Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
Larkton County Museum was a place for children and adults alike to learn all about the local history of the small county. It was initially a large, empty dirt field back in 1885, but as time passed people donated houses and other personal belongings of their ancestors (and the ancestors of others) to the museum. Stepping into Lark County Museum felt like stepping into the past. Each building had its own story to go along with it (which you could read all about on the informative plaques outside), and inside you could see the perfectly preserved scenes with wax figures to resemble actual people who lived or worked in the building. It all felt like you were actually a guest in someone’s home, or a visitor to the dentist’s office, or whatever. It was amazing. Only recently they added glass so people couldn’t walk around (probably so people would stop trying to snatch up souvenirs).
When I was little, my grandpa worked at the museum. My parents were both busy (defense attorneys always are, even in Larkton County) and so I spent most of my days with my grandpa at the museum. I learned about the houses in more depth than most guests can, unless they pay for a tour (for example, the Woods’ family home held one woman and her 14 children, and they all had to share one bed. The youngest left when he was 11 to make something of himself, and ended up becoming the mayor of Penfield in Larkton County. He bought his mother a beautiful mansion, but she died months later from consumption). I always felt so special knowing the little details, and even secrets, of the deceased residents. My grandpa loved telling me about them too- he was as much of a history nut as I was. When he was busy doing work in his office, however, he let me roam around in the houses and businesses, all by myself. Although I guess I didn’t really think of myself as being alone; like I said, there were wax figures in the museum.
I made friends with them. Mayor Woods, who was on display in the mansion donated after his death in 1934, in his office looking at papers. Maria Worth, the seamstress who was forever pinning a dress in place. Preston Hark, blacksmith, and his brother Father George Hark, the only priest in Penfield. I spent hours and hours talking to every single wax figure, and I imagined they talked back. They were my best friends (I was 6, so cut me some slack).
There was only one house that had glass in it at the time to keep people from going in. The workshop at the very edge of the museum- a sculptor lived there. I didn’t care for it when I was younger. It was messy, and looked to have once been a barn; two stories high (although the second floor was really just a small room without walls, only a railing), with hay on the floor, and only a few items inside. A bed on the second floor, a large vat by its side, a crate in the center of the first floor, and a candle. What was the fun in a building I couldn’t play in, right? I was 8 when I first saw the wax figure in there.
The sculptor obviously wasn’t from Penfield, or Larkton County. If you’ve ever visited, you know it’s a conservative community, and back in the early 1900s, every resident was god-fearing. My grandfather told me of the strict, everyday routines and chores everyone had, but he never mentioned the sculptor. There were simply no artists in Larkton County. And there was no plaque for me to read, so I was left completely clueless. The only reason I knew he was a sculptor was what he was doing. He was the only resident without a smile. I remember being amazed at how concentrated, how real he seemed. His hands were on his work, a unfinished sculpture of a beautiful woman, who seemed to be made of wax herself. He was sculpting her face, using a carving knife and a rag that seemed to wipe away excess wax. The sculptor was dressed in messy clothes, an untucked, almost completely unbuttoned white shirt, some brown slacks, and shoes that looked far too fancy for Larkton County. At the time, I liked how he looked. I thought he had amazing character, and I was desperate for a closer look.
I wanted to be friends with an artist. And I was young enough, imaginative enough, to believe he wanted to be my friend too. “Come in, Nathan! I’ll teach you how to be an artist too!” he said. And so I ran back to my grandfather’s office to ask if I could go in.
His answer was, for the first time in my young life, a stern “No”. And even after I begged and pleaded, he still refused, and he even put his keys that opened every door in the museum in his desk drawer. Needless to say, I was very upset, and refused to talk to my grandfather for the rest of the day. Every day after that for an entire year, I visited the sculptor’s workshop, and we talked about all sorts of things through the glass.
And then one day, I went up to the workshop, and the sculptor was no longer where he was before. No, he was standing right in front of the glass, head tilted down to my level, eyes on me, and a small smile on his face. In his hand still was his carving knife and the rag.
I screamed. A security guard, Amy, came running, and when she saw the sculptor, she looked scared too. She radioed in my grandpa. The glass to the workshop was covered that same evening with a white sheet, and a sign that said CLOSED was put in the doorway. It stayed that way for eight years.
When I was 17, my grandpa was still working at the museum, but I was far too cool to visit such an old, boring place, and I was old enough to not need a babysitter. I was too focused on other things to even consider visiting the museum; graduation, my job at a crappy fast food restaurant, my new car, my grade, but most of all, Dahlia. God, she was beautiful. I was the envy of all my friends for being so close to the most sought after girl in the entire school. Dahlia was a straight A student, too, so my parents approved greatly. I had avoided telling Dahlia- hell, I had avoided telling anyone about my grandfather’s job. Museums were lame, right?
Unfortunately, they ended up finding out anyways, when we were all at my place. My parents were at work, and it was just Dean, Jacob, Michael, Dahlia, Sonia and I. We were talking about creepy places in town, drinking expensive wine from my dad’s cellar, and were were all tipsy. Sonia brought it up with the library downtown, and the librarian who she swore was over 100 and was possibly dead already. Dean butted in with a dude he saw on a Youtube video with flowers for eyes (and after watching the blurry video, we all agreed it was a hoax). Then Dahlia’s eyes went big and her voice became a whisper.
“Yeah, but… what about Errol Flintlock?” She said. Jacob nearly spit out his wine.
“Oh, hell, no. Not that guy.” He winced. I was intrigued and slightly amused- after all, what could make the captain of the wrestling team shiver so badly?
“Who’s Errol Flintlock?” I asked. They all looked at me like I was stupid.
“He was a wax sculptor in Penfield back in 1924… or ’34, I don’t remember well,” Dahlia said, leaning closer as though telling a dark secret. “Remember how in our Local History book they have this whole thing on how smallpox killed, like, nearly half of Penfield?” I nodded, already feeling uneasy, but I blamed it on the wine. “Well, there’s an urban legend that it wasn’t smallpox. Instead, it was Errol Flintlock, the sculptor. He came to town from New York and no one liked him, so they poured a thing of hot wax on him. He came back from the dead though, and killed everyone, making them sculptures and forcing them into poses to resemble life.”
“They’re the ones in the Larkton County Museum!” Sonia piped up. Dahlia nodded.
“And the sculptor is there too, in storage… Still seeking revenge on those who disrespect his art.” She kept nodding slowly, and then I was nodding along. And then it sort of slipped out.
“My grandpa is the head of security at the museum.”
My friends all seemed shocked, then a grin slowly cracked on Dean’s face.
“Well, why don’t we go check it out then? We can go in, see if Errol Flintlock is really there, maybe mess around…” He trailed off. Michael and Jacob were both grinning as well. Dahlia and Sonia seemed nervous, but excited. They were all agreeing to it, and the excitement in the air built up. I just felt sick. At the time I had very little memory of my own experience with the sculptor, but dread washed over me and I wanted to say “no” to my friends as sternly as my grandfather had to me when I was a kid.
But I was a stupid 17 year old boy with an almost-girlfriend, and this was a situation that would call for hand holding and possibly comforting from creepy environments. So when they asked me if I would help them sneak in, I said yes.
We decided to go that night. It wasn’t exactly a high-security place, only with a couple of people patrolling, all too old to catch up with us if they did see us. The museum was closed, so when we went up to the main building’s front office, the lady at the desk gave us all a glare that said “go away, I want to go home”.
“I’m Nathan Sanders. I wanted to surprise my grandpa, and introduce him to my girlfriend.” I motioned to Dahlia, who smiled at the lady. The lady grunted and crossed her arms.
“Fine. Go on up- he should still be in his office.” The lady grumbled. As we went up the short flight of stairs, Dahlia giggled silently and whispered about how unhappy the lady seemed. I laughed along, but nerves were beginning to form, and the happiness wine brought was gone. Could I really go through with this? Tricking my own grandpa?
Thankfully, he wasn’t in his office. The once bright, happy room seemed smaller now. The clutter of boxes filled with books and reports made it nearly impossible to navigate to the desk, but we managed. I opened the drawer he had thrown his keys in long ago, silently praying that they wouldn’t be inside.
Dahlia grabbed them with a grin and put them in her purse. She also snatched up my grandpa’s cigarettes, and the matches to go along with them. How could I say no- especially after she kissed my cheek. We left the building quickly, promising the suspicious front desk lady that we’d be back to see if he was there tomorrow.
Dahlia led me into the museum and we crept to the back entrance, opening the gate for Jacob, Michael, Dean, and Sonia. We celebrated a successful execution of step one with silent high-fives and grins. Step two was a go.
We walked along the cobblestone trail that led to the workshop. As I predicted, Dahlia held my hand, and I was too happy to fully realize the danger we were putting ourselves in as we went into the workshop. The glass was still covered with the same white sheet, now filthy with cobwebs and dirt and moth holes. After realizing there was no door, I was ready to shrug it off and leave (admittedly relieved), when Michael decided the proper way to get in was to take a decorative rock from outside and smash the glass. The workshop was revealed to us, and I felt a cold chill run up my spine when I saw my old friend, sitting on a crate, observing his work with cold eyes. We all stopped to stare. Were we really about to challenge a possible monster?
Dean answered this question with a snort. “No wonder everyone hated him! His “art” was shit!” He sneered and walked over to the sculpture of the woman. He kicked her over, and she landed with a soft thud, the parts of her that hit the floor flattening. Jacob and Michael laughed, seeming to be at ease now that Dean had established his place in the workshop, and this set Sonia and Dahlia at ease, too. I watched as they all went to the center, standing around Errol Flintlock, Dahlia handing out the stolen cigarettes and lighting them for everyone with a match.
“Oh my god, I wish I had a face as smooth as his!” Sonia giggled. Dahlia laughed and motioned me to come over. She offered me a cigarette, which I turned down with a slight shake of my head. I didn’t really register her slightly disappointed face. I was staring at Errol with a frown. He was just as I remembered, but this time his hand was up to his mouth, and the stern concentration had returned. He was so focused… on a now destroyed sculpture. I felt heavy guilt, and had to look away. I couldn’t bear to know I had let down a friend to appease new ones. I remembered he was made of wax, but he seemed so real and lively in my memories that it was incredibly difficult for me to see him as such.
Dahlia interrupted my train of thought as she put her cigarette on his neck, burning the wax. I jolted, shocked she would do such a thing.
“What did you do that for?” I demanded. She looked at me, and just smiled and shrugged.
“I wanted to make sure he’s really wax,” she said. The smirk on her face pissed me off. “Guess the legend is as fake as he is. He’s 100% wax.” Our friends laughed at this. Dean burned Errol’s arm with his cigarette. Sonia burned his leg with hers. Michael reached to burn Errol’s forehead.
Errol’s hand shot up and grabbed Michael by the wrist a second after the cigarette burned his forehead. His other hand moved so fast I couldn’t see what happened, but Michael’s scream was blood curdling. I saw the carving knife jammed into his leg seconds after. Errol stood. Dean, Jacob, and Dahlia were screaming. Sonia had fainted. I began screaming myself as Errol began to jab his knife into Michael’s leg, over and over and over again. It must have his an artery, because blood began spurting out, and Michael collapsed. Errol turned with his knife, leaving Michael. The rag was back- it was hidden in his other hand before, enclosed in his fist.
Jacob tried to run, but Errol grabbed him by the throat and wrapped the rag around him tight, strangling him. He went limp in seconds. Dean charged at Errol, but Errol was too fast, too calm. He slashed Dean’s throat, the carving knife making a far too smooth cut. Dean fell to his knees, choking on his own blood.
Like me, Dahlia was too scared to move. It made it easy for Errol to pin her to the wall. He took the still nearly fun pack of cigarettes and began shoving them down her throat, the used the wall beside her head to light a match that was in her hand. She was choking on the cigarettes, trying to get them out, tears in her eyes as he inserted the match, the kicked in her knees.
Errol turned around, and he looked at me. He had no smile this time. Errol was chillingly calm as he walked past me, to the door, and got the rock Michael had used to break the glass. He walked over to me, put the rock in my hands, and outstretched my arms over Michael’s head. I tried to fight back, to move away, but Errol was too strong. I was trembling as Michael looked up at me, shaking his head, sobbing. Errol uncurled my fingers from their white knuckled grip on the rock, and it fell, crushing Michael beneath it. Errol pulled his hands away from me. I spun around quickly and punched him in the chest as hard as I could. He stumbled back, groaning. I ran to try and get his knife, but his quick, erratic movements were too much- he grabbed me by my hair and threw me to the ground, right next to Dahlia’s corpse. I reached out and held her closed fist the best I could, staring up at Errol with fear.
He was no longer my childhood friend. No longer the sculptor who would listen to me ramble for hours on end. He stared down at me, and the way his lifeless green eyes refused to hold any light scared the shit out of me. He frowned, seeming troubled, and actually spoke.
“I’m disappointed in you, Nathan.” Errol Flintlock said, and he took his knife, raising it above me. I uncurled my hand from Dahlia’s. Adrenaline didn’t make time slow. No, it was all instantaneous; I opened the matchbox Dahlia was holding, I struck the match, and I lit the hay ablaze right as Errol sliced open my shoulder.
The workshop caught fire quickly. I struggled to stand, and blinked rapidly through the smoke. Errol was gone. The knife was on the floor. I grabbed it, just in case, and fumbled towards the exit. The second floor collapsed right on top of me, and I was knocked out.
I woke up in a hospital. Police officers, a doctor, and my parents were the only ones in with me. I felt safe. I smiled, and relaxed. It didn’t last. The doctor informed me that the tear in my shoulder was too deep- I lost my left arm. The reason I couldn’t feel the loss was because of the drugs being pumped into my blood flow. Sonia was the only other survivor, but she was in a different hospital- a mental hospital. The blow of finding out her best friends had died had caused an emotional and mental breakdown. Other than that, she was fine, besides a few burns.
Then the police officers started talking, and I realized why my parents weren’t looking at me.
I was being accused with five charges of murder against Michael, Jacob, Dean, Dahlia, and mutilated, unidentified woman (the wax woman, I assumed), and a charge of destruction of historical property for the completely burned down workshop, and some buildings around it that caught fire as well. I tried to explain; it wasn’t me, it was Errol Flintlock, a monster, he killed my friends, not me- but the officers just narrowed their eyes and muttered about how I could probably plea insanity if I gave my story to the court. Then my mother spoke in a hushed tone. My grandfather had died that same night. As he was leaving the bathroom, he had a heart attack. 10 minutes before Dahlia and I raided his office.
I’m in the same mental hospital they put Sonia in, now. The jury decided I was insane, and the judge ruled me to stay at St. Anne’s Mental Institution. It’s not bad here. They give me meds to keep the nightmares away. I’m not allowed within 30 feet of Sonia, though, which is easy since she’s in solitary confinement for the time being (she attacked an orderly with a fork when he started talking about lighting a candle). I’ve been deemed stable enough to be allowed recreational activities, so that’s why I’m writing this. I need to get my point across; it’s not worth it. Really. Impressing a girl isn’t worth trying to prove an urban legend is fake. Pissing off a… god, I don’t even know what the hell Errol Flintlock even was… a demon? Just be safe. They didn’t find any trace of him, but I know he’s out there. Above all, above anything; don’t disrespect the artist. It’ll be the last thing you ever do.
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