shot her inside of a liquor store dumpster. Just as he said, I was never even considered a suspect. Her murder was pinned on a 19-year-old kid from the barrio. It took no more than a week for the jury to reach a guilty verdict. He was sentenced to death. The kid is currently incarcerated and trying to appeal the jury’s decision, but something tells me he won’t have any luck. I have a feeling that I’m not the only person who has a favor to repay.

Darcy Alonso checked out of the hospital that evening and was gone by morning. Word around the church was that she and “the pastor” had believed her miraculous recovery to be a sign from God, so they set out across the globe to spread his message, but if you ask me, that story’s a bigger load of bullshit than a politician making a campaign speech while rolling in a pile of fertilizer. Two weeks after they left town, their house was put up for sale.

It was hard for my children to lose their mother at such a young age, but they’ll learn to get along without her. I like to think I’ve been doing a hell of a job as a single parent, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of them. It took a while for things to start to get back to normal for us, but the fact that they’re smiling and laughing again makes me think that they’re going to be ok.

About a year after everything happened, I received a green envelope in the mail. I didn’t think much of it at first. It was the middle of December and I had already collected dozens of Christmas cards. It wasn’t until I tore open the envelope that I realized that dark inexplicable sensation had made its presence known once again in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t the title on the front of the card that made me feel sick [Merry Christmas, From The Alonsos!], it was what I saw when I opened it.

The message was just one sentence long, but it hit me in the gut like a body blow from Mike Tyson.

[The doctor says we’re due to have the best Christmas ever!]

Attached to the card was a picture of Darcy and “the pastor” wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and grinning from ear to ear. Darcy’s sweater however, was pulled up past her midsection, exposing her belly. She looked to be about nine months pregnant.

Credit To – Vincent Vena Cava

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From Perth to Darwin: A Ghost Story

April 24, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I’d been travelling around Australia for about eighteen months doing the usual things travellers do. Between partying and sightseeing I’d worked on chicken farms, picked fruit and worked in call centres. I’d originally gone with some friends but one by one they ran out of money or got homesick so I was the last. I met James about two months before my visa was due to end. I was staying in Perth in some shitty hostel and one day he moved in to the bunk above me. These hostels were full of colourful characters, some fun, some annoying but most were like me, away from home and doing something different. It wasn’t a very glamorous existence but it was fun and it was what it needed to be at that time.

We clicked immediately. James was unlike a lot of the guys you’d meet ravelling. He’d gone it alone and actually seemed like he was out in the world to actually grow and better himself. He wasn’t obsessed with getting drunk and trying to have sex with anything in a skirt like 99% of the guys I’d encountered. He was calm and easy-going and the type of person who would immediately put people at ease, with James around the hostel actually felt like a home. James had a few more months on his visa than I did but we agreed that we’d go home together and he’d move down to London. We wouldn’t live together straight away, he would find a house share and when the time was right we get a place together. Those were the kind of plans we were making before we set off on the road trip.

The idea was to drive from Perth up to Darwin, avoiding the main highways, where we’d fly out back to the UK. James had some crappy car that he’d brought while living in Queensland and claimed to have driven it across the outback more than once. We set off, a bit later than planned to due leaving drinks the night before but we had plenty of time. With three days for a two day journey, we planned on taking in some sights along the way. We were five hours out of Perth on some outback road when the car gave up on us. Neither of us knew much about mechanics but when your exhaust pipe is visible in the rear view mirror on the road behind you, it’s obvious that something is wrong. All we could do was wait for someone to pass by and give us a lift to the nearest town, which according to our map was a five hour walk across the outback. Though we had plenty of water and food, neither of us fancied that. We had no phones either; we’d given up the contracts as we were leaving the country. We probably should have walked. Hindsight is a bitch.

We waited for hours. When you come from the UK, especially London, and everything is on your doorstep you don’t have the sense of scale for dealing with a land mass of the size of the outback. As time went on and no vehicle appeared the opportunity for starting off on foot left us. It would be dark soon and attempting to cross the outback at night held less appeal than attempting it during the day. We sat in that crappy car for hours before he appeared in a dust storm of exhaust and sand.

When Jonno, that’s what he called himself, pulled up beside us we were hesitant. Jonno was a stereotype through and through. He was covered in grease, unkempt and spoke with a thick accent that seemed almost caricature. His pick-up truck looked fifty years old and the mangy dog sat in the passenger seat, quiet but looking at us like we were meat.
‘Looks like you could use a tow?’ he said.
‘Yeah, any chance we could get back to Perth?’ asked James.
‘Not heading that way mate, my ranch is about an hour north of here. You can rest up the night and I’ll take you to Wagga Notch in the morning. You can get the bus to Perth from there’.
‘Can we go north from Wagga Notch?’ I asked ‘we need to be in Darwin in two days’.
‘Yeah, there’s a few busses that go that way but you’ll need to change at Quietbrook. Might be a bit tight with the changes but I think two days is doable’.
James looked at me with concern. He leaned in.
‘I’m not sure about this, maybe we should wait for someone else? Just go back to Perth and get the train.’
Jonno heard what James had said.
‘I doubt there’ll be anyone on this road till morning, even then it’ll be the ranchers going up to Quietbrook. Look, you’re out here in the middle of nowhere, I really don’t want to leave you, I can tow you, no charge.’

We both a bad feeling about the situation, about Jonno, but what choice did we have.

We decided to leave the car where it was, we’d be getting the bus in the morning and Jonno said he’d come back for it in a few days. He dealt in scrap and could put it to good use. We sat in the back of the truck, we told Jonno we didn’t want to put him out but really neither of us were comfortable around him. We drove through the freezing outback as the sun set and the temperature dropped. I pulled on my Jacket and James put his arms around me to keep me warm. It helped a bit.

After an hour we reached the ranch. Jonno had told us he made his living dealing in scrap and towing broken down cars and his ranch consisted a wire fenced car park of abandoned, mostly derelict cars. Some were no more than rusted shells stacked on top of each other, some looking in relatively good conditions. It was lit by some low level flood lights which cast most the area in shadow. As Jonno unlocked the padlocked gate we took in the surroundings. Off in all directions, nothing was visible, just an endless dark desert where you couldn’t even tell where the dark sands met the sky. Turning back to the ranch I noticed a shack made of old wood and corrugated iron amongst the auto graveyard that must have been Jonno’s dwellings. It didn’t seem like any place anyone could live, let alone spend the night.

We had both seen the movie ‘wolf creek’ and maybe because of that we were immediately on edge. I was staring at the shack, imagining chains, hooks and torture devices while James scanned the surrounding area. He always was calm and level headed. We ground to a halt a hundred yards from the shack and Jonno got out of the truck. He was smiling. Dogs began to bark in the distance.
‘If you wait here a minute or two, I’ll lock up the girls. They don’t really like strangers.’
He walked off to the shack. The dog on the passenger seat remained, staring at us through the rear view window.
‘Fuck!’ James said ‘This is bad! Do you think we should just make a run for it?’
Even though I was having the exact same thoughts, I didn’t want to encourage James. I tried to steady my voice, to be the literal voice of reason.
‘No, you’re being ridiculous.’
‘No, I’m not’ James said as he got up from the truck. ‘People go missing from the outback all the time. Who actually knows we’re out here?’ I couldn’t really answer. The truth was no one knew where we were. Our families back in the UK only knew to expect us back in three days time. Our friends back at the Hostel would have forgotten us already.

James jumped off the truck and headed for the driver’s door. The dog in the passenger seat began to growl aggressively. I jumped off the back of the pick-up and followed James as he backed away from the truck and started heading to the numerous cars aligned within the ranch.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked.
‘Looking for a working car. Not all of his victims would have been breakdowns.’ I let out a nervous laugh.
‘If we can find a working car, we know he’s lying. We’ll offer him some money for it and get the hell out of here’. James said. He had checked several cars by this point and was heading towards a blue four door car. It stood out amongst the other wrecks, there was no rust or dented chrome like a car only ever driven to church on a Sunday, it was old but still new. James was sat in the car playing about with some exposed wiring.
‘This is the one, I can feel it’.
‘You’re not actually trying to hotwire it. Are you?’ I laughed. The engine started first time and the headlights lit up the surroundings. I stood in the glowing lights of the car, unable to see James now exiting the vehicle. He ran to the pick-up and grabbed ours bags and Jonno’s spare petrol canister from the back. At some point the howling and barking had started again from the shack. It grew louder as the shack door opened and Jonno emerged, shouting.

Before I knew what was happening, James was beside me in the blue car with the passenger door open, screaming at me to get in. I glanced up to see Jonno being overtaken by a pack of scary looking dogs. I jumped in to the car and slammed the door shut. As James drove away some of the dogs had made it to the car, their breath condensing on the windows before we overtook them and drove off into the quiet outback, the barking fading to nothing.

As some semblance of calm took over me I began to register the intensity on James’ face as we sped along the dark road. His jaw was clenched shut and his eyes were fixed on the road ahead. I tentatively reach for his shoulder. He flinched as I made contact and the car swerved slightly. He shot a look sideways and upon recognising me, seemed to relax immediately. All the tension in his body fell away and the car began to slow down.
‘What the hell are you doing? I asked ‘you just stole a car’.
‘We’ll be on a plane before he reports it, if he does report it anyway. You saw how many wrecks he had lined up there.’
‘Still, how do we even know that this thing will reach bloody Darwin?’ I asked.
‘We don’t, but it’s better than being butchered by some psycho in the outback.’
‘You’re the one acting like a fucking psycho’ I screamed ‘I can’t believe you’ve put us in this situation!’ I could see the tension crawl back over him, it made him almost unrecognisable. His fists clenched on the wheel and then his arms and shoulders tightened. He took a long, deep breath in an effort to remain calm but his jutting jaw and grinding teeth betrayed his true feeling. Though twitching lips he let some words slip.
‘If you’re so desperate to be raped and murdered then by all means I’ll stop and let you out’.
‘You’re a prick!’ I muttered. I climbed into the back seat, positioned myself for some sleep the best I could using my bag as a pillow and James’ jacket as a cover. Despite my anger at James and the adrenaline in my system, sleep took me and I slept soundly.

I was awoken by the collision and in those confused moments upon waking I forgot where we were. I sat up, looked out the window and saw James screaming and shaking just out in front of the car. I tried the handle on the rear door I was sleeping against but it came off in my hand. The opposite door wasn’t much better. James was now silent but stood trembling with his hand covering his face. I awkwardly climbed over to the front and exited from the driver’s door, left open from where James had fled. As I emerged from the car I saw a dent in the bonnet and glanced back at the road behind us. There was something in the road, maybe thirty meters back. At that point it was just a ‘thing’ with no discernible shape I could make out. I approached James slowly. As I got closer I could make out his muttering.
‘I killed her’ he said ‘the girl – I only shut my eyes for a second.’
I looked back to the mass in the road behind us. I backed away from James and walked towards the thing. I only had to take a few steps before I could make out what it actually was.

‘James! It was only a kangaroo’ I cried in relief ‘just some stupid, bloody kangaroo’
I was right next to it as James joined me. The poor thing was lying in the road at some awkward angle, its legs bent back under its body, a small trail of blood from its ear. James was still in shock from the collision and didn’t share my relief, I could still see him shaking.
‘It was a girl, a teenager. I was tired but I only shut my eyes for a second, I swear.’
‘It’s just a kangaroo’ I said.
‘It wasn’t. It was a girl, I looked her in the just before I hit her, she looked so sad.’
‘Look around you’ I said, ‘where would she had come from? Why would she have just standing there in the middle of the road?’
‘She was…’ James trailed off, he was confused and tired. We were both stood staring at the poor broken thing when it began to spasm. The kangaroo was still alive.

We both stumbled backwards, horrified by the weird jutting movements as the Kangaroo tried to get back on its feet. It moved like it was a broken puppet, being pulled up by tangled strings and a vindictive puppeteer. There was a silent horror to the violent jerking limbs, as if the laws of nature and physics didn’t now apply to this particular creature.
‘We can’t just leave it like this’ James said. He began walking up and down the side of the road, head down, searching. I crouched down beside the Kangaroo and looked in its eyes. The panicked movement had calmed down by this point and the animal merely twitched. A shadow cast over me and I heard James speak in a flat voice.
‘Out the way’ he said as I turned to see him holding a large rock above his head. I burst in to tears and ran to the car, sat myself in the driver’s seat and covered my ears. A few moments later James was standing at the window, his hand gesturing for his bag.
‘Can you pass me a bottle of water?’ he asked. I leant over and grabbed one from his bag. As I did so I could make out small dots of blood on his hand. He took it without a word and rinsed his hands. I heard the bottle hit the road as he tossed it over his shoulder. I adjusted the seat and mirror and turned to James as he got in the car.
‘You need to sleep’.
‘I saw her before’ he said.
‘What?’
‘The girl I hit, I saw her earlier – a few times in fact. Like, I’d be driving past an old sign post and there’d be some old banner or something hanging from it, but then, when I’d see it in the mirror behind us, it would be a girl, just standing there.’
‘James, you were clearly asleep at the wheel and dreaming. You’re in shock now, that’s why it all seems so real. It was just a kangaroo, you saw that right?’
‘Yeah’ he said.
James turned away from me, staring out at the endless desert. I started the car and drove.

If you’ve ever driven long distance you know how tedious that level of concentration can be. Driving through endless desert with nothing your own thoughts for company can cause all kinds of hallucinations. James slept I turned his words around and around in my head. In some dream like states you could easily mistake a Kangaroo for a person but there was something about James’ reaction that unsettled me. He knew he’d hit a wild animal, but at the same time he knew he had killed the girl. Both realities were real to him. I tried the radio but there was nothing but static. It either didn’t work or there was nothing broadcasting in range. James slept.

Two, maybe three hours passed before we had to stop to refuel. After taking a pee break I was getting the can of petrol out of the back seat when James woke up. He looked at me and then looked out the window.
‘I’m not too sure how to do this’ I said holding the can up to him ‘do you mind doing it?’
I was sat on the side of the road half way through a bag of crisps and warm can of coke as James refuelled.
‘I did see her’ he started ‘when you were asleep, I kept seeing that girl, at least I thought I did’.
He seemed more like his normal self so I let him continue.
‘And just now, I think I dreamed about her. I could see her face, it wasn’t anyone I knew or recognised though. She was weird looking, teenage features but an old face, like, really old – barely starting to decay. There was something else too, when I hit her… the kangaroo I mean, I remember, were you like, stroking the back of my neck?’
I looked up at James. He didn’t look back. He was just staring at the can in his hands.
‘I was asleep, it wasn’t me. It wasn’t anyone. You imagined it.’
‘Yeah, he said ‘you’re right. Maybe it was the petrol fumes eh?’ James pulled the can nozzle out of the refuelling jet and walked to the back of the car. He tried the boot but it wouldn’t budge. He took a step back and suddenly started kicking at it repeatedly and ferociously. He had turned from an introspective, gentle man in to an animal in that one split second. In the time I’d know him I’d never seen him like this. He was angry, kicking at the car in frustration.
‘James’ I shouted ‘I don’t think that’s going to help’.
James stared at the boot. He tried it again and it sprang open.
‘Take a look at this’ he said as he peered into the boot of the car.

I joined him and looked in to the boot. There was a back pack and a pair of hiking boots. I pulled out the pack and sat it on the side of the road. James sat inside the boot, legs hanging over the side, shading himself from the sun. I opened the pack and started pulling out the contents, jeans, T-shirts, pants, socks. It obviously belonged to a fellow traveller, some guy just like us. There were maps of Australia and book of collected poems by Sylvia Plath. Everything had a musty smell to it, like it had been sat in that car for years. I packed it all back up and noticed a pocket on the top of the pack. I found a digital camera inside, quite an old model; it was bulky and looked thoroughly used. I tried the power button and was surprised when it clicked itself on and whirred into life. The battery indicator flashed ‘LOW’ and I pressed the button to see the saved photos. A picture of a guy downing a can of beer flashed up. I scrolled sideways to see the same guy sat next to a woman by a pool, drunk and having fun. I scrolled further and the pictures of the couple by the pool gave way to pictures of the couple in the outback. I stopped at on picture which showed the woman sat in a car. I stood and walked around to the driver’s side, matched up the photo to what I could see in front of me. I scrolled to the next picture and saw the insides of the car, exactly the same as it was now. The next few pictures showed endless desert scenery and then one of the guy stood on a rocky outcropping. The final picture I saw before the battery died showed the woman sat in the driver’s seat, she looked sad. I tossed the camera on to the back seat and went back to the pack where James had started rummaging through it too. He casually tossed the contents on to the side of the road.
‘Useless’ he said as he kicked the bag away from the car. James tossed the petrol can in to the boot and slammed it shut.
‘I’ll drive’ he said.

We drove for hours in silence. We ate whatever food we had left and stopped to relieve ourselves all without saying a word to each other. We passed endless desert and a few abandoned road side shacks. With each passing shack James would watch it come towards us intently and then quickly double take as we drove passed it. He’d then look at it in the rear view mirror until it was out of sight. I remembered what he had said about the girl he kept seeing and wondered if he was seeing her now or just looking for her. We passed a truck hauling what looked like old caravans, worn down and derelict through holidays and recreation. There were a number of empty windows where a phantom girl could hide but James paid it little attention. A few minutes later James turned to me.
‘Did you happen to see who was in that truck we just passed?’
‘Truck? That one just now?’ I asked.
‘Did you though?’ he replied.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Did you see who was driving it?’ He asked.
‘No, why?’
‘No reason’.
We carried on driving in silence. I knew he had seen the girl in the truck’s cab; he was trying to ask me if I’d seen her too. There may well have been a girl in that truck but whatever James saw; it wasn’t what I would have seen. I climbed into the back seat and tried to assume my sleeping position. I’d drift in and out of sleep but between everything that had happened and James playing with the radio, there was no way I could rest. I tried to tell him that I’d already tried the radio but still, all he got was static. James eventually found something that was playing music; he managed to tune in just as ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ by ‘Elton John?’ started.

‘That’s nice’ James said in calm, soothing voice.
‘Yeah’ I replied through my half sleeping haze ‘I love this song’. I roused myself and sat up slightly, finding James face in the rear view mirror. His eyes met mine and then flitted sideways to the empty space directly behind him. Panic shot across his face. The car swerved one way and then back the other, brakes squealed and we spun out of control. We came screeching to a halt and James was out of the car before I could register what had happened. Elton john was singing about ‘boys too young to be singing blues’.
Clambering in to the front of the car and finally out on to the road I joined James about ten meters off in the dirt. He was just stood there in the sand facing away from the car, no movement and no emotion on his face.
‘What happened?’ I asked.
James screwed up his face as if trying to even comprehend the question caused him pain.
‘James’ I pleaded ‘tell me what wrong with you?’
He turned back to the car and then back to the desert expanse. He couldn’t bare to look at the car, even for a moment.
‘You…’ he started. I waited for him to finish but it was clear he wouldn’t, or couldn’t even. His face contorted again and his fists clenched.
‘Was it her again? I asked ‘did you see her?’
He immediately grabbed the back of his neck and started rubbing, scratching almost.
‘You thought I was stroking your neck again, right?’
He continued to rub the back of his neck, like he was trying to get rid of something clinging on there. I took his hand by the wrist and stopped him. I came up behind and put my arms around him. His arms covered mine and I leant in to kiss his neck. We stood there for a while.
‘It’s ok’ I said finally ‘you’re just tired. We’ve been on the road for almost twenty four hours and you’ve driven most of it. I’ll take over while you get some sleep. It’s not too bad in the back’.
He turned around to look at car, specifically the back seats. He shook his head and closed his eyes.
‘No, think I’ll just sleep up front with you’.

We got back in the car and Elton was singing about ‘mongrels who ain’t got a penny’. I turned the radio off so James could sleep and set off as the sun began to set.
I drove through the desert and through the night until the sun started to rise. I was glad for the extra light and the extra warmth. The drive had been a harrowing at times. I nearly nodded off to sleep on several occasions and narrowly missed several kangaroos leaping out in front of me. I went through cycles of freezing shivers and blistering sweats as I tried unsuccessfully to maintain the cars heating system. I had some terrifying pee breaks alone in the desert and witnessed the full majesty of an unpolluted star filled sky as I refuelled the car. James slept the entire time. It wasn’t sound sleep by any means. He writhed in the seat and would mumble nonexistent words at random intervals. It made me nervous, having him there right next to me, knowing that his dreams and thoughts were haunted by this girl. As the morning sun crept up over a mountain dead ahead of us the light made it impossible for me to continue, I’d lost my sunglasses the previous night. With my hunger and tiredness increasing I pulled over to the side of the road and tried unsuccessfully to stir James from his sleep. That man could sleep through anything.

I refuelled the car with the last of the petrol and then fished my back pack from the back seat of the car. I looked at the road map and I figured we had about another eight hours on the road and just about the right amount of petrol to get us to Darwin. I took my bag and sat in the shade behind the boot of the car. I took out my camping stove and some bottled water and cooked up some instant noodles for breakfast. James finally woke up and came to join me there. He was back to his old self, all the self doubt and terror had left him. We ate out noodles and then James surprised me with some chocolate biscuits. We washed them down with some warm cans of coke and James announced that he ‘needed a piss’. He stood up, stretched and wandered off a few meters from the car and stopped. I heard his zipper undo.
‘Further’ I shouted to him ‘I don’t want to see or hear you pissing’.

James walked some more, and I settled behind the side of the car with some toilet roll. I look up and down the road for oncoming vehicles, pulled down my shorts and pants and did my business there. I stood up and to see James still going. I walked around to the driver’s side, opened the door and sat with my legs out of the car. I leant back and tried the radio. It was still just the same static as before. I turned it off and saw James starting to head back towards me and the car. He was gazing out to the horizon, taking in all the sights but came to a sudden stop as he looked up to meet my gaze. He stood there and glanced from me to the ground and back to me again. A few moments passed and he repeated the motion, only this time he added a look of anguish. He turned on the stop and bent over, clutching his head with his hands. He straightened up and reluctantly looked at me again, only it wasn’t me he was looking at. It was the back seat of the car. I followed his gaze to the empty seats. I called out to him.
‘What’s wrong?’
‘Come over here’ he offered in response. His voice was somehow lacking conviction, like he was pretending there was nothing wrong.
‘What the fuck, James! We need to get back on the road, we got plenty of time but I don’t want to take any risks’. His hands began to tremble so he clenched his fists to stop them. He spoke in a put on calm, measured voice.
‘Please, just – just come over here with me’.
I got up and slammed the car door, every movement carefully choreographed to show my annoyance. I stomped over to about two meter from where James was standing.
‘What?’ I spat at him. James took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, he closed his eyes.
‘There’s someone sitting in the back seat of the car. It’s the girl, she’s been following me. She’s a ghost or something and for some reason you can’t see her. She’s there right now. She’s been… haunting me.’
I just stared at him as he stood, tense and closed off. I turned to the empty car, turned back to James. I was scared, terrified. Not because I thought there was a ghost in our car though, I was scared for James, scared for his mental state, scared about what he might do next, what he was capable of.

‘James’ I said ‘there’s no one there. The car’s empty. It’s just the two of us. Maybe it’s the heat out here, or maybe… you’re exhausted James, we both are. Please, come with me and I’ll drive us to Darwin and then we’ll go home.’ I tried to be as soothing as possible. James was now had sweat pouring off him. It was hot under the sun but this was something else. He was in a heightened state, running on his instincts and fear alone.
‘I thought that at first’ he said through clenched teeth ‘but she’s there, she’s touched me and I’ve felt her, she has mass and…and form … she’s real. I can’t get back in there with her… I just can’t’.
‘Then what are we going to do then? Abandon the car? Wait out here for someone to pick us up?’ I snapped.
‘Yes’. He said it like it was the only option.
‘Look James, I’m sorry… you just need to relax. I’ve got some valium for the flight, you can have some now and then I’ll drive, it’s only a few more hours to Darwin’. I motioned to touch his face and at the same time he violently swiped my arm away.
‘Don’t fucking touch me!’ he screamed.
I was almost knocked off my feet but managed to right myself mid-stumble.
‘You fucking prick! Don’t you dare ever do that again’ I screamed back at him.

I was furious. I turn around and began to walk away. I tried to calm myself, to think rationally. I put the pieces together in my head and formed an idea that made perfect sense at the time. I marched back towards James.
‘Is this some kind of trick to get rid of me?’ I yelled at him ‘pretend you’ve gone mental so I’ll have to break up with you? You’re pathetic!’ My expletives continued for a few more minutes. I accused him of having a girlfriend back in the UK and told him just how low this was. Told him that if he was a real man he would just admit it and then he could stop pretending. All he did was stare at the ground. His silence and refusal to respond made me angrier. I stormed back to the car got in and started the engine the way James had shown me to do it. I took what I thought was my final look at James.
‘Stay here then, you wanker!’ I literally slammed by foot on the accelerator. The car screeched off in a cloud of burnt rubber and sand and I set my sights on the horizon.

About a minute later I had calmed down. I stopped the car, reversed and drove back to James. He was sat on his knees in the sand where I’d left him, he’d just given up and let whatever horrors he had overwhelm him and crush him. I walked over to him and took him by the wrist. He started screaming, hoarse screams that came from somewhere else, not from the James I knew. He didn’t physically resist, just screamed ‘No’ continuously. I led him to the car; I think that maybe a part of him knew that this was the only option.
‘She’s doing it again’ he said through howls and tears as I sat him in the passenger seat. He was covering his head and leaning forward, as far away from the back seat as he could.
‘Leave me alone’ he screamed ‘just leave me alone, I didn’t do anything!’

By the time we’d pulled into the car park for Darwin international airport five hours later, James was silent. The inhuman howling and screaming had become crying which then became a whimper which then finally gave way to a blank silence. It was in this dulled state that I sat James down on a bench while I unpacked the car. I got our bags together and led James away from the car leaving the windows open and the inside exposed. I don’t know what happened to it, if Jonno ever reported it stolen or missing. It had served its purpose.

We were both exhausted and filthy and the checking in process was like a blur. James was somewhat unresponsive but managed to get through the security checks without concern. We had seats in different sections the plane and to be honest I was glad. I showed him to his seat and then found mine and downed a valium with a cold beer I’d got in the duty free. I half snoozed through the safety demonstrations but was fully asleep before the plane took off. Aside from some half recollected visits to the toilets I slept the whole way and I awoke as we began our descent in to London Heathrow.

I tried to find James as the plane emptied but he was gone. I pushed past everyone I had to trying and catch up with him but got stuck in a huge queue at immigration control. I made it though and found James waiting at Arrivals. He’d obviously got off the plane before me as he was waiting there in his still filthy state. He greeted me with a kiss on the cheek.

‘This is my mum’ he said pointing to a nice looking middle aged woman stood with a teenager ‘and my sister too, they’ve come to pick me up. I had no idea’.
James introduced me as his girlfriend and we made our introductions. We went for lunch where we told his mother and sister about how we met and about all the places we’d been and things we’d done. James was back to his normal self. We didn’t mention the drive from Perth to Darwin. James might have blocked the whole thing out judging by the way he was acting and I certainly didn’t want to think about it. It was done. There was no need to mention it.

James mother, Susan, kindly drove me to my own parent’s house in hackney where James met my parents. My dad invited James and his family to stay the night, we had plenty of room and they wanted to get to know James. I had written all about him in the many emails I’d sent them over the last few months. Susan said they would love to stay but were unable to as she had commitments the next day. They would have to drive back home that evening, soon if they wanted to be back at a reasonable hour.
‘I’ll call you tomorrow’ James told me as I waved him and his family off. I didn’t bother waiting for his call and I tried him constantly that evening and the next day. For some reason the number he’d given me wasn’t connected. I sent him messages on Facebook and via email. Days went by with no response, his Facebook account closed and emails started bouncing back. My parents told me to give him time, let him get in contact with me. Friends told me to just forget him, that he was an arsehole just after a holiday fling. They all have reasonable suggestions and reassured me there was no reason to worry, but none of them knew about the drive from Perth to Darwin

After some time it began to make some semblance sense, to me at least. The whole episode with the haunted car was a trick. He’d make me want nothing more to do with him or use his supposed breakdown as an excuse to end the relationship. Nothing else made sense to me or could explain his behaviour. I turned my sense or loss into anger and I tried to forget him, tried to move on and eventually I did.

I’d been back in the UK for about five months and was working in local bar when one evening someone put on the ‘greatest hits’ of Elton John. This wasn’t anything important until we hit ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and I stopped in my tracks. I rushed to the toilet and started crying, part out of sadness and part out of anger. I relived the entire relationship and that entire drive over the course of that bastard three minute song. I went home that night and sat down at my laptop. I spent hours on Facebook trying to track down anyone who would’ve known James. I eventually remembered the name of his old school and managed to find his sister on one of its associated pages. Though her profile was closed to anyone who wasn’t a friend, I was able to send her a message with my phone number telling her get James to call me.

The next day my phone rang from an unknown number.
‘James?’ I answered hesitantly.
‘Hello? No, I’m afraid it’s me, Susan’ came the reply ‘is James not there?’
‘What?’ I asked. Susan started crying on the other end of the line. She asked if James was here, if I’d seen him recently, if she could talk to him. I told her what had happened, how he had completely cut me off, how I’d not seen or heard from him since they drove away the day we got back. Through her tears she told me what had happened on her end of this tragedy. James had pretended to still be in touch with me, pretended that he was going to come and live with me and my parents in London, and pretended that my dad had lined up a job for him the workshop. Three months earlier James left his mother’s house with all his things packed in a car he’d brought ago and they’d not heard from him since. I didn’t know what to say or what to do so I hung up. Susan immediately called back so I switched my phone off.

I ignored her calls for a few days until I had worked up the courage to talk to her. When I did, I told her about the road trip, about his breakdown. She listened carefully, told me how James was a bit different when he came home. How he’d lost some of his spark, as she put it.

We went about trying to find him, posting missing persons flyers in both cities, even getting his picture in to national paper. I rallied all our friends from Australia and James’ face is now all over Facebook and traveller websites, ‘missing: have you seen this man’. We had the police try and track his car, bank transactions and passport. There only so much they can do though, after all, he’s an adult and can do what he likes.

Nothing has worked so far. It’s like he has fallen off the face of the Earth. I don’t know what really happened to him in that car but I’m certain his disappearance is something to do with it, that bastard car and that cursed drive from Perth to Darwin.

Credit To – Danbell

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Looks Like We Got a Live One Here, Boys

April 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Yarrow was in the garden planting garlic with her seven year old daughter Sophia when the old man appeared, ranting and raving, screaming bizarre premonitions and strange warnings, scaring the living shit out of both of them.

It was winter in Humboldt County, California, but it was one of those rare days when it was not pouring rain, when the sun managed to shine down and warm the earth for just a moment before it sunk beneath the towering Douglas firs and sequoias.

Yarrow was kneeling in the garden, her knees sunk into the damp, black earth, her long chestnut brown dreadlocks falling in a ring about her, as Sophia, her round little face etched in concentration, reached into a small woven basket and pulled out a clove of garlic, handing it to her mother.

“Are fairies real, mama?” Sophia asked as Yarrow pressed the clove into the dark, crumbly soil and reached up for another.

Yarrow laughed softly to herself.

“It’s not funny, Mama. Are fairies real or not?”

“Well, some people believe you can only see them if you believe in them, sweetie.”

“Well, I know the tooth fairy’s not real because I saw you put that dollar underneath my pillow.”

Yarrow chuckled as she sunk another clove into the ground, Sophia was growing up so fast.

Neither of them had noticed the old man approach, not until his shadow had fallen over them. At first Yarrow just thought it was Calendula, coming down from the cabin where he had been wiring some battered old solar panels he had managed to round up, and she smiled.

But when she looked up at the figure that loomed over them what she saw was the old man. He was dressed in a pair of dirty old overalls and his bloodshot eyes bulged out from beneath a battered John Deere hat, a long drop of tobacco stained drool dripping from his mouth.

“You all people gots to get!” he hollered with a shower of spittle, bending down close so that Yarrow could see that the whites of his eyes were jaundiced and yellow behind the maze of red veins. “You knows where you are? You got any idea what’s out there in them damn woods? They’re breeding them fucking things out there, for god’s sake! You don’t get out you gonna die! You’re all gonna die!”

The old man startled little Sophia so badly that she screamed and dropped her basket of garlic. Yarrow quickly scrambled to her feet, pulling the little girl protectively behind her and backed away from the old man who came at her waving his arms maniacally, stepping all over the garlic they had just planted.

“It’s a curse, that’s what it is! The injuns bred ‘em back in the old days and now they’re back. They’ll use ‘em on you, girl. Use ‘em to get back the land they lost. They’ll use ‘em on you and that’s no joke. For god’s sake, they’re breeding those damn things up there!”

“What are you doing here!” Yarrow screamed at him. “Get away from us!”

The old man looked around for a moment, startled. Then he spit a wad of tobacco juice onto the ground and started ranting again, this time a little calmer, but still not making any sense.

“You got nothing to fear from me, little missy. I ain’t gonna hurt you. I’m just here to warn you. It’s them damn things out in the woods you got to worry about. I’m telling you they are breeding them things! You all gots to get away. Now, while you still can!”

Calendula, having heard the commotion from all the way up at the cabin, came sprinting down the hill and burst into the garden, out of breath, his stubby blonde dreadlocks bobbing, his face screwed up into a grimace of concern. Althea, their golden retriever, raced along beside him, barking like mad.

“What the hell’s going on?”

The old man turned towards him. “You all got to get! Get while you still can!”

“No,” Calendula screamed, storming over. “You got to get! This is our land now and you’re on private property! Now get the hell out of here before I go and get my fucking shotgun!”

Althea danced around the old man’s feet, barking. When the old man went to swat at her she squatted down on her hind legs, bared her teeth and growled.

“I said, get the fuck out of here!” Calendula yelled as the old man kicked at the dog.

“I’m a going. I’m a going. Just keep that damn dog the hell away from me. I’m only here to warn you, but you stupid kids are obviously too damn dumb to listen.”

The old man stomped out of the garden and down the trail to the road, mumbling to himself loudly.

Calendula looked up at Yarrow who clutched Sophia to her.

“What was that all about?” he asked.

“Just a nice neighborly visit, I guess,” she said, and burst into laughter. “Well, I guess that’s one of the crazy redneck neighbors the real estate agent warned us about.”

Calendula shook his head and started laughing along with her.

“What did he say to you?” Calendula asked, running his hand through his beard.

“He said, They are breeding those things out there.”

“What did he mean?”

“I don’t know. He’s obviously crazy. It was scary but I think he’s harmless.”

“I told you we needed a shotgun.”

“Oh, Calendula, we don’t need a shotgun. You said you were getting that thing for the bears anyway, not crazy old men.”

“Whatever it takes to protect my girls,” he said with a big grin and sauntered over and wrapped his arms around his wife and child, his little family. He squeezed them and held them close, kissed his wife’s face, the smell of her hair and sweat flooding his senses.

“What’s a redneck?” Sophia asked, and they all burst into laughter.

They had managed to buy this forty acres of rugged, forest covered hills four months ago with an inheritance Yarrow had received from her Aunt Sophia, whom they had named their daughter after.

Sophia was Yarrow’s favorite aunt and Yarrow had held her hand and watched her wither away to nothing on that dingy hospital bed in Sacramento, listening patiently as she rambled on- why do you do that to your hair? You had such pretty hair. Why do you call yourself that silly name? Your name is Megan, a beautiful name. That was your grandmother’s name.

I know, Aunty, she had spoken softly back, Yarrow is only my forest name- you can call me Megan. She had whispered in her ear, trying not to notice how skinny her dear Aunt had become, how much hair she had lost, please, call me Megan.

It was a terribly hard time for Yarrow. Sophia had been like a mother to her, but now, at least, she had something beautiful to hold on to- she had this land- and they were going to make it a paradise.

Yarrow and Calendula were both certified permaculture designers and they had quickly set out to turn the forty acre hillside into an organic farm.

The plan was to eventually get some goats which they would then use to clear sections of land for gardens of lavender, Echinacea, chamomile, lemon balm and mint. Medicinal herbs that didn’t need irrigation and were deer resistant. With the goat milk they would make cheese and soap to sell at the farmer’s market. They wanted to dig a pond for water storage and raise up some Cray fish and tilapia in it, get a couple of ducks gracing its surface to provide meat and eggs. They would run their gray water through a marsh of edible cat tails. Turn the rundown little cabin, just a hunting shack really, into a functioning ecological green home with solar panels and micro-hydro, an attached, south facing cold frame to heat their house in the winter and sprout their vegetable seeds in in the spring.

It would be a paradise, a dream, a utopia; but, it was a lot of hard work. More than they had ever anticipated, and for the moment most of those projects had fallen by the wayside. They had spent nearly all winter just cutting enough firewood to keep their tiny little cabin warm, getting out when they could, on rare days like this when the sun broke through those seemingly ever present black clouds that filled the sky, to plant Jerusalem artichokes, fava beans, kale and onions.

But Calendula had built his chicken coop/greenhouse and packed it with a dozen Rhode Island reds. It was his pride and joy and a symbol to him of the permaculture ethic of capturing and recycling energies in a circular pattern: the chickens heated the greenhouse and supplied it with manure for fertilizer, and the greenhouse provided fresh greens, chard and kale, for the chickens to eat. A symbiotic relationship.

Just this week the chickens had finally started to lay eggs and he was ecstatic. Now he was planning on letting the really broody one (he called her Bonny), the one who pecked at him when he tried to reach into her nest and pluck an egg up from under her, hatch her brood. Things were working on this little dream of a farm, even if it was going slow.

So far, he’d only had one real problem, when some chickens had squeezed through the chicken wire that separated them from the plants and had demolished the kale and about 20 tiny marijuana starts they had hoped to grow and make a few bucks off of in the fall. But one little set back when you sit on the doorstep of a utopia is nothing.

They awoke at dawn the next morning, Sophia somehow ending up in their bed sometime in the middle of the night. After they drank their coffee, ate their eggs, and smoked a big fat joint, Yarrow and Calendula went down the hill to the garden, Sophia between them, holding on to their hands and swinging.

“Oh, no,” Calendula muttered as he turned the corner. The chicken coop was destroyed: lumber and chicken wire strewn across the garden, chicken carcasses scattered about, mauled and ripped up. Clumps of bloody feathers lay everywhere amongst the debris of the greenhouse: limp kale and chard starts, their white roots exposed to the air.

“Damn it. Damn it. What the fuck!” Calendula shouted, stomping about, kicking the scattered boards, searching amongst the debris for maybe one living chicken- let it be Bonny.

“Calm down, Calendula,” Yarrow hissed, scooping Sophia up into her arms. “You’re scaring Sophia.” She soothed the little girl, stroking her hair and whispering. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

“But our chickens, Momma. The poor little chickens.”

“Oh, sweetie, it’s okay. That’s just life on a farm. We’ll get new chickens.”

Calendula picked up a two by four that had been snapped in half. “What could have done this?”

“Some kind of animal. A bear?”

“Yeah, maybe. But I didn’t even hear Althea barking, she usually doesn’t let any animals near here. Where is…” he circled around the devastated chicken coop and saw the dog. She lay on her back amongst a clump of chicken wire and greenhouse plastic, her belly ripped open and her guts spilled out.

Calendula gripped himself, fighting back a flood of rising tears and bile.

“Yarrow, take Sophia up to the cabin. I’ll meet you up there in a while. I got some work to do.”

Yarrow swooped up Sophia, pressed her head against her shoulder, and looked to Calendula, her eyes widening in horror, mouthing the words, “Not Althea?”

Calendula nodded grimly back at her.

As Yarrow shuffled away back to the cabin, Calendula got a shovel and started digging a grave.

He pulled the old dog by its hind legs to the pit, real tears now coursing down his cheeks. Althea was ten years old; he’d had her before he’d even met Yarrow, before Sophia had been born. Now she was gone. He dumped the old dog’s body into the pit, flinching at the thump that the body made when it hit the bottom, and slowly started filling the hole with dirt as the shadows grew long and darkness fell. A thick fog leaked out from the forest and the land grew cold; he could see his breath as he headed back up to the cabin.

As he reached the summit of the hill that his little cabin sat perched on, he thought he caught something move from the corner of his eye. Something tall, dark and ape like, swinging long arms as it sunk into the woods. But when he blinked it was gone and there was nothing there but trees and shadows. Had he seen something? No. Just paranoid. He was just being paranoid.

They ate dinner in near silence that night. Yarrow tried to make conversation, saying how now they could get some runner ducks and finally try experimenting with bogs like they’d always wanted to. Calendula smiled and said how great that’d be. But a melancholy mood hung heavy in the dim light of the small cabin, the fire crackling in their little, black woodstove and throwing strange orange shadows against the walls. Luckily Sophia was tired and fell right asleep, Yarrow sitting beside her, stroking her long dark hair for a long time while Calendula sat alone in the dark, thinking of his old dog and, with tears in his eyes, listening to the sound of rain on the roof.

Yarrow finally came out from Sophia’s little bedroom, sat beside her husband and ran her hands through his short, blonde dreadlocks.

“It will be alright, sweetie,” she said.

“I know it will, honey. I know it.”

They kissed briefly, then sat back and drank organic pinot noir out of mason jars till their heads spun. Their mouths were stained dark and purple and they stared in silence at the rain splashing down against the window. Then they stumbled to their little bed and passed out.

At first he thought it was an earthquake.

The cabin shook violently as the scream like sound of wood splintering filled the small space. His head pounding with an early hangover, Calendula leapt out of bed and ran to the kitchen as their small propane refrigerator went crashing against the wall. The rain had stopped, the clouds blown away, and the full moon shone its light into the rustic kitchen, illuminating it perfectly.

What Calendula saw froze him in his tracks. His mouth went dry and cold as all the blood drained from his face. There, bending over the sprawled refrigerator, picking through the tofu and tempeh, was a huge, fur covered creature. It was not a bear. It had a tall forehead, and a hairless face. The creature looked up at him and roared, its mouth unbelievably huge and filled with glistening, square teeth.

“Momma!” Sophia cried out from her tiny bedroom.

“My baby!” Yarrow hollered, pushing Calendula aside and darting into Sophia’s room.

The monstrous creature leapt over the refrigerator and Calendula had just enough time to think to himself, the shotgun is under the bed and the shells are in the closet (Yarrow refused to allow him to keep a loaded gun around) when the beast gripped his shoulders in its massive, ape like hands and pulled him forward, sinking its teeth into Calendula’s neck. It pulled its giant head back, the torn jugular vein in Calendula’s neck releasing a shower of black blood that rained down over the kitchen. The creature then grabbed Calendula by the face and with a quick tug snapped his spinal cord and ripped his head completely off his shoulders. Howling an awful, bestial scream, the creature violently threw Calendula’s head into one corner of the tiny cabin and his decapitated body into another.

Yarrow screamed and the monster turned toward her, howling.

“Stay away from my baby!” she hollered, and the huge beast grabbed her by one arm and began pounding her against the wall. It beat her against the wall even after her screams had stopped and her body went limp, violently thrashing her until her arm dislodged and her body fell down, crumpled on the cabin floor.

The creature stared curiously at the severed arm, lifting it up and down so that Yarrow’s hand flip-flopped back and forth, when suddenly flash light beams and voices filled the room.

“Well, goddamn it. Just look at this fucking mess. I told you to double check the goddamn lock on that cage!”

“Sorry, Pa, sorry.”

A big man wearing a Caterpillar cap and a tan Carhart jacket, a thick coil of rope hanging over one shoulder, stomped through the door. “Just look at this god awful mess.” The big man stepped up to the creature. “What the fuck you think you’re doing?” he shouted at the beast. “Look what you did!”

The creature looked sheepishly down at its feet.

“Bad!” the man yelled. “Bad! Bad, boy!” and he began beating at the now whimpering and huddled creature. He pulled the coil of rope off his shoulder and looped it around the creature’s neck, handing the line to the teenage boy behind him.

“Now, Joey, get this damn varmint loaded up in the truck.”

As the creature meekly scurried past him, head hung down, the man kicked it hard on the rear. “Goddamn stupid fucking Sasquatches.”

He then started peering around the room with his flashlight. “What a mess,” he muttered under his breath. “What a goddamn mess.”

He stepped into Sophia’s room and shined his light under the bed.

“Well, looks like we got a live one here, boys!” He reached under the bed with his huge mitt of a hand and grabbed Sophia who began screaming and thrashing.

“Grand pop, bring me that burlap sack!” the big man screamed as he pulled the kicking, struggling little girl from under the bed. “Damn, ain’t she a feisty one,” he grumbled as he hit her solidly over the head with his flashlight and she went limp in his arms.

The old man came shuffling into the room with a large, burlap sack in his arms, mumbling, “I tried to tell ‘em. Get going, I said. Did they listen? Do they ever fucking listen to an old man like me? No. Never. Goddamn stupid fucking kids.”

“Give me that,” the big man scowled, roughly pulling the sack from the old man’s hands. “Go wait in the truck, Grandpa.”

The old man shuffled away, mumbling incoherently.

The big man bent down and scooped the little girl up into the sack.

When Sophia awoke she was in a cage, laying on a mound of filthy straw. Her head ached terribly. She gazed hazily about, her eyes blurry and crossed. All around her were cages similar to her own. In each was a large, hairy creature with a bald face. In the cage immediately next to hers, a creature cradled a tiny, fur covered infant to her sagging, hair covered tit. The baby looked over its shoulder at Sophia with big, white rimmed eyes as it suckled noisily, a thin trickle of milk running down its lips and into the downy fur of its chin.

“Awake, huh? Are ‘ya hungry?” the big man asked as he strolled over with a bowl of slop in his hands. He slid the bowl into the cage. Behind him was an old, hunched over woman and a young girl not much older than Sophia dressed in a ragged princess dress with a sparkling tiara perched atop her head.

“Well, look at her,” the old woman cooed, poking Sophia through the bars with her finger. “Ain’t she just adorable.”

“Can we keep her, Daddy? Can we?” the little girl pleaded.

“Well, I suppose, if you promise to feed her and clean her cage you can keep her,” the big man said.

“Oh, I promise,” said the little girl. “I promise.”

Credit To – Humboldt Lycanthrope

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Roommate Problems

April 19, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I had moved out of my last apartment that February. My roommate had gone crazy and I had to get out. By crazy, I don’t mean “crazy.” I mean insane. She thought she was being abducted by aliens? They were taking her at night and running experiments on her. She said they were testing her body for exposure to something. My therapist said I shouldn’t say she’s insane. He says that’s a terrible way to describe someone with mental health problems. He says she probably had control issues, and that being abducted was a way for her to both stigmatize and fetishize loss of control.

I know, right?

She got hospitalized when she tried to kill her parents. They stopped by the apartment one afternoon to bring her groceries. I think they thought she was going nuts and the grocery drop off was a not so elaborate ploy to see if she was. Their ploy worked. She accused them of being clones and made a bull rush at them with kitchen scissors, the kind you use to clean chicken breasts. Her dad was ex military, or something like that, and her got her in this complicated hold and we called the cops and they took her off to Westview. “Seventh floor,” I heard one of the cops say. I googled it later. Seventh floor was the psych ward. She lost control.

The next day I rolled out of the apartment. Without Claudia there, I couldn’t afford the rent, and with the way her parents took all of her shit, I couldn’t imagine she was coming back. That left me needing a place, which I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to manage. I had left my last job in a hasty and desultory manner
(It was Starbucks and my godawful manager accused me of taking home a tray of pastries illegally (I denied it but it was totally true); I shouted “suck my ex-corporate cock” at him as I left, even though, as a girl, I technically have no cock). I crashed that night at Julia’s, but her boyfriend hated me, so I knew I had to find something else quickly.

The next day, I found the place on Craig’s list. F roommate wanted. 250/month. I could make 250/month. You have to work to not earn 250/month.

The place was an utter shithole and it was way, way, way off any sort of bus line, which is why is why it was so cheap, but the girl, Holly, wasn’t awful at all. She was in her final semester at university and interning at some mental health outreach 20 hours a week. She had a tumblr called introspectivecats that was just pictures of cats looking at themselves in the mirror. She drank such cheap wine. I liked her.

A few weeks after I moved in, she asked me if I saw anything weird the night before. “Lights? Any weird lights?”

I knew. Before she did.

A few weeks later, she told me. They were taking her at night. While I slept. Experiments. Surgeries. She showed me a cut on her back. Look at this, she whispered. Look at it. I did. It looked like a cut.

She didn’t come back to the apartment one night. And then the next. Her boyfriend, however, came over the next. Lyle. Nice guy. I knew him from freshman year intro to english lit class (“Beowulf to Virginia Woolf!”). He told me Holly had been having problems. She moved back home to her parent’s house. She wasn’t planning on coming back.

By now, I was working again, at the trash 4-Q down the street, selling cigarettes and energy drinks three nights a week. That income allowed me to be able to afford the place on my own, so I didn’t have to move, although the empty apartment made me feel like I was the only living person in the world. Then I would leave the building and see people walking around like the world was so normal, so routine. They just left their apartments and went outside.

I was taking six credits that semester, after Holly talked me into trying school again. Although it was only two classes, it made me eligible for a few hours of counseling every week at the shitty drop in mental health clinic. I religiously went, talking to my therapist, Mr. Whitley, about what had been going on.

After a few sessions, I noticed he seemed different. It wasn’t so much anything he said or did (and honestly he didn’t say or do much in general, just sat and maybe listened while I complained about my life) but he just seemed different. Like something was bothering him.

One day, after I sat down, he started in with the questions.

Where was I from? What did my parents do? What was my earliest memory? What did I do as a child? Where did I go to elementary school?

I told him the same thing I always did: my memory is terrible. I literally barely remember the last hour of my life.

He kept asking, his voice rising.

What are the names of your parents? Where are you from? Then,

“What are you doing to me?”

I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about. His eyes looked far away and spit was coming out of his mouth, like he was a dog trying to bite me.

“They’re coming for me,” he said, getting out of his chair, “they’re taking me. At night. The lights. Every night.”

“I don’t know what —” I got up from the chair, trying to back away to the door.

“The aliens. They’re taking me. Because of you. And it stops right now.” He pulled out a fucking knife —a knife of all things! — and leapt toward me.

I screamed and kicked him. I felt my leg, I felt something enter my leg, and I started screaming again. Not in fear or anger but just sheer unbelievable wet agony. Somehow my kick had managed to knock off his glasses. When security rushed in, he was on his knees, red faced and grey haired, trying to find him. The security dude (Carlos: he was super chill. He and I talked about bluegrass sometimes. Carols loved mandolin) froze, staring at the two of us, me bleeding from the cut on my leg and Mr. Whitley, sweating and crazy looks. I think Mr Whitley made Carlos’s decision easier when he screamed, direct quote, he needed to “kill the girl! She brings the aliens!”

After everything was done, an EMT came and bandaged up my leg.

“This is a really bad cut, but it could have been a lot worse. You’re definitely going to need stitches.”

“I know. I can’t believe my therapist tried to kill me.”

“I know, right? This world is cra — Oh, did you,” she paused, “did you have surgery here?”

“On my leg? No. Why?”

“Because,” she pulled out a piece of gleaming, translucent metal out of me. Ceiling lights throbbed and reflected against the strange metallic, blood smeared surface. It seemed to soak in all the light in the room. “What is this?”

My first memories were the lights, pulling me into them.

Credit To – Kevin Sharp

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Alien Invasion 1905

April 18, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Alien Invasion 1905

This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit To: Words: James Livermore, Music: Rodena Borisova

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The Scourge

April 17, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” she giggled as she traced her fingers across his chest.
Heather Wilson; she was young, much younger than him. Eighteen to be exact, the singularity of youth and maturity, or at least the age where mistakes were bound to occur. She caught his eye immediately when she began showing up, staring intently as he would go on with his work. As he came to find out, her intent was one built upon desire rather than interest. She was temptation in the form of a seventeen year old when they had their first “private meeting.” It was morally incorrect, he knew it all too well, but that never stopped him from committing his actions. Desires, aside from some being too hard to ignore, come in large numbers, especially when you’re a priest.
“I absolve you of all your sins,” Father Wren said between a smile.
Reverend Wren Thomas, the community priest and worship leader of the Ascension Catholic Church. He was well known in the community, not for his sexual behavior but for his sermons, guidance, and spirituality to the catholic faith. The doctrine teaches that all humans are sinful in nature, and Wren was no exception. He had his secrets, all of which ranged from miniscule to somewhat troubling, but none more so than his clandestine sexual relationship with Heather Wilson. His position was the vital cause of the immorality, the fact that he was forty-six was just more fuel to the aberrant blaze.
Wren had been meeting with Heather in secrecy for over six months. He could remember the first time she came to his sermon; how she eyed him down the entire time, how difficult it was for him to not do the same. It wasn’t until the fourth week that she approached him in that tight yellow petal dress. Wren would come to find out that was her favorite choice of clothing, and as fate would have it, it happened to be his favorite as well. Her looks were enough to make any man swoon in her presence; the dress was what set Wren over the edge.
Ever since then their relationship had been a well kept secret, oblivious to the minds of the other members of the congregation. Even Heather’s parents, who attended just as much as she did, saw Father Wren as a champion for scripture and the path of righteousness. Had her parents (or anyone) found out that he was having sexual relations with a seventeen year old, he would have met a worst fate then excommunication. But she was legal now; the government could hold nothing against him now when their relationship was consensual. It wasn’t the government he was worried about however, someone in a much higher position stained his sense of guilt.
“God, eight-fifteen already?” Heather said as she observed the clock by her bedside. “My parents are supposed to get home around nine.”
“I don’t want to overstay my welcome,” Wren replied.
“Sometimes I wish you would,” Heather said as she leaned in for a kiss.
Wren met her lips as quickly as his body would allow him to move. He never understood why a girl so young was into a man as old as he was. Perhaps it was the inexperience of her age, making her clouded vision subject to wanting something she didn’t need. Maybe she just had a thing for older guys, or maybe she had a thing for priests. Wren had no idea what Heather’s motive for sleeping with him was, and truthfully he didn’t really care to know. He enjoyed it all too much.
After a quick succession of lip pecks, Heather slipped her way out of bed and made her way to the closet on the left side of her room, searching for a cute pair of night clothes she could throw on to tantalize Wren just a bit more. Wren followed suit, shuffling on his pair of Wrangler jeans, Abbey Road t-shirt, Nike tennis shoes, and black hoodie. It was the last kind of wardrobe anyone would suspect a priest of wearing. Wren wanted to keep spotting outside of the church to a minimum, especially in the company of one of the younger girls in the congregation.
As Heather slipped out from her closet Wren was able to catch a glimpse of the garments hanging from the racks. Shirts and pants were all part of a normal wardrobe to Wren’s eye, but seeing the line of different colored dresses made him want to stay just a little longer. A hidden rainbow of lust behind the doors of a teenager’s closet, he had to leave before his clouded judgment brought him back to the sheets of Heather’s bed.
“See you Sunday,” Heather said with a quick wink of her left eye.
“See you then.” He replied as he closed the bedroom door behind him, making sure to get one last view of the closet before exiting the room entirely.

And so it was once again that he was exiting the Wilson’s apartment, unbeknownst to the owners of his presence and purpose in their home. As he reached the hall leading to the front door, a phrase he had heard from an immeasurable amount of people for the vast majority of his life had filled his mind. A phrase uttered by Heather Wilson as she laid naked on her bed, a girl twenty-eight years apart from the man who against his moral code had committed one of the greatest offenses against his position in the church.
Forgive me father, for I have sinned.
Sins; Father Wren could have said it himself, he had far too many to count.

Outside the air was thick and still. It was early in the night, yet late enough for the sun to be overtaken by the moon. The forecast called for clouds to roll in by seven, and as Wren looked to the sky he could tell that they were abundant. The moon, wherever it was, had become blotted out by the clouds overhead. The only illumination erasing the darkness was the periodic street lamps and the storefront lights protruding out onto the sidewalk. Looking around Wren noticed that there weren’t many people walking about, just the way he wanted it. Wren pulled the hood over his head shrouding his face in shadow, content on making sure not a single person he passed would be able to recognize him.
Making his way down the street, Wren couldn’t help but wonder how he could get away with such an act as he was periodically committing. In his younger years, he felt devoting his life to the cause was something worthwhile. His faith was strong, and his willingness to help others achieve salvation was even stronger. But it seemed that with age came a new outlook among other things. He no longer felt the same connection to the spirit as he once did. At one time his connection with God was an adamant bond, but as he continued on the ropes had become increasingly worn down and used up. For all of his decreasing devotion however, Wren didn’t find it suitable to simply leave his position for reasons of deteriorating faith. The people believed in him, trusted him, and as he came to find out, were oblivious to a double life he could play behind their backs.
Wren noticed a man approaching from the opposite direction. As they passed, Wren noticed the man to be Brian Humphrey, a man who was a regular attendee at Sunday mass. Brian passed Wren without so much as giving a second look. He stopped just outside an alley and turned back to see if Brian had considered that his Pastor had just casually walked by him on the street. No sign of alteration, it seemed that Wren’s disguise was foolproof, it seemed-
“Excuse me, Father!” a voice from the alley called out. “Could you spare a moment of your time?”
Wren jolted with shock, turning his head down the alley to the figure that stood in the dark. He was dumbstruck as to how someone saw through his disguise, especially from the angle the figure was standing. That was another thing, who exactly was the figure in the shadow of the alley? Judging from the voice it was coming from a man, but aside from that Wren had no other guess as to who was standing beyond the veil. Wren calmed himself, knowing that making a scene would only worsen his position.
“Not at all my son,” Wren called out, “how may I help?”
As the figure called back, it slowly made its way towards the light of the street lamps.
“Oh, it’s not how you can help me; it’s how I can help you. Why don’t we take a walk?”
Emerging from the darkness of the alley came a young man wearing a blue letterman jacket accenting his grey cargo pants. His dirty blonde hair draped down to the cusps of his shoulders while his dark brown eyes became the stand out feature of his moderate complexion. He didn’t look like a mugger, nor did he really seem all that dangerous. Wren eased off his tension, if only by a small margin.
“Shall we?” the man said as he extended his arm towards the sidewalk.
The man had a cool demeanor about him, as if he was aware he was controlling the situation. Taking a few steps down the street, he turned back to Wren and gave a waving motion with his hand. Cautious as he was, Wren reluctantly followed, allowing himself to be the selfless man the community expected him to be.
“Pretty dark out tonight,” the man said, “don’t you think?”
“The night is black without a moon,” Wren replied.
“It sure is. How was your day Father? No doubt brighter than the current state of the sky I take it.”
Wren quickly thought back to Heather lying naked beside him, committing sin in grand fashion no more than twenty minutes ago.
“Uneventful,” Wren replied, “just a normal evening I suppose.”
“Say,” the man replied between a chuckle, “you do have a sense of humor. You’re always so stoic when you’re giving sermons; I guess you put up a pretty good act.”
More thoughts of Heather; the way her tongue twisted around every crevice, the little mole on her left thigh. He shook it off, observing the man in his entire mystifying swagger as they walked side by side down the block.
“Might I ask your name my son?”
“Back to the norm I see. Does it matter what my name is?”
“I have nothing to call you outside of ‘son,’ or ‘sir’ if you prefer. Or if you like I’ll-”
“Francis, just call me Francis. It’s what I’ve been using for a long time; don’t see why I should change it now.”
“You say that like you’re against it.”
“Well, let’s just say it’s not my favorite. Basically it was-”
He was interrupted by a subtle buzzing sound that emitted itself in a rhythmic fashion. Wren looked over to see Francis dig into his pocket to pull out his phone. Wren couldn’t get a good look at the screen, but he noticed a sudden shift in Francis’ facial expression when he looked at the caller I.D. The cool demeanor he had before was replaced by a look of apprehension. He pointed his index finger up at Wren, signifying he would need a moment to speak to whoever was on the other end.
“Yes? I’m aware of what I’m-… no… of course I can… I’ll get to that eventually, but-… yes… yes; I understand… whatever you say.”
With that he hung up and slid the phone back into his pants pocket. Wren heard Francis begin to say something under his breath. He wasn’t able to catch what Francis was saying, not only due to volume at which he spoke, but also because much of what he was saying didn’t sound like English.
“Is there an issue?” Wren asked.
“Hmm? Oh not exactly, my father just doesn’t like me lollygagging is all. He’s a very ‘straight to the point’ kind of guy. I don’t get out much, but when I do I like to take my time. You understand right?”
“…Uh-huh,” Wren replied with confusion, “I think I see what you mean?”
“Let me ask you something Father; do you enjoy your position? As a man of God I mean.”
“Well sure, I believe I have made the right choice in life. It’s not easy mind you, and I have given into temptations more than I would have liked, but I believe these are all just tribulations on the proving path.”
“Temptations you say? And here I thought a priest was supposed to be void of any and all temptations.”
Wren was getting suspicious, he had never seen Francis around the church before, but he seemed to be inquiring into a territory where most didn’t tread. He couldn’t quite figure Francis out; something seemed off about him, in a way a person may suspect a thief in their store. He had a lingering presence but displayed himself with decisive calculation. Wren figured he could play along for a little while longer; he didn’t want to do anything to set him off.
“We are human so yes,” Wren continued, “but nothing major I assure you. I’m not going out and killing people, but I have the occasional slip up where I’ll swear or become angry at something when it isn’t necessary.”
“Nothing major hmm?” Francis replied, his voice curled like the hissing of a snake. “Only petty curses and anger? I wonder what Heather Wilson’s parents would think of that statement.”
On the outside Wren continued to pace along with Francis as though he hadn’t missed a beat, but on the inside Wren’s reaction was that of complete distress. It didn’t seem to be mere coincidence that Francis would bring up Heather no more than ten minutes since Wren left her parent’s apartment. But how could Francis know that he was even there in the first place? Wren, though faintly panicking on the inside, continued his pace as though Francis hadn’t said a word, knowing full well that playing it cool would likely be his best bet.
He scanned his surroundings quickly and noticed a couple approaching them on the sidewalk. He recognized them as the Martin’s, a couple who regularly attends his services and would never expect to see him outside of church. Wren pulled down the brim of his hood as far as he could, just enough to see a few feet of the sidewalk before him. He had to keep appearances.
“Heather Wilson?” Wren asked. “I don’t see why she or her parents would care about my periodic anger.”
“I don’t know, you are a man of God after all. Doing His work when He Himself sits upon high heaven. How can you express living an honest life when you yourself are committing sins every day?”
Wren gave an inner sigh of relief; it must’ve been coincidence that Francis brought up Heather and her family. Perhaps he actually knew them personally, or maybe he-
“After all,” Francis continued, “you are fucking their daughter right behind their backs.”
Wren’s tension shot back up to one hundred as he stopped dead in his tracks. Francis took a few more steps before he realized Wren had stopped following him. As he watched Francis slowly turn to face him, he noticed the devilish grin etched across Francis’ face, as if he was letting all of it sink in.
“How do you know that?” Wren asked. “Who are you?”
“Now isn’t that the question of the hour?” Francis replied as he slowly paced his way towards Wren. “Such an interesting question to ask, who are you exactly, Father? That’s fitting isn’t it? Father. How many ways does that title befit you? You’re a minister obviously, if you keep fucking around with Heather you’ll likely become a father. Hell, the way I see it you’re old enough to even be her father. Does she call you father in bed, daddy maybe? As if I didn’t already know the answer, she was moaning it no more than a couple of minutes ago and-”
Wren made a quick lunge towards Francis and pinned him against the wall of the store before them. He moved with such speed that his hood fell back behind his neck, allowing him to clearly see the unchanged expression across Francis’ face, and allowing all others to see the irritated expression across his.
“Is this some kind of joke? Who the fuck are you!?”
“Come now Father, I don’t think the Martin’s would appreciate that kind of tone, especially coming from you.”
Wren froze as he heard the pair of footsteps inching closer and closer. He had completely forgotten the Martin’s were walking towards them, and in his shock he realized that his hood had fallen, exposing himself for the entire block to see. It was far too late now, he was uncovered, and the couple was close enough now that they likely witnessed the entire course of Wren’s aggressive actions. Regrettably, he turned towards the oncoming couple and formed whatever excuse he could think of.
“Please don’t take this the wrong way,” Wren began to plead. “I acted out of anger and I would never, expect, you, too…”
Wren slowed his speech as the Martin’s completely passed him without even acknowledging his presence. He knew what he did was out of his character, but it wasn’t enough for people to completely disregard him, especially those he knew. He heard dark giggling coming behind him, and turned to see Francis leaning against the wall Wren had previously pinned him against, savoring every second.
“Isn’t that strange?” Francis said. “It’s as if they didn’t even know you, like you didn’t even exist. But you’re wondering how that’s even possible; I can see it in your face. Why don’t we keep walking? There’s much to discuss.”
“No,” Wren replied franticly, “I’m not taking another step with or anywhere near you. Leave me alone!”
Wren swung his body towards the adjacent alley and ran as fast as he could. He had to run, get away from Francis as quickly as possible; it was the only thing he could comprehend. A quarter of the way down the alley he turned his head back mid run to see Francis eyeing him down from the sidewalk.
“Where are you going Wren?” Francis called out. “You can run all you want…”
Wren set his gaze forward anticipating he was now more than half way down the alley. He almost fell to the ground trying to stop himself when he saw Francis blocking his path in the shadows before him.
“… But don’t expect me to stop following you.”
“Wh-? What do you want from me?” Wren asked between heavy breaths.
“I just want to talk,” Francis said imitating a coy child. “Is that too much to ask?”
“Who are you?”
“Weren’t you paying attention back there, I’m Francis.”
“Then what are you? You’re clearly not normal given the fact that you just, miraculously, appeared.”
“Well you’re right about that, I’m anything but normal. Nor am I of this city, or this state, country… planet; though I do love spending time here. Taking in the sights, seeing the hustle and bustle, talking to the people. That’s all I want from you Wren, I just want to talk.”
“Screw you, I’m calling the police.”
Wren fumbled in his pockets to pull out his phone, his shaking fingers making it hard for the phone to be operated with any form of finesse.
“Is that the new iPhone model?” Francis asked. “Mind if I take a look at it?”
“You have a phone,” Wren said looking up from his screen, “look at your own.”
“Uh-uh, I don’t think so, I’d much rather look at yours.”
From the pocket of his letterman jacket, Francis pulled out an iPhone and began to tap on the screen. It wasn’t until Wren looked down and noticed that his phone was missing from his hand that he realized whose phone it actually was.
“You know I don’t really see all the hoop-la that comes with these things. Does this one have the voice that talks to you; Sammy, or something like that?”
“How did you-”
“Oh, what’s this? New message from Heather. ‘Enjoyed our time tonight, want to do it again sometime next week?’ Sorry Heather, Wren here is going to be a little busy for a while.”
Francis flipped the phone in his hand and tossed into the nearby dumpster with a clanging thud.
“Trust me; you won’t need that thing to bother you any longer. We can’t have your little sex toy interrupting our chat.”
His lips curled upon uttering the last words. Wren looked upon Francis with total confusion. In the shadow of the alley it seemed as though Francis was on his own turf, the field was his to control. The absence of moonlight from the clouds above gave an even more sinister vibe to Wren’s already worried suspicions. He had limited options, none of which gave promising options considering Francis’ proclaimed and displayed abilities. Wren had no other choice but to comply.
“All right then, I’ll talk. But if I have questions, I want answers.”
“Fair enough. In fact, I’ll let you start. Ask any question you want, I won’t hold back.”
“I want to know exactly who you are. Why are you following me?”
“Well you see that’s a bit of a long story, where to even begin? My name once again is Francis; no last name, no middle name, just Francis. I am not human, as I have already told and you have no doubt already inferred. My father is a powerful… I guess “subject” would be the appropriate word, and his father even more powerful than him. They are old, very old, and I like them am old, just not as old as them. You catch my drift, is that what the kids are saying these days?”
“These days? You don’t look a day over twenty-five.”
“Well aren’t you sweet. I can see that my form is quite convincing then. Who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see my true form and all its… well, don’t want to spoil the fun. It’s one of a number of skills I have at my disposal. The whole ‘jumping location’ thing that almost made you face-plant earlier was another.”
“And the Martin’s walking right past me, taking my phone right from the palm of my hand, what were those?”
“More tools in the box. Taking the phone was quite simple really considering you weren’t even looking. As for the Martin’s, well, people tend to look over what they don’t want to see.”
Wren had devoted most of his life to faith, strong confidence in what he couldn’t prove as factual, and yet even for all his capabilities Francis was an anomaly. How could he believe anything this guy was saying? Then again, how could he not believe him when he just travelled across an alleyway in the blink of an eye? Wren was lost for words, lost for any form of logical comprehension to explain his current endeavor. He recalled a particular doctrine he had taught at his sermons before: Put your faith in God and he will put his faith in you. Perhaps the same applicability could be given to sadistic youths in letterman jackets.
“Fine,” Wren continued, “assuming everything you are saying is true, why are you chasing me?”
“Like I said, I just wanted to talk.” Francis responded, his lips unable to capture his amusement.
“Well here I am, now fucking talk!”
“Language Father, watch the language. You never know who might be listening. Actually, have you ever considered that before? Who might be listening in on us at this very moment? Who might be watching us, who might be watching you? But of course you have, you believe in God don’t you? After all, he’s always listening, watching, judging. You do believe in him, don’t you?”
Wren knew the answer his position would give, knew what everyone would expect a priest to say. But it was not the response Wren had in mind. For all his unchecked debauchery, for all the unpunished revelry, how could he believe in a God when so much had gone by? He knew his true answer in his heart, deep in his mind, and judging from the glare of pleasure formed across Francis’ face, it seemed he knew Wren’s answer just the same.
“Is that doubt I see in your face Father? Strange for a man of the cloth to take so long to answer such a simple question.”
“I guess,” Wren began, “I guess you could say my faith in his presence has been tested. My belief has dwindled; it wasn’t what it used to be?”
“Oh really? As I recall that’s not what you’ve been telling people lately. In fact, judging from that response it seems you’ve been lying to every one of them for some time now. What did you tell little Miss Madeline the other day, the old widow who hasn’t been quite the same after her husband died? No wait, I think I remember, something like ‘believe in the lord as I believe.’ What a crock of shit, and the worst part is that she believed you; she ate all of that shit up without so much as a sneer. Do you see what I’m getting at here… Father? Priest? Man of God?”
Put your faith in God and he will put his faith in you. Wren began to fear that the reverse was just as true a statement.
“So what does that make you Francis?” Wren asked. “Are you God in the flesh?”
“No.”
“Are you… Satan?”
“Not quite, but I serve them both. You see, those old codgers that wrote you’re precious, well maybe not you’re precious, little book back in the day got a lot of things right. But just as they got some things right, they got other things wrong. You may think God despises Satan for what he did, and maybe Satan isn’t too fond of what God did to him either. They don’t hate each other though; they’ve actually grown to become pretty good friends. God has more of a use for Satan then simply ruling over hell, God is a busy man, and needs assistance in situations he can’t attend to himself. There are a lot of bad people on this Earth, people that maybe deserve to be here less than others. God isn’t very happy with these people, but he’s a fair man, he’s willing to give them opportunities to change their ways. But when those opportunities run their course… well, that’s where we come in.”
To Wren’s creeping paranoia, the sky seemed to be growing darker above him, adjusting to the general vibe he was receiving from Francis and his words. Upon further inspection however, Wren noticed that it wasn’t the sky that was getting darker, but that everything around him was slowly becoming dimmer. As if some unknown force was gradually turning down the dial on the lights, allowing the shadows to flourish in a bitter blossom of decadence. Wren’s body began to shake with discomfort, while Francis seemed to enjoy every passing second.
“There’s a certain group I belong to,” Francis continued, “a group working on behalf of God and Satan. When Satan finds certain children who are evil in nature, when they reach a sort of boiling point, he contacts God notifying him that his domain is going to become a little more crowded. He sends him a sort of ‘naughty list,’ listing the possible candidates to be delivered to hell upon their death. If God agrees he checks them off the list, and their soul is damned for good. Now most of these people continue to live their lives as they are until the day comes when they die, when they reach their eternal home of fire and brimstone. There are some exceptions to this rule however. Some people are just too bad; they don’t know when to stop. Satan isn’t fond of these people; he likes to give them special treatment. He lets God know of these people, God determines if special action is needed, and if it is Satan informs his children, my brothers and sisters to act on his behalf. God, Satan, myself and my siblings. Judge, jury,-
“Executioner,” Wren said with disdain.
“Nice to make your acquaintance. I do so love meeting the ones that father finds to be the badest of the bad.”
It was safe to say that Wren didn’t fully understand all of what Francis was giving him. Not because of a lack of attention, but simply a lack of believability. To think that God and the devil were in cahoots with their own personal death squad. That Francis himself was a twisted vanguard of some demented order of demons, or angels, or whatever the fuck he was. He no doubt had something unexplainable about him, but for Wren to believe in every word of Francis’ speech seemed like the most foreign thing that lurked in the shadows of the alley he found himself in.
“Pardon me for my faltered trust in what you’re saying; I was never very good with holding a strong belief in things. You’re telling me I’m one of the worst people on this planet? I can think of plenty of more people worse than me. People who have committed murder, rape, cheats, liars-
“Not a liar, is that right? Last time I checked Wren, a liar is exactly what you are. A fraud of the highest order?”
“I have lied, I admit it. I have lied to my peers, my friends, even my congregation at times, I admit that. But that makes me one of the worst there is?”
“You seemed to have left out the most important figure. More than twenty years ago you dedicated yourself to live a life in the name of God. What kind of life are you living Wren, hmm? Are you the same man you swore to be all those years ago? Do you claim to be the man you really are? Openly, freely? Your life is nothing but a ruse, a sham!”
“Why does he make it so difficult then!? Why does he allow temptation to be so enticing!? What I have done is wrong, but I shouldn’t be condemned to hell so easily!”
In an instant, quicker then Wren could possibly keep up with, Francis appeared before him, his figure much more intimidating and his voice much deeper than before.
“You are in no position to make that call you filth!” Francis shouted with dark malice.
Wren reeled back in fear, throwing his hands up with what little protection they’d give against a demon from the pits of hell. He expected to be struck down for his outburst, for his insolence in the presence of such a figure. But he was left to shake in his fear for some time, eventually returning his sights back to Francis, standing before him as calmed and amused as he had been since they met.
“Is this because of Heather?” Wren asked.”Is this because of our time together?”
“It is a portion of it,” Francis replied, “but she is just the tip of the iceberg. A substantial tip no doubt, but only a part of the larger whole. You have to do a lot to get on the devil’s personal shit list, and trust me when I say you’ve done plenty.”
Wren was keenly aware of all he had done; he just didn’t want to admit all of it. But he didn’t have to admit it; Francis was more than willing to do that part for him.
“You remember your Father Wren?” Francis continued.
“He was a drunk, a pitiful excuse for a man.”
“If I recall, he was the head of his own global business. He was successful, he was renowned.”
“Outside of the home maybe, inside he became a monster.”
“Is that right?” Francis asked as he retreated into the shadows. “Tell me, if you got the chance to talk to him again, what would you say?”
“Nothing, he doesn’t deserve words from me.”
“So that’s what you think about me?” a voice from behind replied. Wren was paralyzed with disbelief, behind him came a voice he hadn’t heard since he was a young teenager. He didn’t want to turn around and face who was standing behind him, who he knew was standing behind him. But with a sense of uneasiness, Wren eventually turned to see his dead Father standing before him, wearing the same blood soaked clothes as the night they found him in his study with the bullet hole in the back of his head.
“You’re not real,” Wren said, “we found you in your study. I saw you lying dead just as you look now.”
“Does that make me any less of stain on your mind son?” his father asked.
“That’s a good word for you: a stain. You would come home from work and just start drinking like it was New Years. Every night for dinner you would have a bottle of whiskey and you wouldn’t stop till the bottle was empty. You didn’t even talk to us; mom and I would just try to avoid you because we knew how you would get.”
“You ever try running a Fortune 500 business? Do you know how much stress I had to deal with on a day to day basis? I would come home and be exhausted from work; I wanted to relax for a bit and even then I would still get phone calls about operations and concerns. I worked harder than anyone in that house. I put food on the table, I gave you a place to sleep and bathe, and I did all that! What the hell do you know about success you fucking pissant? You’re nothing but a priest who lives a sheltered lie.”
A sheltered lie, it was hard to believe his father saying something like that. Wren began to relive the moments in his head. The night when his father threw an empty bottle at him, only to miss his head by an inch. The night when his father came home and beat his mother so hard he broke her collar bone. He told the paramedics she fell down the stairs, and they believed it too.
“I became a priest because of you.” Wren replied. “I thought there was more to life than having a worthless father and I went out searching for it. You almost killed me, you almost killed mom, the only reason we’re alive is because you happened to kill yourself.”
“I put the bullet in my head because of the stress, the depression. My father built a business and I turned it into a global empire. You ever tried operating an empire, making sure every cog of the machine is turning just as it should? Become the leader of some national church and then come talk to me about stress. My business wouldn’t have gone bankrupt if you would’ve just taken over.”
“I didn’t want to be anything like you!”
“Is that so? How many times did you go into my study and find my gun?”
Wren thought back to his father’s study and the bottom drawer of his desk that held the Smith and Wesson revolver. How heavy and cold it felt in his hands, how quickly it could end his father’s life.
“How many times did you hold that gun and consider killing me with it?” his father continued. “I know that for a year you were contemplating whether you should unload the entire cylinder in me. All six rounds, right into my chest. You came close one night, walked right into my room while I was sleeping and aimed the barrel straight at my forehead. How old were you then, thirteen? You should have pulled the trigger, saved me the trouble.”
“But I didn’t, I put the gun back and went to my room. I cried for hours, lying there under the sheets praying that something would save us from the monster that came home at five every night. Who would’ve thought the monster was going to kill himself? I’m not the one who put the bullet between your eyes.”
“Does that make it any less severe to know you were considering it? What if your mother would have woken up and saw you standing at the edge of her bed with a gun pointed at me? What would she think of you then? After I killed myself you became a religious boy, you thought going to church and bible study could get rid of me. But you never forgot about me, you never forgot that night at the edge of my bed, a trigger pull away from ending my life. Even becoming a priest couldn’t keep me away. Like father like son Wren… you’re no better than me. You’ll find out soon enough.”
Before Wren could reluctantly utter another word, his father inched back into the darkness, removing himself from Wren’s life once again, just as he had so many years before. Turning around Wren was greeted to the sight of Francis sitting on top of the dumpster, his legs swaying like pendulums.
“Was that you disguised as that bastard? Cheap way to make me feel bad about the things I’ve done Francis.”
“If it helps, know that he suffered greatly for what he did. He was condemned; you had a chance to not end up like him. We were willing to forgive your decisions and thoughts towards your father; after all it was around that time that you devoted yourself to God. It was only a few years later that you made the decision to become a priest. If only you stayed on the straight and narrow, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“What’s next then? Are you going to show me putting my mother in a retirement home, or how I drank altar wine just because I was a little bit curious?”
“Need I remind you Wren that it was you who wanted to know all the marks against you. If I were to cover every single one of them we’d be here all night. Perhaps your old friend Victor could entertain you for a bit.”
The darkness closed in on Wren quicker than he could comprehend. For a brief time everything around him was submerged, he was barely able to see his own hand in front of his face. It was until the sound of chains rattling began that the darkness retreated, and from the darkness Wren could see his old friend Victor, dressed in an orange jump suit with cuffs around his wrists and ankles. This was a twisted game Francis was playing, one that Wren wanted to be no part of.
“Why did you do it Wren?” Victor pleaded. “I thought we were in it together, and yet you stabbed me in the back.”
Victor was a youth pastor and trustee at the last church Wren worked at before coming to Ascension. They struck up a friendship quickly, and when they noticed how easy it was to take money from the church, an embezzlement partnership wasn’t far behind. While Wren was busy pilfering the collection plate, Victor was diverting funds to help pay personal debts. What little they were stealing was quickly adding up, and with the surplus came suspicious eyes.
“We we’re in it together Victor,” Wren replied, “I just happened to notice people catching on before you did.”
“And so you just thought you’d rat me out, save your own skin while I was taken down for what both of us did? Do you know how much time I got for what we did? I’m still in prison to this day, and I won’t get out for another fifteen years. I haven’t seen my wife, my children; I’ve missed their entire childhood because of you.”
“You knew what you were getting into when you agreed to work with me-”
“As did you Wren! We agreed if we got caught we would go down together, and yet here you are on the outside while I’m locked in a cell every day! But you know what the worst part about it all is Wren? I know how you weaseled your way out of getting caught. Seems like Father Alwin was a man of the world just as we were.”
Wren was suspended in a state of disbelief. There was no way Victor knew about Father Alwin, how Wren bribed him with some of the money he stole in order to save his own skin. Only he and Alwin knew of that trade, but it seemed there were more eyes on them then Wren originally imagined, eyes that belonged to things that were not of this world.
“How much did you give him Wren?” Victor continued. “Remind me how much you gave up to save yourself.”
Tears began to stream down Victor’s eyes, falling onto the rusted chains securing his hands from the freedom they longed to seek. Wren could see the despair in Victor’s face, in the tears that rolled off his cheeks, he could see all that he had loss and suffered. He wanted to fulfill his request; he just didn’t want to admit that it only took five thousand to save his skin.
“Fine,” Victor said, “don’t say anything, because I know how much you gave to Alwin. How miniscule the amount was in comparison to what you took overall, and how you said you were just an accomplice to my ‘master plan.’ I know all too well what you did to me; I have to live with it every day. I don’t want your apologies, I don’t even want your sympathy; because I know what you are on the inside Wren, and that will reflect yourself far more than any bribe or lie could. We’re both being punished for what we did; the only difference is that I can see my restraints. Don’t worry though, you’ll get yours soon enough.
With his last words spoken, the rattling of his chains signified Victor’s decent back into the shadows. Wren was left alone, left to wallow in his past actions and current way of life. Victor was sent to prison only eight years ago, but to see his old friend standing right before him again made the years feel like mere months. Francis was sending the best examples to showcase the worst in Wren, or perhaps Francis was the one imitating the subjects. His father, Victor, Wren didn’t want to see what else Francis could become, he had been reminded of his past more then he would’ve liked.
“You don’t need to torment me any longer Francis,” Wren said, “I’ve seen enough.”
As if nowhere to be seen and yet everywhere at once, Francis voice encircled Wren from all directions.
“No Wren, you have not seen everything.”
“Were my father and Victor not enough? Were they not shining examples of my decaying piety?”
Silence filled the space for a time, Francis was nowhere to be seen or heard. At first Wren assumed that his words had stuck with Francis, that the findings were shown and the lesson had been learned. However, Francis had yet to show his entire hand. The tip had been enveloped, the enormity of the iceberg was about to submerge.
The silence was taken over by rhythmic clacking emanating behind Wren. From the abyss came the sound of high heels against the pavement. Their wearer, a seventeen year old girl, emerged from the shadows. Wren knew all too well who she was, for she was the very girl who forced him to transfer from his first church long ago. Jamie Alexis, the girl who wore petal skirts at every one of his Sunday masses.
“J-Jaime?” Wren said with disbelief. “Franics, don’t do this to me.”
“Hello Wren,” Jamie replied, “to afraid to face your past?”
She looked just the same as the day Wren had left her behind, as if she was suspended in time for this very moment, the culmination of more than forty years of immorality.
“I didn’t, I didn’t want to leave you Jamie, but I-”
“You left me without so much as a word Wren. We were going to get married; do you remember telling me that? We went to make love after mass, and you told me how much you loved and cared for me, how special I was to you. I always wore those dresses you liked so much, don’t you remember?”
Jamie gave a quick spin, allowing Wren to take in over fifteen years of repressed denial all at once. It was actually her standing in front of him, it had to be her. She looked just as she did when he left; same pale complexion, same blonde hair, even the same yellow dress.
“It was a mistake Jamie; we should have never gotten together. You were so young and naïve, and I was twenty one, I didn’t know what was right, I was-”
“You never loved me did you? You just used me for sex and lies.”
“I do love you Jamie… I did love you. We couldn’t keep our relationship hidden from the school, Sister Muller was getting suspicious. I had to leave or risk losing my position in the church for good.”
“You’re just a selfish fucking pig Wren, you care more about your fake status then you ever cared about me.”
“I did care about you Jamie, but I was stuck between you and my career.”
“And look what prevailed at the end of the day, you off to another town and me groveling in the dirt. And if you were so scared about our relationship getting out and risking your position, why is it that you’re sleeping with this Heather girl?”
“She’s just-, I needed-, she…” Turning his back to Jamie, Wren hid the shame that formed across his face.
“Your life is a joke Wren, a lie. You can have sex with Heather all you want, but the second someone might suspect something is going on you’ll high tail it to the next town over, or the next, or the next until there’s no one left who can accuse you of anything. You’re no better than a rapist, a killer, a fucking parasite-”
“I am not a rapist! I am not a murderer! I’m… I’m…”
Tears began to form in his eyes as Wren gazed upon Jamie staring back at him, disappointed and embarrassment merged into one cynical look. He fell to his knees and locked his watery sight on the tears hitting the pavement below him. As he quietly sobbed he heard Jamie’s footsteps approaching him from a far. He didn’t want to look at her, come face to face with his sinful nature in human form. Once the footsteps finally reached him however, he noticed that the clacking of the high heels were replaced by the pressing of sneakers. Jamie was gone, Francis was all that remained.
“Ever since you took up the cloth, you’ve been on the downward spiral Wren. You are right in saying you’ve never killed or raped, but you have killed and raped something far greater, God’s faith and trust in you. You indulge in every sinful pleasure you come across without so much as a thought to its purpose. The only time you even consider God is when you’re in church speaking to the congregation. And even then you wonder how people, you yourself at one point believed in such ‘idiocy.’ You hold the title only for the prestige, the admiration that the majority of the community looks upon you with. You are constantly distracted from your ministry, you spit curses as though you were a gypsy, you support no charities except the ones that benefit yourself, and you live a double life where the wrong side of you far outweighs the good. The people of your past and present signify your true nature. Your father, Victor, Jamie, and now Heather.
“Do you have any idea how hard it was to resist her!? How hard it was to leave Jamie behind!? They was beautiful, young, and they wanted me! Me! I know what I did with them wrong legally, and it was wrong morally. But it was consensual! How can God fault me on what I’ve done when she wanted it from me!? Heather was only five months away from being legal when I met her. What does age matter when she was that close to being considered legal?”
“I am not a cop Wren; I don’t care if you started banging her when she was ten. She may be legal in the eyes of the government now but she is still against your position in the eyes of God. And even now, when you’re being convicted of all these things, her safety and her punishment doesn’t even come across in your mind. You couldn’t give two shits about what will happen to your sweet little Heather, just as you didn’t care for all the others. At the end of the day you only care about yourself.”
It was true. For all the rebuttal and debate Wren brought to the table, it was all to save his own skin. Francis knew him, he could see through Wren’s words clear as day. Nothing Wren could say would justify his actions, and even if he did have something to come up with it would have no doubt been a fabricated lie. Pleading for understanding, pleading for guidance, they both seemed to be crafty evasions to deep into the rabbit hole. He wiped his eyes and stood up to face Francis. Pleading for forgiveness seemed to be the only thing Wren could do.
“I am sorry for what I’ve done. For all of it and whatever comes after this.”
“I’m not the one who you should be telling that too Wren. And I’m pretty sure the one you should be talking to is just about done with listening.”
”So that’s it then? You just come down here, label me guilty, and then just walk off?”
“You’re getting ahead of me Wren, I haven’t labeled you just yet.”
“You’ve been calling me a damned man ever since you found me; I think we’ve talked long enough to-”
“You’re right; I think we have talked long enough. Still, there’s one thing left for me to do before I go. Now is when the real fun begins. Don’t blink Wren, because you just might miss it.”
Before Wren realized what was happening, Francis jabbed his right hand towards Wren’s face and gripped it with other worldly strength. His index and middle fingers pressed against Wren’s forehead while the other fingers gripped against the cheekbones. Immediately Wren began to feel an intense burning sensation radiating from his forehead and surging throughout the rest of his body. As though surrounded by a dying mob, he could hear the screams and cries of hundreds of people rattling his mind. He attempted to grab Francis’ arm and push him away, but he found that all his strength had abandoned him, leaving him helpless to the dealings of his self-proclaimed executioner.
“Father Wren Thomas,” Francis spoke loudly as if he was aware of the screams plaguing Wren’s mind, “now is the time of your judgment.”
Between the fingers that gripped his face, Wren could see a grizzly transformation begin to slowly occur within Francis. Like pouring paint over a blank canvas, his eyes became blotted out in a vibrant red, with small wisps of crimson escaping from his pupils like smoke coming off the butt of a lit cigarette. His teeth became a row of jagged thorns, his tongue long and pointed like a viper amongst the newly formed thicket. Blonde hair decayed to an ash grey, two bone fins bore through the sides of his head where his ears previously were, and with each word Francis spoke his inflection seemed to descend in octave range, deeper and deeper, as if his own voice was the bridge from below.
“We have watched you Wren, as we have watched all. From the day you were born up until this very moment. You grew up fallible and we gave you a chance to change, a chance to prove your worthiness to God. Yet you took up the holy mantle only to spit in defiance to the God you swore to serve. You preach the doctrine only to live a secret life of sin and discourse. You are pathetic, you are feeble, and you are a waste of more deserving life. By God’s command you are banished from his kingdom. From this day forward till the day you join us in hell, you will walk the Earth a marked man. A scourge of the earth.”
An erupting white flash occurred, sending Wren onto his back against the pavement. The screams had stopped but his body was racked with pain, the epicenter surging from the center of his forehead. After a few seconds of recovering from his daze, he found himself exerting much more energy with any attempt to move his body. He was weaker than before, a husk of his former self. And against the walls of the alley, Francis, back to his young male form, looked down on Wren with a devilish smile.
“So it is done.” Francis said with malevolence.
“What, have you, done to, me?” Wren asked hoarsely, finding it just as hard to speak as it was to move his body.
“You are now as you truly are, a plague. Your body has become that of your soul. Filthy, stained, rotten. You can no longer hide your true nature. I have marked you this way, as I was tasked to do. This world has no more use for you, and neither does he. No one can save you; your existence is that of doom.”
Wren wanted to jump up from his position and leave his own personal mark on Francis, but he was powerless. To think he was getting away with everything for so long, especially in his position, was a fool’s gambit. It seemed that’s what he was all along; a fool. And now he was suffering for it, the way only a vengeful God could cook up. A God he served for more than twenty years; his God.
“This is,” Wren whispered, “this is…”
“What? Overdramatic? You know, I’m not a big fan of reciting the speech either but the big fella has a way of ‘keeping with customs.’”
Francis began to laugh to himself. Wren wasn’t sure if Francis was laughing at his own sense of humor, or laughing at Wren’s state of anguish. In his pain he could only think of possible routes to salvation, and in his thoughts he only came up with one. He began to drag himself towards the sidewalk beyond the alley, only knowing one logical place to go.
“Where ya going Wren?” Francis asked.
“I’ve, got to, have a talk, with someone.”
“Do whatever you want; you’re a marked man Father. Your judgment has already been passed.”
Francis stood there for a bit as Wren moved like a man who had aged thirty years in the last minute. He watched Wren writhe in pain the only way a demon could enjoy. It was reasonable to say that Francis enjoyed his tasks way too much. It made him happy, it made his father happy, and most importantly, it made the boss man happy. Sometimes Francis would wonder why the boss didn’t just smite down the sinners from His high perch in heaven. But Francis knew that his God was a kind God; allowing his children’s children to have a little bit of fun too. A moan of pain caught Francis’ ears. He turned to see Wren crawling his way towards the streets, every pull of his body a struggling effort. Francis’ grin stretched as far as his muscles would allow; all in a day’s work.
And there he stood, watching Wren drag himself to his feet and stagger around the corner of the building out into the faint light of the streets beyond.

The rain came down steadily as Father Wren Thomas approached the steps to the Ascension Catholic Church. He had no idea how long he had been walking. At some points he ended up in the middle of the road, unsure of how he got there. Other times he staggered along the sidewalk, using building corners to support his weight when he himself was too weak to carry it alone. He was drained, exhausted by the sudden loss of all his strength and will, and yet he was so close to the church that what little hope he savored had seemed enough to carry him just a few steps more.
At times during his staggering voyage he ran into pedestrians, some who recognized him through appearance rather than his rugged shambling through the streets. But even the ones that Wren recognized avoided him, as if his skin was a plague no one wanted to catch. And maybe it was, for Wren had been marked by one of the devil’s own. No one would go near him; no one would give him refuge or comfort, not even Heather Wilson. Wren gave out a sadistic laugh fit for a lunatic, ignoring the saliva dripping down the corners of his lips.
As he finally reached the steps of the church, Ascension loomed above him like a colossal monument; a monument to all his sins. He exerted what little strength he could muster, dragging his feet up the steps like a tranquilized slug. He would repent, pray all night if he had to. Pray to a God who he had turned his back on multiple times before. Who had declared him to be punished for all his selfish deeds. Who had marked him as impure, a scourge of the earth.
Upon reaching the top step, Wren hesitated before the massive doors of the church. He mustered a hoarse breath and moved his right hand towards the handle. A second chance was all he needed, a second chance to prove his worth to God.
He heard the sizzling before he felt the pain.
A surge of agony shot through his entire body, the worst of it coming from his right hand. He dropped to his knees and let out a tormenting scream. His right hand was shaking uncontrollably, his fingers locked and bent towards his palm as if he was gripping a cup that never existed. He turned his hand to examine the damage, and let out a sheepish cry when he was met with the sight.
As if he had grabbed an iron railroad spike drenched in magma, his palm was exposing the red muscle that hid underneath the now searing skin. Around the streak of red the flesh of his hand bubbled and blistered from the contact with the door handle of the church. His hand had been scorched, worse than any burn he had ever seen in his life, a burn worthy of the fires of hell. Though the pain from his hand was too immense to comprehend, he felt a sharp pain in his forehead, like a pulse, throbbing with the weight of a sledgehammer.
He fell onto his back, lying across the top of the church steps as the rain pummeled him from above. He was wheezing, unable to move any ounce of his body in any direction he desired.
“Tainted,” Wren whispered, “so unclean.”
The tears from his eyes mixed with the falling rain, the two becoming unrecognizable. Father Wren laid still in agony, the doors to Ascension shut firmly before him.

In the midday sunshine the city streets were lined with activity. Cars drove down the roads and intersections while civilians walked the sidewalks with personal conviction. Leaning against one of the buildings stood a lone man with graying hair and tan skin. Judging from his appearance he looked to be in his late fifties, but his clothes suggested that he had some sensibility of what the popular style was. He examined the people and the city around him, how much it had changed since the last time he was here. How quickly things could change in a matter of twenty years.
His train of thought was interrupted by a buzzing noise coming from his pocket. Taking the phone out he gave one glance at the caller I.D. labeled across the screen and answered as quickly as he could. Knowing who he would be talking to, the low rumble of the voice on the other end, like a cat’s purr, didn’t startle him in the slightest.
“Taking your time as always I see.” The voice on the phone said.
“I don’t see the point in rushing these things, besides I can see her just fine from where I’m standing. She’s wearing a yellow petal dress and kissing the guy she’s been seeing behind her husband’s back. Get this; she didn’t even take her wedding ring off, it’s like she has no issues sleeping with others behind his back.”
The voice gave a slight chuckle. “That’s why she was chosen and that’s why you’re there. Speaking of which, don’t you think that form you’ve taken is a little against your style.”
Francis formed a subtle grin before returning to the voice on the phone.
“It’s perfect actually,” Francis replied, “from what I remember she was in to older guys.”

Credit To – Mike Kane

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