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Marie Thibodeaux

April 29, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Marie Thibodeaux (1801-1881) was a remarkable woman. She was kind, intelligent, headstrong, and never once told a lie.

She was also a Voodoo High Priestess.

She lived her entire life in New Orleans, establishing a reputation from an early age as a potent healer and clairvoyant. People travelled for miles simply to visit her apothecary, although many more sampled her legendary concoctions. By the 1870’s, she had simultaneously become one of the most feared and revered figures in Louisiana.

In 1881, a landowner named Jacob Parrish travelled to New Orleans from Baton Rouge. Parrish was vastly wealthy and devoutly religious, but possessed a morbid fascination for the occult. He had hired a platoon of ex-soldiers from the recently concluded Civil War, and with them he marched down Bourbon Street and into Marie’s store.

Despite the protests of her assistants, Marie granted Parrish an audience. He had heard rumours that the great Voodoo Queen had discovered the secret to eternal life, and demanded that she yield it to him.

Never flustered, Marie corrected him: she had indeed discovered a ritual that would grant immortality, but only for a set period of time – fifty years, to be exact. Once performed, the subject would rise again after his natural death, having no need for food, air, or water, immune to disease, and utterly impervious to bodily harm. After fifty years had elapsed, however, the subject would die once more, never to rise again.

Frustrated by this revelation, Parrish nevertheless knew her by reputation to be an honest woman, and would not pass up the opportunity to live beyond his natural lifespan. Marie agreed to conduct the ritual for him, as long as he vowed to leave New Orleans permanently once it had been concluded. Parrish agreed, and the ritual was performed. True to his word, Parrish returned to Baton Rouge later that day – but not before ordering his mercenaries to murder Marie and her assistants and to burn her apothecary to the ground.

Louisiana folk are renowned for their superstitions, which are many and varied. It was unusual, however, that dozens would later swear that they had seen disembodied shadows making their way en masse up to the Parrish Manse that night. The following morning, the fifteen mercenaries were found with their necks snapped as though they had been twigs. Parrish himself was discovered in his bed, wide-eyed and apparently terror-stricken, his throat town out with such ferocity that the State Coroner was forced to conclude that a bear had somehow made its way into his locked, second-floor bedroom. The hints of black magic were not lost on locals, however, who promptly buried all sixteen bodies in Magnolia Cemetery the following day.

Marie Thibodeaux was a remarkable woman. She never told a lie, but that is not to say that she never withheld the truth. What she had not disclosed was that resurrection would not take place until seventy-two hours after death.

When Parrish’s grave was exhumed for relocation in 1953, puzzled excavators noted the singularly deep gouge marks found inside the coffin lid.

Credit To – September Derleth

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The Eye of the Storm

April 28, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Howard Krugler, a famous actor, sat in his car. The chrome vehicle rested upon the right shoulder of the highway. It was a fancy car, one of the new 2014 models. Shiny exterior, leather interior. All Howard felt towards the vehicle at the moment was anger. The damned thing had shorted out.

How was he supposed to have known that a storm was rolling in? How was it his fault that his car, his horrid deathtrap of a car, had skidded through a massive puddle? He punched the dashboard, adding yet another dent into the already impressive array of damage.

Fury had always been his initial reaction to anything that upset him. In nearly every situation it was his go-to method of coping. Normally people were there to calm him down, make him feel important, and put him back into his place of fame and popularity. It was not so on this night. It took a great deal of effort for Howard to calm himself down. When he finally managed to quell his anger, nearly an hour had passed. The storm raged on.

He was stranded on some highway in the middle of nowhere. Dark woods loomed over both sides. The only reason Howard has even chose to take this road was to save some time. He had already been an hour late for an interview. By now the interview would have to be cancelled. He didn’t care much. He could always get on another interview once somebody got him out of the mess he was in. Surely, he thought, somebody would be looking for him by now.

The hours passed slowly. Howard glanced nervously at his watch. To his dismay it read 1:43 a.m. Nearly six hours had gone by. There was still no sign of any help coming and, to make matters worse, the storm had only intensified. Feeling hungry and somewhat frightened, Howard decided he needed to have a plan of action. He forced the door of his car open and stepped out into the storm.

He doubled over almost instantly as the full force of the rain and wind struck him. His car door had long since slammed shut. Instantly regretting his decision to leave, he attempted to get back in but the door wouldn’t open. Lightning flashed, illuminating the interior of the car long enough for him to tell he had been locked out.

He cursed loudly but the sound was lost in the roar of the storm. There was a crash and a great boom of thunder. He noted the treetops to his right swaying precariously. Dimly he reasoned that a tree must’ve fallen over. He turned back to his car, struggling to get back inside. The crashes and booms of thunder started again. They seemed to be getting more frequent.

Now, thoroughly soaked and demoralized, Howard glanced at the tree line. Lightning lit it up for a brief moment. He let out a gasp. The tree line was gone. The trees had given out and toppled over backwards into the woods. In their place were two immense feet, blacker than the night. Attached to those feet were two similar legs.

Overcome with terror he fell and crawled underneath his car. The ground was cold, but he barely felt it. Several minutes went by. During this time the fear had begun to ebb away and clear thoughts came through. He knew he had to get help, for none was coming. He wasn’t about to freeze to death under his damned car. His wife and daughter would frown at that.

Summoning his remaining courage, Howard Krugler crawled out from under his car and stood tall. The wind whipped around him in a frenzy and the rain pounded him like stones. Yet, Howard stood. His blonde hair, once perfect, now rugged and soaked whipped sideways. He looked behind him on the highway and saw nothing but darkness. He looked ahead and saw the same thing. Then he began to walk. It was a confident stride. The stride of someone who knows something terrible is going to happen and accepts it.

There was a loud groan and he looked up. The sky was darker along a certain area. The blackness forming what appeared to be the shape of a giant man. The lightning started up with new fury, casting an eerie glare about the area. The figure of the giant man was kneeling down on the road, its supposed head even with Howard. Howard continued to walk, heading directly towards the man now, convinced of its reality.

The noise from the storm was slowly fading. The rain stopped, the wind halted, and the thunder no longer rumbled. Silent bolts of lightning crashed into the woods on either side of the road, casting a very dull light upon the surrounding area.

Upon the dark head a great luminous slit appeared and opened like a giant eye. Howard stared into it. Inside pictures flashed. The first time he met his wife. Their honeymoon. Their daughter being born. A lone picture of Howard in a tuxedo, the only person attending the funeral. Two coffins, one small, one normal sized. The last family portrait he had of the two. His beautiful wife and four-year-old daughter stood side by side. Howard remembered this picture specifically, for he had not been present. His job had demanded his full attention and he had been far too late. This picture reflected in the giant eye for a few moments. Then it began to change. Howard’s family appeared to be gesturing for him to walk forward. They had knowing smiles on their faces. Howard took a single step forward when he realized something was terribly off.

The faces were melting, the horrible knowing smiles still plastered across them. The bones and muscle showed beneath. The melting faces began to anger and point accusingly at him. His courage broken, Howard screamed. The storm resumed with a new and intense resolve. It slowed Howard down as he ran for his car; he slipped and reached out, hoping to stop his fall. His hand hit something hard and he gripped down. The car. Somehow he had made it. His hands still clamping onto the roof as if his life depended on it, he glanced back up the road. The giant man was moving. Walking towards him. Howard gave a strangled yell as he felt something close around his waist.

It had grabbed him. His feet left the ground and he let loose another scream of terror. His hands gripping the vehicle tightly. The eye opened again but this time there were nothing friendly in it. It was a light blue color and flickered off and on with the lightning. It was narrow, as if angered. Howard noted all of this with something like horror. The massive hand squeezed hard. Everything went black.

Credit To – Nickolas Herrmann

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The Duxbury Chronicles: The Detective and the Hangman

April 27, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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“The Detective and the Hangman”

Plymouth County Massachusetts, December 21, 2015, 11:21PM. Five miles outside Duxbury.

Detective Johnathan Mcarthy stood in the ankle deep snow, blowing hot air into his cupped hands, while examining the scene. There really wasn’t much to see. Just a guy hanging from a tree. A guy hanging from a tree in a dark, snowy forest, that is.

It really just looked like some redneck had decided life wasn’t quite panning out, and hung himself in the woods. But Sheriff Dan George had called the Detective anyway. As a general rule of thumb Dan, and Johnathan didn’t like each other. Johnathan being a ten year veteran of the force in LA, and the Sheriff being a fifty something backwoods, red neck. The two were natural opposites.

Still, Johnathan knew that the fat man hadn’t called him out of bed at this hour out of spite. Not this time anyway. Even over his cellphone Johnathan could tell Dan was spooked. Now that he was on scene, he guessed it was because of the plastic bag over the dead guy’s head. To be honest it looked spooky as shit. But Johnathan had seen far worse back in Los Angeles.

They hadn’t been able to identify the Vic on account of the bag. His face was completely hidden by the thick plastic. Now they were just waiting for forensics to finish up, before they cut the guy down, and figured out who it was that decided to off themselves today.

The wind picked up suddenly. Blowing through the trees, and causing a chorus of creaks, and groans from tree limbs. Johnathan cursed, and shoved his hands into the pockets of his trenchcoat. Giving up on the idea of warming them with his breath. A camera flashed, as Billy Thorton, one of the two forensics guys took another photo.

The scene was briefly illuminated by the brilliant blue of the camera, and Jonathan thought he caught sight of something he hadn’t seen before on the dead man. He moved to the right. Trudging through the snow in a wide circle around the hanging man. His breath coming out in big white puffs. It couldn’t be more than twenty freakin’ degrees out here!

“He’s got a bag over his head Johnny.” Johnathan remembered the Sheriff saying in a shaky voice over the phone. He could practically here the man’s double chins quivering, out there in the snowy darkness.

As soon as Johnathan had laid eyes on the body his first thought was that the bastard had wanted to be thorough. If the noose for some reason hadn’t been enough, the plastic bag surely would have finished the job.

Johnathan continued to trudge around to the right of the corpse. Giving the body a wide berth, as he circled through the snow. Still looking for whatever it was that had caught his eye during the flash of the forensic guy’s cameras.

He was a big guy, whoever the Hangman was. He wore a black, and red plad jacket. Bob Vila style. And a pair of rough cut blue jeans. The boots that covered his dead toes, and swayed in the bitter wind, were a brand called “Bear Claw”. Johnathan had never heard of it.

“Hell of a way to go.” Mike Lawry, the other forensics guy said through a mouthful of chewing tobacco.

“Who you think it is Mike?” Bill asked, as his camera flashed a few more times.

“Dunno. Maybe Darby Gents?”

“Darby?! It’d be a God damned shame…”

Johnathan half listened to the two men, as he continued to circle around the body. Duxbury was a small town. Everybody knew everybody.

Darby Gents was the football coach for the local high school. And by virtue of the local grapevine, Johnathan knew that Darby’s wife had left him a few weeks ago.

Still, he wasn’t sure if that’s who was hanging in front of him. There was something unfamiliar about the body. Johnathan had come to know virtually everybody since he’d moved to Duxbury two, and a half years ago. And the Detective in him was saying that this wasn’t anyone he’d ever seen…

Thunder suddenly boomed in the distance. Halting his movement, and drawing the Detective’s attention from the hanging corpse, to the dark overcast sky above. The moon was full, but hidden. Illuminating the clouds above in a pale ghostly light.

The forest itself was well lit for such a late hour. It had snowed three inches the previous night, and now the woods were lit up in that magical pinkish, purplish glow that only a freshly fallen blanket of snow can create.

“Sounds like a storm’s a’comin’.” Deputy Jimmy Mcduff said to no one in particular.

“Hm.” Was all Johnathan offered in reply. The Detective turned his attention from the sky, back to the dead man.

The guy had to be at least fifty pounds overweight. His jacket and undershirt were pulled up, as a result of the noose and the corpse’s weight. His belly sagged out over his pants. Yeah. He’d been a big dude. But who was he?

Without taking his eyes off the corpse, he reached into the breast pocket of his jacket, and pulled out a Marbaro Light. He tried to be slick, and light the smoke without looking away from the dead guy. But the wind forced him to look down, and light the cig like a normal person.

“You guys think we can wrap it up soon? There’s a storm a’comin’.” Sheriff George said from the shadows.

Johnathan turned to gaze at the six foot, burly, fat man standing against the trunk of a tree. His normally imposing figure looked strangely small as he stood there. The Sheriff had his arms crossed over himself, but Johnathan could tell it wasn’t for warmth.

“What the hell was wrong with him?” He wondered. Johnathan didn’t like the man, but he knew he was no coward. And certainly not afraid of the woods, at night. Sheriff George was a born and bred country boy. And yet there he stood. Hugging himself in his big trenchcoat. His eyes nervously darting around the surrounding forest.

All told there were six of them out in their woods. The two forensics guys Bill Jenkins, and Mike Lawry. The Sheriff, and himself. Deputy Jimmy McDuff, and the local reporter Jennel Buttchins. Six grown adults, and the Sheriff was shaking like a leaf.

“What the fuck?” Was all he could think to say to himself.

“Sheriff would you care to make a statement?” He heard the reporter ask. She was quite the looker. Johnathan supposed that’s how she got the job. It had to be, because the chick was definitely no rocket scientist.

“A statement?” Sheriff George asked condescendingly.

“Why yes Ms. Buttchins, I surely would. Here goes- It’s as cold as the ice Dante found Lucifer in. There’s a blizzard the size of Texas coming this way. And we should really think about getting the Hell out of here. How’s that for a statement Ms. Buttchins?”

Jennel gave a “hmph” in response.

Jimmy McDuff gave a somewhat stifled chuckle.

Bill Jenkins, and Mike Lawry continued on with
their tasks. Chatting away about who they thought the dead guy was. They were either oblivious, or didn’t care about the Sheriff’s obvious discomfort with the situation at hand.

“What the Hell is he so nervous about?” Johnathan asked himself again.

Finally he decided he’d had enough. He felt bad calling the Sheriff out on being scared, but the Detective in him wanted to know what his problem was. So he momentarily turned his attention from the hanging man, and started to walk over to Sheriff George.

That’s when there came a sudden sound that he couldn’t quite place. It was a sort of quick “swooshing” noise that came from behind him. Followed by the cracking of several branches, and then the frightened cries of his companions.

There was a – “Holy Christ!”, That came from the Sheriff.

A -“Sheeeezus!”, That was from Deputy Jimmy.
And a sort of high pitched muppet sounding “Meep!”, that had come from Jennel.

Johnathan whirled back around in the direction of the corpse. For a second the Detective did not understand what he was seeing. The hanging man was nowhere to be seen. And neither was Mike Lawry.

Bill Jenkins was on his ass, frantically scooting backward through the snow. His mouth agape and his eyes on the dark canopy above.

“What the fuck?” Was all Johnathan could think to say.

“He’s not dead!” Bill suddenly shrieked, as his frantic ass scooting took him passed where Johnathan was standing.

“Jesus, he’s not dead!”

“What the fuck?” Johnathan asked again. Feeling suddenly very much like how Sheriff George looked. He reached for his pistol.

“Did you see that?!” Sheriff George cried. “Holy Christ did you see that?!”

“Where’s the body?” Johnathan asked.

“It took him!” Bill was shrieking. The man used his ass to carve a path through the snow, all the way back to the Sheriff. “Oh god, Mike!”

At this point Johnathan was feeling very out of the loop. “Could someone please tell me what the fu-!”

The loud snapping of branches above his head made his words catch in his throat. Instinctively Johnathan dove out of the way, blindly rolling through the snow. A split second later there came a heavy “thwump!” from the direction he’d dove from.

Jennel, and the Sheriff shrieked. And Deputy Jimmy shouted “freeze!”

Johnathan combat rolled and came up on one knee, with his gun pointed, and at the ready. A maneuver that had saved his life more than once. But then his eyes settled on the sudden source of all the commotion, and his mind missed a step.

For what he beheld made no sense. The dead man was back. He was still hanging from a noose. Except this time the noose wasn’t wrapped around the original tree branch. It was just stretching up, and up, into the dark canopy above.

The man was hanging over where Johnathan had been standing only seconds ago. The man’s arms were outstretched, and his head tilted upward, in a position Johnathan found reminiscent of Christ on the cross.

“Holy shit he’s not dead!” Johnathan’s mind screamed. He aimed his weapon at the hanging man.

“Freeze!” He shouted. Repeating Deputy Jimmy’s words. “Get on the… Ground?”

His words faltered as the noose around the man’s neck suddenly yanked him upward. Neck bones, and vertebrae cracked sickeningly. And the man rocketed up in a blur. Disappearing into the darkness above.

“Well that’s certainly not something you see every day.” Johnathan thought to himself as he stared up into the dark canopy.

“Detective we’ve got to get out of here!” The Sheriff’s voice cut into his thoughts.

“What?” He asked, dumbfounded, and turned to face the big man. Sheriff George wasn’t waiting for a reply. He and Jennel were already high tailing it out of there. Deputy Jimmy for his part, had stood his ground. Bill Jenkins was nowhere to be seen.

“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” He asked the rapidly fading figure of Sheriff George. “A perp just took one of your men Sheriff! And you’re running away?!”

“That ain’t no perp Detective!” Sheriff George shouted back over his shoulder, as he disappeared into the darkness.

“I-I think the Sheriff might be right Johnny.” Deputy Jimmy said to Johnathan’s right. Keeping his gun trained on the darkness overhead. “I think we need to call for backup.”

“Now that does sound reasonable Deputy.” Johnathan agreed. Straining his eyes to catch any sign of the Hangman. There was nothing up there. It was all just shadows and, leafless branches, against a dark gray sky.

Then there came another loud snapping of branches. This time from the direction the Sheriff, and Jennel had run. A scream erupted from Jennel’s lips, followed by the deafening crack of gunfire.

Both Johnathan, and Deputy Jimmy took off in the
direction of the sounds. There were six shots in total. Johnathan could tell that the Sheriff was firing “Old Betsy”, his treasured Smith and Wesson 500.

The ridiculously huge pistol fired .44 Magnum rounds. Pretty light on the ammo side, but a round fired from that weapon could blow the trunk of a small tree in half.

Johnathan heard that unmistakable sound of an empty chamber “clicking”, followed by a loud jumble of curse words from the Sheriff. Then came another cacophony of snapping branches, and a scream from Jennel.

Both Johnathan, and Jimmy rounded the large trunk of an ancient oak, and almost ran straight into the Sheriff, and Jennel.

Jennel screamed, and the Sheriff swung wildly with the butt of his pistol. Jimmy dodged just on time. Narrowly avoiding what Johnathan was sure would have been a concussion.

“Jesus Sheriff it’s just me!”

“Jimmy?! Mother Mary! You’re lucky I didn’t just knock your block off!”

“Sheriff…” Johnathan gasped, as he struggled to catch his breath. “We need to stick together.”

“Then move your ass Detective! George snapped.
“For Christ’s sake, I’m thirty years your senior, and twice your weight!”

“Are you kidding me?!” Johnathan snapped back. “You just took off, while you’re Deputy, and I stood our ground! I don’t know what’s going on, but someone just assaulted an officer of the law, and you’re the God Damned Sheriff!”

Sheriff George flinched from Johnathan’s words, as if he’d been struck.

“I saw what just happened.” He said, in a quite growl. “A dead man hanging from a noose, just grabbed one of my men, and went rocketing up into the trees with him.”

“He wasn’t dead.” Johnathan said matter-of-factly. “He couldn’t have been.”

The Sheriff suddenly laughed. “He wasn’t dead?! Well he sure as shit should have been after I hit him with four of my six shots from old Betsy! Cause that fucker dropped right down beside me, and little Ms. Jennel here, and I can tell I just pegged that fucker at least four times at near point blank range! Any normal person would have had the courtesy to keel over and die! But that son of a bitch just went right back up into the trees!”

As if on cue, there came the sound of tree branches bending, and breaking from the canopy above. The three men simultaneously snapped their weapons up toward the darkness above. The Sheriff realized he hadn’t reloaded his weapon, and cursed. Quickly bending down to the task.

Johnathan thought he saw a dark man sized shape swoop by overhead through the shadows. But then it was gone.

“Johnny here don’t believe me.” Sheriff George sneered. “Tell him Ms. Reporter. Tell him what you just saw!”

“It’s true.” Jennel said in a shaky voice, as she stared at the dark canopy. “That man just came falling out of the trees right beside us, and the Sheriff shot him! I think he might have even…” She struggled not to vomit as she said it. “I think he might have even shot off one of his arms.. And he… And he, just went flying right back up into the trees.”

Johnathan glanced away from the canopy, and scanned the ground around them. It was too dark to be sure, but there were black puddles all over the ground, that he guessed was blood. There was no sign of a disembodied appendage though.

“So where’s the arm now?”

“Oh for God’s sake, how should I know! He took it with him!” The Sheriff shouted.

“Look, you ain’t from around here Johnny.” George said as he slammed a 45caliber round into the last open chamber of his gun, and then snapped it back into place. “But there’s some strange things that happen sometimes in Duxbury. City folk just don’t understand.”

“It’s true what the Sheriff says Johnny.” Jimmy said, in little more than a whisper. “My Grandaddy used to tell me stories about this part of the land.”

“He used to tell you the land was bad out here, didn’t he?” Sheriff George asked.

“Yeah…” Jimmy nodded, as he gun played across the darkness above. “He told me these woods got something in em’. Something that lives beneath the ground. I never believed him of course. But I never really come out here either.”

“Not many people do.” Sheriff George said. His voice taking on the same whisper-like quality as his Deputy. “Now Detective I know that you’re a practical man. And I begrudgingly respect you for it. But there’s what appears to be a dead man, hanging from a noose, whose flying through the trees.”

There came a sudden peel of thunder, and everyone tensed up for a moment. Johnathan noticed for the first time that Jennel had a can of mace in her hand. He almost laughed despite himself. The guy was wearing a bag over his head! What was mace going to do?

“So what do you suggest Sheriff?” Johnathan asked finally.

“I suggest we get back to town. Get backup. Come back with an armed posse, and clean house.”

“Tonight? Not tomorrow? We come back tonight, and find Mike?”

“Of course! I ain’t leavin’ him out here!” The Sheriff spat. “Now common! It’s more than a half hour drive back to town. This storm’ll be on us before we get back anyway, so I suggest we get a move on.”

The storm was getting closer. That was a fact. The wind was picking up, and big fluffy flakes were already beginning to fall through the air. Johnathan pondered their options for a moment. Finally he spoke.

“Fuck that.” You go back to the SUV, and radio for backup. Then go get your posse. I’ll stay here.”

“What?” Sheriff George asked. Incredulous.

“You’re right Sheriff. I’m not from around here. And because I’m not from around here, I’m not buying into this supersticious bullsh-.”

Johnathan’s words were abruptly cut off as the large figure of the Hangman suddenly dropped from above, and landed on the Sheriff with bone crushing weight. There came a sudden explosion of snow as both figures collided with the ground. Johnathan instinctively raised his hands to protect his face, and took a few faltering steps backward.

Jimmy shouted out in surprise. And Jennel screamed. Johnathan heard the snapping of several bones, along with a sort of guttural, gargling from the Sheriff. But by the time the Detective lowered his hands, the Sheriff’s broken body was wrapped in the Hangman’s embrace, and rocketing upward toward the dark canopy above.

Johnathan got a better look at the Hangman as he rose back up into the trees. The man had three large holes in his chest, from where the Sheriff had shot him. And his right arm (though still attached) looked like it could fall off any second. Never mind the fact that the arm was bearing the weight of a man who had to be at least two hundred and fifty pounds.

Johnathan took aim with his weapon but did not fire, for fear of hitting the Sheriff. In another instant both fat men had disappeared entirely into the trees above. That’s when Johnathan noticed the coughing, and gagging sounds coming from behind him.

He whirled around. Jimmy was on his knees gagging, and shoveling snow into his face like a madman. Jennel was standing over him, Just patting him on the back and saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Over, and over again, in a shaky voice.

“What the fuck?” Johnathan asked for the umpteenth time this evening.

Jennel looked up from Jimmy’s gagging form.
“I’m sorry!” She squeaked. “I maced him by accident!” The would-be reporter was almost crying.

Jesus. And for a second there he had been considering giving the chick his spare sidearm. Johnathan quickly sprang into action. Running over to Jimmy, and helping the man to his feet.
“Alrighty buddy. We’re gonna take the Sheriff’s advice and get the fuck out of here.”

Jimmy sputtered in reply.

“Jennel, you stay close. We move quickly, and quietly. We’re only about a half mile from where we parked.

Jennel sobbed, and nodded. “O-Okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to spray him.”

“I know.” Johnathan said, with as much sympathy as he could muster. “It’s okay Ms. Buttchins. Let’s just get out of here.”

“Okay.” Jennel’s crying quieted somewhat.

And with that the trio started moving. It wasn’t easy. The ground was uneven, and the snow was deep in some places. Snow was starting to fall more heavily as they moved through the forest.

The wind began to pick up. Blowing through the dark trees in great gusts, that kicked clouds of the winter elements up into the air around them.
Jimmy moved well for a man who could barely see. Recovering quickly each time he stumbled. And with every moment that went by, his vision cleared up more.

“Can’t believe she fuckin’ maced me.” Jimmy said under his breath.

Johnathan smiled, despite himself. He could believe it. Johnathan was of the opinion that in this day and age, the only thing reporters, and journalists were good for was spreading lies, and rumors. Most, he thought, simply worked for the military propaganda machine.

“Almost there.” Johnathan said, as they neared the edge of the forest.

There came a sudden horrified shriek from out from somewhere in the darkness behind them. That’s when it had occurred to Johnathan that he hadn’t seen Bill Jenkins since he’d gone scooting passed him on his ass, more than ten minutes ago.

The shriek lent strength to their legs, and the trio picked up the pace. In another moment they were out of the woods, and crossing the field they’d parked the police SUV in. Thunder boomed overhead, and the wind howled. There was no doubt now that the storm was upon them.

By the time they’d all gotten situated in the vehicle, Jimmy’s eyesight had recovered significantly. He snatched the radio receiver.

“This is Deputy Jimmy McDuff, we’re out at the edge of the Northern woods. We have…Officers down. Requesting immediate backup.”

The only answer they got was static.
Jimmy repeated the message. More static. Johnathan turned the key, and the engine of the SUV roared into life. The headlights illuminated the field, and the edge of the forest. Johnathan strained his eyes for a moment. If something was out there watching them, the falling snow was keeping them well hidden.

“God damn storm must be messing with the radio.”
Johnathan nodded, as he threw the SUV in reverse.

“Like a badly written horror story.” He said.
Then he punched it, and the vehicle took off in the direction of town. The three sat in tense silence for a moment, as they flew down the bumpy dirt road. Johnathan kept his eyes focused on the land in front of the bright headlights. Not wanting to think what may be stalking them from the darkness of the trees that zipped by on both sides.

The snow was falling even more heavily now. Coming down in sheets so thick that using the brights would have been suicide. And so Johnathan kept the low beams on as they rolled down the dark road that looked more like a tunnel than a street.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, they crested a hill, and the lights of Duxbury came into view in the valley two miles below. They reached the end of the dirt road, and Johnathan took a hard left onto Apple Tree Lane.

The tires would have squealed loudly had there not been four inches of compact snow between them and the pavement. As it was, the SUV swerved and careened dangerously to the right. But then the vehicle regained its traction, and straightened out.

A few seconds later they were shooting down the road. There was roughly two and a half miles of rural darkness between them, and the edge of town. Johnathan decided to slow it down to about forty-five.

“What the Hell just happened back there?!” Jennel asked in a shaky voice.

“You tell me.” Johnathan said. “You know a helluva lot more about the lore of this county than I do. And that sure as shit looked like something straight out of some old horror story.”

“Jesus. My Grandaddy wasn’t kidding about Kene’s Road.” Deputy Jimmy said, in an exasperated voice.

“Kene’s what?” Johnathan asked.

“My Uncle used to tell me about this old road that used to run through these woods somewhere out here. Said it was there before the colonists arrived, and that no one had any clue who made it. He said the first settlers of Duxbury were warned by the local Indian Tribes that the place was bad ju-ju.”

The SUV went over a bump in the road, and Johnathan had to swerve slightly to keep control.

“You know now that I think about it, there was a story about a man being hung on Kene’s road.” Jennel chimed in. “Supposedly a gallows was built out here a long time ago. But only one execution was ever performed there before the place was abandoned.”

“So… You’re saying that there’s an ancient, haunted road somewhere out here?” The Detective asked. His voice a mixture of incredulity, and apprehension.

“That’s how my Grandaddy told it.” Said the Deputy.

Johnathan shook his head. He couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. This was ridiculous! This was fuck-ing ridiculous! Why on Earth had he moved out to the country?!

“Jimmy.” He began. Trying to sound like a logical Detective once again. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful toward your Grandfather but doesn’t that sound a litt-?”

His words were cut short as something heavy landed on the roof. There was a heavy “thwump!”, and the frame of the SUV shook violently. The roof buckled, and caved in, as if a boulder had been dropped on top of it. The SUV swerved to the left, then to the right.

Jennel screamed.

“Shit! Shit!” Johnathan cursed, as he fought to regain control of the SUV. He glanced in his side view mirror just on time to see a bloody hand wrap around it. The mirror was violently yanked upward, and both hand, and mirror vanished.

After a few tense seconds of swerving left, and right, Johnathan managed to regain control of the vehicle. The SUV straightened, and Johnathan accelerated as fast as he dare. Jimmy was already in the back, struggling to unhook the 12-gauge shotgun from it’s mount, as the car jarred around.

Before Johnathan could say anything else, his
eyes were drawn to a dark shape falling through the sky just in front of them. The Hangman landed on the hood of the SUV, and the hood violently buckled inward. The SU V careened dangerously once again.

The Hangman reached up and grabbed both windshield wipers. Then the noose pulled tight, and the man rocketed back upward. Ripping off the wipers, and taking them with him on his rapid ascent into the overcast sky.

Johnathan simultaneously fought to keep the SUV on the road, while continuing to watch in disbelief, as the man disappeared into the swirling snow over their heads. Looking like some sort of twisted marionette making a rapid exit from the stage. The last thing he saw of the man was his “Bear Claw” brand boots being swallowed up by the gray clouds.

“You have got to be, fucking kidding me…” He said to no one in particular.

Jennel screamed once again. As if that was going to help anything.

“Well at least she put her mace back in her purse.” The Detective thought to himself. The hood of the SUV looked like shit. He couldn’t tell if there was smoke rising out of it, or if it was just swirling snow. He supposed that if the engine had been damaged, they’d know either way soon enough.

Johnathan heard the distinct “Ca-Chak!” of a round being loaded into the 12-Gauge Jimmy had pulled off it’s mount.

“I’m gonna blow that fucker to kingdom come!” He heard the Deputy say. The shaky timber of his voice had been replaced with one of wrath.

Johnathan was impressed with the man’s intestinal fortitude. Anger in a situation like this was much more useful than fear. And the man seemed to be holding it together a lot better than Johnathan. The Detective’s hands were shaking badly. It made steering the vehicle that much harder.

That’s when the engine first started going wonky. There came a sudden slamming noise that came from under the hood, and echoed loudly throughout the interior of the SUV. Johnathan glanced down from the road to the dashboard, and saw that the engine’s temperature was rapidly climbing.

Then there came second slamming noise from under the hood, this one much louder. It was accompanied by a violent jarring of the entire vehicle. The SUV began to slow. The gas pedal no longer responding, no matter how hard Johnathan pressed it.

“Shit.” Jimmy said from the back seat. He started to climb over to the front passenger seat.

“Well Jimmy.” Johnathan said, with as much composure as he could muster. “It looks like you’re gonna get your chance to blow that fucker to kingdom come sooner, than later.”

“Good.” Was all the Deputy said in return. There was steel in both his voice, and his eyes.

“There – There’s something in the road. ” Jennel said shakily, from the backseat.

Both Detective, and Deputy strained their eyes to see what she was talking about. It took Johnathan a moment to realize the reporter was right. There was something in the road. Something was a far more accurate description than someone. That was for sure.

Through the swirling snow, and darkness, barely outlined by the headlights, was the Hangman. He was hanging about three feet off the ground. The rope attached to the noose around his neck just stretching up, and up, and disappearing into the night sky. The man’s arms. outstretched in a Christ-like fashion once again.

“Fucker must know that the SUV’s done for.” Johnathan said through clenched teeth.

“Looks like it’s do or die time.” Jimmy answered back.

The SUV continued to slowly roll toward the Hangman. The engine sputtered it’s last, and finally died. After a few more seconds the vehicle lumbered to a stop, in the middle of the dark, snowy road. For a minute they just sat there in silence. Listening to the wind and snow blowing around in the darkness outside.

Johnathan stared at the Hangman, looking the distant figure up and down. What was this thing? It just didn’t make sense. Gangbangers, and serial killers made sense. Johnathan was not a superstitious man. He did not believe in ghosts, or goblins.

Monsters he believed in. He’d killed monsters with his own two hands. But monsters were just flesh, and blood men. Men made into beasts, by the unfair, economically imbalanced society that the U.S. tries so hard to pretend that it isn’t comprised of. But this, this was a different kind of monster.

And suddenly Johnathan found that he very much missed the monsters of old. The old monsters were back in a reality he’d left behind, in a dark forest, about an hour ago. The old monsters were much easier to deal with. You can’t arrest something like this.

Johnathan took note of the ragged holes, torn through the Hangman’s chest. Even in the dark he could see the big red spots where, the blood from the bullet wounds had frozen. If the man wasn’t wearing a shirt, Johnathan knew his chest would look like Swiss Cheese right now.

The thing’s left arm was barely attached anymore. The bone had been clearly obliterated when Sheriff George had put a round from “Old Betsy” through it. Now it was just hanging by a few tendons, and muscle.

“Well at least it bleeds.” He thought to himself.

“If it bleeds we can kill it.” Now where had he heard that line before? It seemed like pretty sound logic. Except in this case, it didn’t seem to apply. The Hangman had bled. But it didn’t seem to be having much of an effect…

Then suddenly a thought struck him. It was a true Eureka moment! At least he hoped that it was.
“Jimmy, when we get out, I want you to aim for the guy’s rope.” Johnathan said.

“The-rope?” Jimmy asked in a confused voice.
“Yeah. Let’s see how dangerous this fucker is when he’s stuck on the ground like the rest of us normal people.”

Jimmy’s eyes widened in sudden comprehension. He even let out a short laugh.

“Alright.” The Deputy nodded, a grim smile playing across his face. “Let’s do this…”

“Ms. Buttchins.” Johnathan said just before he stepped out into the cold night. “You better just stay here.”

All the young woman could do was nod. She had been staring in wide eyed terror at the motionless Hangman, ever since the engine had died.

Johnathan pulled out his nine millimeter, and checked that it was fully loaded. He already knew it was. He hadn’t fired his weapon once since this whole ordeal began. But still he checked anyway.

Then the two men opened the doors, and stepped out into the darkness, and swirling snow. They were instantly wrapped in the night’s cold embrace. It seemed to have dropped at least ten degrees. Thunder boomed overhead, and the snow continued to fall in sheets.

The Hangman for his part just hung there. His body swaying back in forth in the wind. It was as if the thing was waiting to see what the two officers were going to do next. Johnathan knew that hitting the rope at this distance would be near impossible. They would have to get closer.

And so they trudged on through the snow. Slowly making their way toward the Hangman. When they got to about twelve feet away, they stopped and raised their weapons to the rope, just above the man. The Hangman cocked his head to one side in confusion.

Both men fired nearly simultaneously. Neither shot found it’s mark. The Hangman suddenly came rocketing toward them. Gliding over the icy road at frightening speed. Johnathan took another shot with his revolver. Missing again.

The hangman had halved the distance between them in a split second. It would be upon them in the blink of an eye.

Johnathan switched tactics, and let off a few rounds into the oncoming nightmare’s chest. The Hangman’s body jerked violently, as three rounds tore through him. Adding more to the Swiss Cheese quality of the thing.

Jimmy took another shot with the twelve gauge. Even before he took it Johnathan knew it would be the man’s last, before the Hangman was upon them. The weapon boomed loudly. The sound of modern man winning out over the cacophony of nature for a second.

The wide spray from the twelve gauge gave Jimmy a much better chance of hitting the Hangman’s noose, than Johnathan’s pistol. The Detective almost “hooted” in elation as the Deputy’s shot found it’s mark.

The Hangman’s noose violently snapped. For a second Johnathan thought the monstrosity was just going to keep hovering over the ground. His body jerked in the air as the noose snapped. And for a second Johnathan swore that the unholy thing did defy the laws of physics.

But then gravity kicked in, and the Hangman collapsed in a heap. Johnathan, and the Deputy just stood there watching the motionless body, as snow blew around it in great gusts.

“Holy crap, would ya’ look at that?” Jimmy said, as he pointed upward.

Johnathan’s eyes moved upward in the direction the Deputy was pointing in. The Detective’s eyes went wide, as his gaze settled on what Jimmy was pointing at. Even in the darkness he could see the seemingly impossible length of the Hangman’s rope falling out of the sky.

It was piling up on, and around the motionless body. Forming great cords. The two men stood in the blistering cold, watching in disbelief as the rope continued to fall out of the sky.

“What- what the Hell was it attached to?” Jimmy wondered out loud.

Johnathan shrugged. “Satan’s dick maybe? At this point I’d believe just about anything.”

“This… This is crazy Johnny.” Jimmy sounded exasperated. Fear had not yet returned to his voice, but the steely edge had gone out of the man, that was for sure. Thunder boomed once again overhead. The chords of rope were starting to obscure the body from view.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the end of the rope came falling out of the darkness. Johnathan guessed that there had to be at least a mile’s worth that had just come out of the sky. It was the sight of that rope that had finally unhinged Johnathan’s concept of reality. And in that moment the Detective from LA truly did believe in monsters.

As one the two men started to approach the body. Keeping their weapons trained on the Hangman all the while. A few seconds later and they were standing over the seemingly dead monster/man, half buried in rope.

It now looked as lifeless as it had when Johnathan had first seen the man hanging from a tree branch in the woods. The detective looked down at the thick plastic bag covering the man’s head. He just had to know…

Slowly he began to reach down for the bag. Jimmy read his intent and stepped back a few feet. Keeping the twelve gauge leveled at the seemingly dead man. Johnathan’s hand closed around part of the bag. He took a deep breath. Steeling himself.

Then, much like one would rip off a band-aid, he gave the bag a hearty yank. It gave a bit of resistance as it’s lower section caught in the noose, still wrapped tightly around the man’s throat. But then the bag gave way.

Both men gasped in surprise. Johnathan really hadn’t known what to expect. But what he beheld certainly wasn’t anything he’d even considered. As the plastic ripped free, the two men were greeted with a sight as disturbing as the plastic bag had been. Covering the man’s head was an old style Hangman’s mask.

It was made of rough, weather worn burlap. It was like something you’d see in execution scenes in old black and white westerns. Except that there were two buttons sewn into the mask, made to look like eyes. And there had been a ragged cut made where the mouth was. Though this had been crudely stitched shut with what looked like old-style fishing twine.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” Jimmy muttered. His voice barely audible over the wind, and snow. For a moment the two men just stared down at the mask. Already, snow was beginning to cover the body.

“Well what do you make of that Jimmy?” Johnathan finally asked.

“My Grandaddy never had any stories about something like this. That’s for sure.”

“Did you guys really kill it?!” Jennel Buttchin’s nervous voice, came echoing from down the road near the SUV.

Just as both men turned, there came a loud

“swooshing” from behind them. The noise was not unlike that sound he’d heard back in the forest, when the Hangman had first sprung into life. Out of his peripheral Johnathan watched Deputy Jimmy McDuff get violently ripped off his feet.

The man gave a cry that was quickly cut short as his back slammed into the snowy ground, and the wind was knocked out of him. Jennel screamed (helpful as always), and Johnathan spun back to face the Hangman.

The Hangman’s body suddenly went rocketing down the street, dragging the Deputy through the snow with him. Johnathan saw that the monstrosity had grabbed one of Jimmy’s ankles. And that the rope. That God Damned unholy rope, was just stretching off down the road into the darkness, pulling the Hangman by the throat.

The Hangman, and the Deputy kicked up a cloud of snow as they carved a path down the road. Johnathan took off running after them. Although he knew it was hopeless. They had to be moving at least twelve miles per hour! Jimmy was kicking, and screaming, for all the good it was doing him.

“Hang on Jimmy!” Johnathan shouted after the rapidly disappearing figures.

Deputy Jimmy McDuff answered back with an “Oooaahh!” just before he disappeared into the shadows.

“Shit! Shit!” Johnathan shouted, as he stumbled through the snow.

His heavy breath came out in big white puffs. The Detective ran. The snow fell. The wind howled. And the sky rumbled. Johnathan just kept following the trail they’d carved. If the storm kept up, the path would be hidden in a matter of hours, maybe less.

He followed the path through the snowy night at a full sprint, for about ten minutes, before doubling over. He struggled to catch his breath. Johnathan glanced back. He could no longer see the SUV, or Ms. Buttchins. Shit…

“Johnny!” Johnathan turned back at the sound of Jimmy’s voice.

The Deputy was sprinting up the road toward him. Running like Hell itself was fast on his heels. Which might actually be the case. The man’s clothes were torn, and tattered from being dragged across the icy road. And there was something about three feet long attached to his ankle, that was just sort of flopping around.

“Jimmy! Jesus man!” Johnathan went running toward him.

The two men reached one another and their eyes locked. Jimmy was pale as a ghost. Despite himself Johnathan laughed.

“Holy shit Deputy! I thought you were a goner!”
The Deputy doubled over. Hand’s on his knees, as he struggled to catch his breath. He was in slightly worse shape than Johnathan.

“How’d you get away?!” Johnathan asked. Elation, and relief etched in his voice.

Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t know. That- that thing was just dragging me down the street, when I heard this loud popping noise, and I suddenly stopped moving. When I looked up the guy was nowhere to be seen. So I just took off running!”

Johnathan’s eyes turned back to the Deputy’s left ankle. His breath caught in his throat, and his eyes went wide.

“Holy shit.” He murmured quietly.

Jimmy’s eyes turned down to his ankle, and he let out a gasp. Clearly in his mad dash to get away, he hadn’t noticed there was a hand wrapped around his ankle. The hand was attached to a stump, where the tendon’s had finally snapped. It was the appendage Sheriff George had weakened earlier with “Old Betsy”.

Jimmy yelped and started dancing around like a madman. Trying to kick the thing off. But to no avail. The hand had a vice-like grip on him. Finally after a few minutes Johnathan got Jimmy to calm down enough to stop jumping around.

They sat there in the middle of the dark road. Prying the Hangman’s fingers off of the Deputy’s ankle, one at a time. After another couple minutes they finally got the damned thing off him. Then the two just stood there in silence, staring at the torn appendage.

“We’ve gotta take it with us.” Johnathan finally said.

“What?” Jimmy asked back. Not comprehending the words he’d just heard.

“Even if I have to carry it all the way back to town myself, I want the forensics guys to take a look at it.” Tonight he’d come to believe in monsters. And he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to take some evidence back with him.

“Okay Jimmy said, with trepidation in his voice.

“Let’s go back and get Ms. Buttchins, and high tail it back to town.”

Johnathan nodded, as he stared down at the arm. Finally he reached down and picked it up by the wrist. He half expected the thing to snap into life and latch onto him. But nothing happened.

The two took one final look down the road. Hoping that the Hangman wasn’t going to come flying out of the darkness, at them. Darkness, and swirling snow, was all there was to see. Then they turned, and started making their way down the snowy street…


Credit To – Lebooski

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There are cruel and fearsome things that prowl the open ocean.

April 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Mankind believe themselves to have escaped the horrors that preyed on them in bygone ages. Perhaps we are right. Mostly. The torch of scientific progress kindled by Newton and his contemporaries spread like wildfire in the centuries that followed, and drove the beasts that dwelt in our shadows scampering back to the darkened pits that spawned them; turning the hunter into the hunted. Physics, the idea that our world operates through universal and comprehensible laws, castrated the secret magics that had once left kings and peasant children alike shivering in the terror of all-concealing night. Darwin and his concept of evolution banished the ancient monsters with such speed and determination that Heracles himself would have been envious,

But there are still places in this world where the light of modernity hasn’t reached. A number of San tribes (commonly known as Bushmen) in Namibia speak of the ¯koo-b¯u*, or Bone Eaters. A tall (7-8′), grey, lanky, bipedal creature with lean yet protruding muscles capable of tremendous speeds; large rock hard hands that taper into sharp nailless points with bulbous knuckles and joints; hollow, deep set sockets holding round white eyes that roll about in them like a billiard ball; and of course the mouth, stretching across the entirety of its face, holding spiked teeth as a hard and bright as marble that seem to glisten even at night, always cracked into a broad grin when it encounters a straggling child who has wandered too far from the rest of the tribe.

The Nukak people of the Amazon basin speak of the Kanábéyáa, or Black Jaguar People. Little is definitively known about them, save the resemblance between their black fur, retractable claws, round pinprick eyes, and those of their namesake; their ability to shift between a bipedal and quadrapedal stance; and their propensity for hunting nearly anything, including humans foolish enough not to guard their campsites at night. Again and again, anthropologists hear tales of night sentries looking on in terror as bright eyes; first two, then dozens, circle and dance about the periphory of their encampment. Hellish yowls and hisses cut through the air, followed by panicked shouts and the chaos of men brought into the waking world by their greatest fear. And then, in a brief moment that seems an eternity to those caught within it, silence. The inevitable return into the veil of night. Of course, war stories are always told by the survivors, so there is a lack of testimony from those unfortunate groups who were either caught off guard, or else, for one reason or another, were deemed to be worth the fight. There are also tales of hunting parties finding one of their neighboring tribes eviscerated, stripped of flesh and meat, and left to rot in the coming sun.

But these stories will have to wait for another time. I come to you not with a tale of some hidden crevasse deep in the heart of the wilderness, but of that endless sprawl that surrounds all of humanity’s achievements. The last great uncharted territory. The ocean.

I had just graduated, and, like many that come from families of considerable means, viewed the gap between getting my diploma and getting a job as an oppurtunity for exploration. Unlike many of my peers, I was not content to use this period merely as an opportunity to get wasted and sleep around in a different corner of the globe. Not that I’m trying to come off as superior or condescending, I have no right for that. I started off in Europe just like everyone else, moving from Paris to Rome to Zurich to Vienna to Berlin and then Prague, indulging in the careless excesses that tend to characterize these trips. But at the same time, I wanted more than that. I wanted to ride the back of an oxe drawn cart down a withered trail to places my fellow Americans never laid eyes on. I wanted to slum it in the homes of destitute village inhabitants despite the fact that I could easily afford a four star hotel. I wanted something new, something unseen, some amazing forgotten secret.

The noteworthy part of my trip begins in Vanino, a fairly small seaport town on the Eastern coast of Russia. I had taken the Trans-Siberian Railroad as far as Khabarovsk, and from there I decided I would get to the coast by hitching rides with locals. It was the mid 90’s, and the collapse of the Soviet Union was still reverberating through the economy, which meant that everyone from corrupt bureaucrats in imported cars to farmers with mule drawn carts were more than willing to lighten my pockets of those heavy Francs and Deutschmarks. From my atlases and road guides, Vanino seemed the perfect place to set off for the final waypoint in my journey, Japan. It was small, and far enough from the railway to be empty of other tourists. Despite this, it had a moderately large seaport, and its proximity to the impossibly large forests of Siberia meant that at least some of its outbound ships were likely en route to help satiate Japan’s monstrous hunger for foreign timber.

While this ended up being the case, it was a bit harder than I thought to secure transport. Looking back, I can’t believe how stupid and brazen my approach was. Just walking onto the harbour of some backwater port town in a country whose language I could barely ask for the bathroom in, and somehow expecting that I would find a crew willing to drag my naive ass halfway down the Eastern coast of Asia. However, the Russian economy was in shambles, people really were desperate, and I was lucky enough to find someone who wasn’t quite so desperate as to simply rob me for all of the promised money. Then again, the way things turned out, perhaps I would have been better off getting beaten within an inch of my life, separated from all of my assets, and left to die in a town unconcerned with the well being of some obnoxious foriegner.

I met Kee Sye in a bar not too far from the harbor. I had spent many hours in that tavern, a fairly typical Russian bar with wood paneling, high tables, and way too many pictures hanging in way too close proximity to each other. I had refined my intelligence gathering technique until it began to take on a ritualistic quality. I went through the motions of this ritual as I always had. Buy him a drink first to warm him up to the idea of chatting with an American, find out if he speaks any English, if he works on a boat, and where he is heading. He was short, even for a Southeast Asian, and judging from his attire, had done quite a bit of travelling. He wore a thick red-brown coat that was scuffed, stained, and disheveled, yet clearly hardwearing, with no visible rips or patches despite the obvious abuse it had suffered, and an equally battered pair of American jeans. I found out that he was from Singapore, spoke English, and was a deckhand aboard the Сумерки бегун. He didn’t seem to particularly enjoy the company of Russians, which accounted for the relative ease in which we struck up a conversation. Seven beers and countless tales later, accounts of our respected travels, growing louder and more dramatic with each empty glass, and I finally had the nerve to bring up my predicament. As it turns out, he was heading to Nagoya on a small timber ship with a crew of eleven other men. I told him I was looking for transit to Japan, I had plenty of money, and that I would make it worth his and his captain’s while if they could find some room for me. He warned me that the conditions onboard were less than ideal, and I assured him it wouldn’t be a problem. He told me to meet with him tomorrow at the same place.

He didn’t show up until almost 10:00 the next night. I was on the verge of giving up and going home when I finally saw a tiny figure in the doorway. We locked eyes and he walked over to my table. I ordered him a beer and listened to what he had to say. The captain accepted my offer. They were leaving in two days. One of the deckhands had some medical issues and wasn’t capable of making the trip, so his bunk was going to be open anyways. I was to arrive at 6:00 a.m. on Monday ready to embark.

The Сумерки бегун was a fairly standard, if almost absurdly old (though this is also fairly standard among Russian ships), timber carrier. About 250′ long and 40′ wide, it had large cranes on both the bow and stern of the ship, as well as a second, smaller crane at the very tip of the stern. The majority of the interior was used for timber stowage. Two large compartments, one for each crane, were on either side of the ship. Between them there was a small section with the bridge above deck, and the crew quarters below.

Besides Kee Sye and myself, there were ten other crew members. There was Vladislav, the captain. A man with thinning hair whose hard stare and sharp voice put him somewhere between distinguished and despotic. Mikhail was the chief mate. An older man, in his mid 60’s by the look of him, he seemed frail compared to the rest of the crew, though if you saw him surrounded by members of his own age group he would probably strike you as robust. Zakhar, the second mate, looked about 40 with a fairly average height and build. Depending on the time of day, there would either be a slight tremble in his hands or else a faint redness in his cheeks. Where I would often see Vladislav and Mikhail debating with each other, Zakhar took his captain’s words with as infallible truths, and was often seen trailing behind him like a hungry dog.

The crew quarters were divided into three rooms with two bunk beds in each. The man whose spot I had taken was bunking with Alexsei, Wei, and Rodion. Alexi was the chief engineer. He had neatly cut brown hair and a nose you could tell had taken more than a handful of punches. When sober, he had a short, direct manner of speaking, but once he had a few drinks in him, he would oscillate between hostile machismo and awkward sentimentality. Wei, the second engineer, was from China. He was slightly taller than Kee Sye, standing at maybe five foot six, and possessed a relentless energy. He would spring, rather than stand up from a chair, and walked around the deck as if he were always on an important errand. He seemed legitimately interested in me and my homeland. I may well have been the first American he ever laid eyes on. However, his command of Russian was only a few rungs above mine, which made communication problematic. Rodion was the tallest crew member, maybe six foot three, and, despite his position as a wiper, he had the large muscular build of the deckhands. He had an aura of detachment about him, especially with regards to me. Despite sharing a bunk, we spoke to each other maybe three times in those first few days, with me trying to either break the ice or address some practical concern in broken Russian, and him giving a one or two word reply and moving on. Whether it was because I was a wealthy outsider or because that was just his approach to new people I can’t say. Though I would occasionally observe him in animated conversation with Georgy late in the evening.

The rest of the crew comprised of Georgy, the boatswain, as well as Viktor, Ganzorig and Nergui, who were deckhands. I’ll spare you the details of each, only noting that Georgy and Viktor were Russian, while Ganzorig and Nergui were Mongolian. Of the crew, only Kee Sye and Mikhail spoke English, so my communication with everyone else was pragmatic in nature.

I came aboard at the appointed time, careful not to disturb the loading process as I heaved my pack into my room and prepared for the voyage to come. I sat on my bed, debated going up and offer my assistance, but eventually decided that I would probably be more of a nuisance than a help. I ended up just kicking up my feet and waiting for the final preparations to be completed. Within an hour or so, the wood was loaded, the gangplank was up, and we were out on the open ocean.

The first few days were uneventful. I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, reading in my quarters while the crew went about their business. In the evenings I would sit in the dining area and occasionally chat with Kee Sye and Mikhail.
Kee would typically entertain me with stories of his adventures while I sat there taking it all in like an eager eight year old. Mikhail had many stories as well, but unlike the bravado that dripped from the Singaporean’s words, Mikhail’s voice possessed a sort of desperation. He had seen it all, and the weight of his lifetime on the high seas had left him hunched and weary. Still, I enjoyed talking with him, finding a certain folksy charm in his stark stories and peasant superstitions.

On the morning of the fourth day, the fog hit. It was unbelievable. The kind of fog that Eliot wrote about in Prufrock, with a thick, overpowering presence that you could almost feel rubbing against your skin. There was some debate among the officers as to how to procede. Vladislav felt that, given how far out at sea we were, it was safe enough to rely soley on their instruments without having to fear running aground. Mikhail disagreed. He brought up of the unreliability of the equipment, the strain it would put on the crew, and the possibility of getting lost. But mostly he spoke of omens, of tales picked up in the decades he spent far from the sight of land. He spoke of ships pressing through such fogs and never returning, and of unspeakable horrors recounted by those few who did. Vladislav made a show of dismissing such claims, trying to keep a stoic expression as he quiped some offhand rejection in his native tongue. Even then, however, I could detect an ever-so-slight quiver in his voice, as if it were the protocols of masculinity and not his calculating judgement that urged him forward. He gave the order to sail on.

Three hours later, we began to hear the screams. I was reading in my bunk when the horrible wails of what sounded like a young girl cut through the air with such intensity that my body shuddered in response. I ran up to the deck to see what had happened, and the confused voices and faces staring into the distance confirmed what I had feared. The voice had not come from the ship, but from below.

Somehow, the fog had gotten even worse than before, I could barely see the silhouettes of people standing ten feet in front of me. The confused voices began to get angry, and after a few minutes they were on the verge of yelling. I waited for a lull in the conversation to ask Kee Sye what was happening. He informed me that the crew had become divided over what to do, with one faction, led by Mikhail, urging that we abandon everything and turn around. Another, led by Alexi, proposed stopping the ship and trying to mount a rescue operation. A third group, led by Vladislav, argued that we should press our way through the fog as quickly as possible, that we would be free of it sooner if we kept going than if we turned around, and that we were so far away from the girl that by that point that, even if the fog lifted immediately, we would still have no hope of finding her. While Kee Sye was explaining this to me, Zakhar came rushing down from the bridge. According to Kee, he had attempted to send a distress signal alerting the authorities to the stranded girl, but wasn’t sure if he succeeded. The radio appeared to be functioning properly, but there was no response to his distress signal. Furthermore, most of the navigational equipment was malfunctioning, giving readings that were absolutley impossible. Immediately, the raised voices tranformed into a full blown screaming match, with each side taking the new revelation as proof of the righteousness of their plan. Eventually, Vladislav used his position to overrule the dissenters, and again gave the orders to push on. This time, however, there was open dissention in the air, and I didn’t need to speak the language to hear it.

Onward we drifted into the infernal shroud. Silence fell over the ship as the crew paced about nervously; gazing off into the murky gloom, seeking out some cause for the sense of doom that hung over us as palpably as the fog itself. It did not take long for the ocean to give its answer.

Those screams. Those horrible screams. At once roaring with untold power and yet quivering with all too human pain. It was as if every minute permutation of human suffering joined together in a demonic cacophony. Men well versed in the pains of violence and hunger fell to their knees like innocent children; tears bursting from their eyes and fear erupting from their mouths. Up and down both port and starboard we ran. The cries seemed to have no definite origin, yet we somehow knew their source lay right below us. Suddenly there was a commotion at the other end of the ship. I ran over and saw Viktor and Mikhail in a ferocious argument. Inscrutable words drenched in fear and rage flew back and forth as the fight began to shift from one of words to one of blows. Viktor suddenly dashed towards the railing. Georgy and Nergui tried to restrain him but swift elbows sent them reeling backwards and in an instant he was gone. Mikhail shouted orders as I ran to where he had jumped. The waters below were empty save the ever present swell of waves.

Lengths of rope were knotted into what my seaworthless eyes would call a modified a noose, or else tied to one of the two life preservers. Looking over the port railing, I saw a figure bob up to the surface, motionless excluding the ocean’s sway. I shouted out, and Kee Sye echoed my words in Russian as the whole crew charged across the deck. Ropes were hurled into the water. First came the life preservers, but when there was no attempt to grab on, everyone began to toss what they had into the water. Whether it was luck, skill, or something sinister that caused Ganzorig to effortlessly catch his knot around the figure I cannot say, but he did, so we grasped the rope and began to pull.

Looking back, there is one thing that strikes me about this rescue operation. Perhaps we were all too caught up in the madness of the moment to think about it, perhaps the fog was too thick for us to notice, but I find it shocking that nobody realized as we rushed about, trying to save our fallen comrade, that Vladislav and Zakhar were sitting in the bridge, ignorant of what was transpiring. It did not occur to anyone that as we scrambled to save that lone figure floating alongside us, our ship was speeding through the fog.

It was not Viktor who we hauled onto the deck, but a woman. We dragged her up, and as she crested the railing, a sense of trepidation grew within us. At first, we were not sure precisely what was wrong with her, though there was no doubt that something was amiss. Georgy pushed through the crowd, dropping to his knees to attempt first aid, but the moment he saw her up close he fell backwards and began to tremble. A wave of shock rolled through us as one by one we got close enough to see her. Her face, my god, her face. That nightmarish visage was burnt into my mind the moment I laid eyes on it. Barely a night goes by that does not see me shooting up from sleep, drenched in sweat, every awful detail recreated in my dreams exactly as it appeared before me on that light-veiled day.

The facial expression of horror exists at the most extreme limits of human body language. Every muscle of the face is stretched to an extreme degree. The eyes are open, but unlike the expressions of interest or surprise, in which the surrounding musculature stretches out vertically, when we experience horror, our muscles stretch back from the eyes in every direction, as if the very face itself is trying to escape from what its eyes are seeing. The mouth too is stretched to the limits of its expressive capability, and unlike a smile, which stretches horizontally, or a “jaw drop”, which stretches vertically, the muscles pull back in all directions, causing that instantly recognizable expression. The muscles in that woman’s face acted as I describe above, but somehow, they had stretched beyond anything I would have thought possible. Well beyond the typical limits of the human facial expression. It was like she had experienced something so horrifying that her face was forced to contort in ways no face had ever done before, or perhaps like it was stretched in terror for so long that the muscles involved had developed a strength unknown to the rest of humanity.

Once we had gotten over the shock of her face, we began to notice other strange things about her. When we brought her up, she was naked, and initially we had thought her to be elderly due to the wrinkles that covered her body. But then we began to notice some strange inconsistancies. The wrinkles of her face curved in odd ways to avoid patches of acne. There were a shocking number of cuts, scrapes, and bruises along her body. While a certain amount of injury is to be expected in the survivor of a maritime accident, what struck me about these injuries was how evenly they were inflicted across her body. There was not a one inch patch of skin unmarred by some kind of laceration. Fresh cuts sat atop an intricate web of scar tissue and her skin formed into miniature X’s wherever a fresh gash happened upon one that had’nt fully healed. Small holes offered windows to the world of organs and muscle within. Scrapes ran about her body in perfect curves like the intricate line patterns found in many Mosques. Fingernails and toenails ran the spectrum from nearly full to entirely absent, with blistered skin suggesting many had been recently ripped from the socket. Looking at her, it was impossible to escape the notion that these injuries were done by a calculating, sentient mind with the aim of inflicting as much suffering as possible.

Actually, there was one place on her body that was slightly different than the rest. On the small of her back, there was a large, circular hole much larger than the others, about two inches in diameter. There was nothing separating hee spinal cord from the outside world, and there was an odd spiral pattern that seemed to have been carved into the bone itself.

While we were deeply shaken by what we had seen, Mikhail in particular was profoundly disturbed. He had fallen to the ground, rolled onto his side, and his voice seemed completely devoid of expression. I knelt down next to him and put my hand on his shoulder. Despite something deep inside me knowing it was a lie, in as calm a voice as I could muster, I said:

“Relax. We’re safe as long as we’re on the boat, and it can’t be too much longer until this fog clears.”

There was a long pause as he stared at me the way a worn down first grade teacher might stare at a student who confidantly proclaimed that he had figured out a way to get rid of war and violence: all we have to do is take all the guns and knives away from all the bad people.

“No.” He finally said. “We are not safe. We will not flee her.”

“What do you mean?” I said incredulously. “Who the hell are you talking about?”

“She is the hunter. The cruel one. She has picked us as her prey. We will not escape.”

“You mean whatever did this to that poor girl is after us? If she’s as powerful as you seem to think she is, why hasn’t she attacked us directly? Why bother with the fog and the mind games?”

“It’s her way. She has many powers, but she can’t leave the water. She does not need to. We will come to her. In time all of us will come to her.”

“There has to be something we can do. If she can’t leave the water than we should be safe as long as we stay on the ship. We can turn around. This fog can’t be everywhere. It can’t go on forever. If this fog really does stretch farther than we can sail, then the whole world would know about it by now. There would be rescue missions. Every news station on the planet would be reporting on the death fog and the hunt for all of the ships trapped within it.”

Mikhail laughed a hateful laugh that shook me almost as much as seeing the girl.

“She has been around for ages.” He said. “As long as man has sailed the sea. You think some pathetic beaurocrat or a TV news man will save us. We are trapped.”

“There has to be something we can do.” I pleaded.

“Yes. There is.” He said. Lifting his hand he pointed a trembling finger behind me.

I had been so engrossed in Mikhail’s words that I had not noticed the commotion going on around me. I turned and saw people crowding together. I realized that all eyes were on Georgy. There was panic in his voice as he screamed out in his native tongue. The rest of the crew had assumed docile, placating tones and began slowly mving towards him. I made my way through the crowd just in time to see him drag the knife across his throat. All the fear and trembling fled his body as he crumpled to the floor.

The shock coursed through us, and we all began to truly grasp the true hopelessness of our position, each of us coming terms with it in our own way. Alexi and Nergui by walking away for a moment of solitude. Rodion by weeping atop Georgy’s lifeless body. Ganzorig by screaming into the uncaring and all consuming fog. The rest us stood motionless like a rat in the talons of an eagle, utterly aware of the futility of struggle. Time moved on. Alexi and Nergui returned. Ganzorig went quiet. Rodion’s sobs became muffled whimpers. Once again, silence fell upon us. Once again, it was broken by the screaming.

“She comes.” Mikhail said.

The screaming was much like it was earlier, a chorus of suffering pressed into a single voice. This time, however, it was not a girl’s voice. It was Viktor. As he reached the side of the ship the bestial ululations slowly took on the shape of human language. The climbs and dives in pitch made translating everything he said impossible, but certain words: “death”, “kill”, “please”, “end”, and “mercy” made his message painfully clear. The crew fanned out to gather what they could to aid him, some people grabbing the rope that was still tied from earlier, others, like myself, sprinting to our quarters to collect some device or another. I grabbed my backpack and ran back onto the deck, fumbling through my collection of trinkets and essentials until I found the set of throwing knives I purchased in St. Petersburg. I ran to the railing and did my best to aim at my target, a body at once familiar yet at the same time so contorted in agony that it seemed entirely unknown. Most of my shots were wide off the mark, but even the few that weren’t proved just as useless. Every time something came close enough to potentially end his misery, he would be dragged under the water, only to emerge moments later.

My ammunition exhausted I watched as the rest of the crew fared similarly. Even Alexi, who had the foresight to tie his machete to one of the lengths of rope so he could retrieve it, eventually came to realize the futility of this game. When he realized his best chance was to try and sever the long tenticle hooked into Viktor’s back, the creature moved him fifteen feet or so further from the ship, enough to ensure a fatal loss of accuracy but not enough to deaden the screams. With all hope of releasing our friend from his suffering evaporated, our crosshairs turned towards easier targets. Rodion began raving, and within moments Kee Sye told me we were going to storm the bridge and turn the ship around by force.

As we crowded around the top of the stairs, we realized Vladislav and Zakhar had barricaded the door. Rodion, Ganzorig, and Nergui took turns ramming it with their shoulders, Wei ran off looking for an improvised battering ram, while Kee Sye and myself went to the deck to see if we climb up and talk to them through the forward window. Perched precariously on the small ledge running along the second floor window, we saw too wide eyed men who seemed on the brink of delirium. They were intently gazing at something out on the horizon, and when I had carefully twisted myself around I realized we were sailing directly towards a single point of light cutting through the fog in the distance.

“Don’t you see!” I yelled, with Kee Sye dutifully translating. “That is obviously a trap.”

A furious burst of Russian, followed by Kee Sye’s English rendition.

“We will be free. This nightmare will be over. There is lighthouse aheas, or a rescue ship no doubt.”

“She’s toying with us. This is all part of her mind game. For the love of God, don’t sail towards the light.”

“They will rescue us. They must have been sent when they heard our distress call.”

“For all we know our distress call never even went out. None of our equipment has worked since we’ve been stuck in this fucking fog.”

“They are coming to rescue us. You will see. You will thank me when this is over.”

This continued for some time. Eventually, we realized that there was nothing we could say to get through to them. We climbed down and walked over to where Mikhail had stayed, and layed down next to him, resigned to our fate.

Viktor’s screams began to die down, or else we were just too numb to notice them, as the light grew larger and larger. The continuous banging let us know that the efforts to break down the door had been just as pointless. I turned towards the sky, trying to see if I could get one last look at the late afternoon sun, but even this was foiled by the merciless fog. Somehow, I began to feel tired. My eyelide drifted closer and closed. I wondered how long it had been since I slept.

I was awakened by a roaring symphony of destruction; metal being cut apart, various componants of the ship clanging into each other, the death wail of engines. I didn’t realize I was in the air until I came crashing into the foreward railing. I looked up and saw hundreds of rocks towering over me. They were shaped like spikes, four feet in diameter at their widest, shooting out of the water at various angles, some of them stretching forty feet above me. I quickly realized that the ship was pinned in its mangled position by the vertical spikes, while the angular ones had gutted her insides. Blended into the clamor of the sinking ship were even more screams. It was not just Viktor this time. With panic radiating through my body I realized that not everyone was lucky enough to have been saved by the railing. I sat up, scanned my surroundings, and noticed that both Kee Sye and Mikhail were nearby, apparantly having hit the rail five to ten feet down from where my body had battered it.

As I sat up, I heard a commotion further down the ship. I watched as Vladislav and Zakhar sprinted out from the stairwell, and realized they were taking off towards the free fall life boat. I jumped up, called out for Kee Sye and Mikhail to follow, then took off towards the stern with the two of them close behind. I watched as another two figures emerged from the stairwell in pursuit of the captain; it was Wei and one of the Mongolians. They were about 50 feet ahead of us, and by the time we rounded the corner they were allready struggling with the Vladislav and Zakhar, who were now inside the craft. Nergui was at the doorway, attempting to both hold the door for the rest of us and stop Zakhar from engaging the drop switch. Wei was right behind him, jittering and trying to figure out if there was anything he could do. Rodion’s expression indicated he had just come to as he sprinted around the opposite side of the aft while struggling to draw comprehension out of the confusion. Wei yelled something and he came charging towards them just as Vladislav pulled Nergui into the life boat, slammed the door behind him, and pulled the release. It went flying, slamming into Rodion on its way into the water and dragging him into the ocean. By the time we got to the waters edge there was no sign they had ever been there.

We didn’t have any time to mourn their loss. Within moments of their departure, the ship let out a deep, creaking wail. We fanned out along the railings, trying to better assess the situation, but there wasn’t enough time. The Сумерки бегу had cracked about 30 feet aft of the center, and the deck was rapidly tilting backwards. As I cursed myself for not saving one of my knives, the remaining crew began shouting in Russian. Suddenly, Kee Sye yelled that some of the timber bundles were drifting out of the exposed stowage, and that if we hurried we might be able to make the jump. I took of towards the split, and realizing I wouldn’t have enough time to scope things out, used my remaining momentum to make a leap of faith into the abyss.

My knees were the first to connect with the hard wood, acting as a pivot for momentum to transfer towards my face, which cracked the timber when the two inevitably met. I spent the next few moments in a daze, oblivious to the chaos that surrounded me as I assessed the damage. My nose was badly broken, and one of my front teeth was hanging on by a thread. I mourned the loss of my first aid kit until I went to lay down and felt my backpack propping me up. I dug out the kit, stuffed some gauze into my nose, and then laid back and rested my eyes for a moment.

The remaining daylight was almost gone when I reopened them. With a slightly clearer mind, I began to seriously assess my situation. There was no sign of the ship, the rocks, or anything but endless water, though this was hardly surprising given the ever faithful fog. What did surprise me was that I thought I could hear voices in the distance, ones that were not wailing in agony but seemed to be talking. I yelled out, and heard both Kee Sye and Mikhail answer back. They were sharing a bundle raft, and seemed maybe fifty to a hundred yards away. Mikhail had broken his leg in the fall, and was seriously worried about it getting infected. Niether had any supplies, so they couldn’t even amputate if it came down to that. I told them that I had a first aid kit, but I wasn’t sure how I could get to them. Apparantly we were caught in a current and were heading in the same direction, but as far as they knew we were not getting any closer. All of a sudden I heard a voice yelling in Russian from the other direction. It seemed much closer than the others, and I quickly realized that it belonged to Alexi. After a few minutes talking to Kee Sye he began to slow down and enunciate clearly for my benefit.

He said that he was below deck when the ship crashed, and he climbed onto his bundle before the Сумерки бегу ripped apart. Apparantly, due to a pressing need to get as far from the collapsing ship as possible, he discovered that if you grabbed hold of planks of wood, kept your chest on the raft, and kicked with your legs at the edge of the water, you could propel yourself forward without falling into her clutches. I was naturally hesitant, and made no secret of this fact, but I began to hear a rhythmic splashing sound in the distance. I dug through my pack, found my flashlight, and shined it at the source of the noise. I saw another makeshift lifeboat emerge from the darkness with a man spread halfway between it and the water.

Mikhail had understood enough of what was happening that he began to plead for me to come as quickly as possible. Concern for my friend suppressed the last remnants of my fear, so I took off my pants and found a good spot on the raft with beams of timber that stuck out enough for me to grab hold. I gripped the wood, and as I went to stick my legs in an odd feeling I couldn’t quite identify struck me. I grabbed my flashlight and turned it to the ocean. The light glided across the inky water before finally stopping at a massive pair of bulging white eyes almost directly under me. They were each two feet long and about a foot below the water. Entirely white save two pill sized black dots, they slanted inwards, and rose trembling out of their sockets with wild excitement. I moved the light towards the raft, and at the exact place my feet were about to enter was a perfectly round, gaping mouth; its lips, stretched to the waters edge, were peeled back, revealing layers of jagged, hooked teeth that wound their way down the gaping chasm.

I reached into my pack, grabbed a nesting doll of Soviet leaders, and hurled it directly at the bulging eye. She let loose a high pitched, clicking cry and darted off, propelled by webs made out of hundreds of fan shaped fins connected to her upper body. As she passed I saw malformed breasts, swollen to the point that they were leaking out the blood that apparantly filled them, and hundreds of tenticles emanating from the base of her torso. Some ended with jagged hooks reminiscent of her teeth, others long straight spikes, some tapered into writhing, wormlike extensions. A few of them were buried into the backs of my former crewmates. I saw Zakhar flailing about with panic in his eyes as though he were perpetually drowning, his facial muscles allready beginning to stretch back beyond their normal limits. I lifted my head just in time to see Alexi’s pure white eyes meet my own. Without breaking his gaze or reacting in the slightest, he reached his hand into his mouth and ripped out his tongue whole, before being dragged back into the water.

The next few days were spent drifting in and out of delirium. The three bottles of water in my pack saved me from immediately succombing to dehydration, but did not save me from having to endure the endless screaming. Some came from her toys, and some came from Mikhail and Kee Sye. On the first day they pleaded with me to find some way of joining them, on the second they rained down curses on me for abandoning them, on the third they went silent. Early on I tried to reason with them, tell them there was nothing I could do, but when men stand at the brink of death reason begins to lose its power. After the third day I too was out of water. I laid there for what felt like ages, waiting for the merciful hand of death.

When I first heard the helicopter I chalked it up as another auditory hallucination. I didn’t fully accept its existence until I felt the warm hands of the rescue crew lifting me onto the stretcher. After I recovered some of my strength, I worked up the courage to ask them about Mikhail and Kee Sye. I didn’t hold out much hope for their survival, but I figured the least I could do was ensure they had a proper burial. When I asked, the copilot gave me an odd look, and when I inquired further he told me: “You were the only one. We checked all of the other wood piles and they were totally empty. No clothing. No waste. No sign that anyone had ever been there at all.”

Credit To – Snowblinded

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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.


“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


“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


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!”


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!”


“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.”


“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.
‘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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