November 16, 1998
The sun set as the old Chevy veered along the beaten roads. Over the cliff to the right was what looked like a one-hundred-foot drop, it was nerve racking for the occupants of the blue 1993 Chevy Blazer. But the view was beautiful. The choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean. A storm was rolling in and the winds were beginning to cause the car to rock back and forth. This made the driver, Vikki, nervous. Vikki was a tall twenty-four-year-old brunette woman from the suburbs of Cincinnati. She had never traveled out west before and wasn’t sure what to expect. She had decided to take her friend Becca up on her offer to visit her parents’ vacation home. According to Becca It was a huge stone building overlooking the sea, complete with a fully stocked bar, hot tub and private trails leading down to the ocean. Vikki, Becca and their friend Paul, sitting in the passenger’s seat, had talked about this trip as if it were a certainty since the tenth grade. Becca had not been there in over nine years, but she had spent a summer there as a child and had romanticized it ever since. According to Becca her grandparents had previously owned the home but had been dead for years. The estate was left to her Parents. Who had kept it but hadn’t decided to do much of anything with the property.
Vikki had her doubts about how much fun they would really have. The group had managed to stay in touch since graduation. But over the past couple of years the relationship between the three of them had started to feel less natural and more like a responsibility. Like weeding the garden. You love the garden and you it brings you happiness, but after a couple of summers the thought of pulling the entire fucking mess out of the ground becomes tempting. This temptation had become stronger than ever over the past few months as planning for the trip fell into full swing.
Three years ago, Becca’s drinking had become concerning. Now that concern has grown to a life consuming addiction. There was a reason Becca was in the backseat. Six months earlier she wrecked her car into a playground. A woman and child were nearly killed but the mother saw it coming. She grabbed the child and pulled him out of the way. Unfortunately, their German shepherd had to be sacrificed in place of the kid. Becca spent four days in jail and lost her license.
The wind blew hard. The car rocked back and forth, and Vikki took deep breaths to try to keep the thought of swerving off the cliff out of her mind.
“How much further man?” said Vikki.
“About a mile, I think. It should be on the right.” Replied Paul.
“It’s looking pretty nasty. Trust me, where we’re going is the safest place to be out here. This place is solid. It’s on top of a cliff so it’s safe from flooding.” Said Becca from the back seat. “I’m not worried.” Said Vikki.
“Well, you look worried.” Said Paul laughing.
“The only thing I’m worried about are these crazy ass roads, and the wind trying to blow us off this Cliff.” Said Vikki.
The rain began to fall. Drip… Drip… All at once it poured. It became nearly impossible to see. Vikki slowed the car to a jogger’s pace. A huge gust of wind barreled in from off the ocean pushing the car against the cliff side. The Drivers side mirror was ripped off the car and the jagged rocks tore into the metal of the door. The back window burst, and the shards of glass flew into Becca’s face and cut her forehead. Vikki corrected by jerking the wheel to the right and leveled the car out. Breathing heavily in a panic, Vikki brought the car to a stop. They sat in silence for what seemed like a full minute but was only a couple of seconds before Vikki looked back and spoke.
“Is everyone okay?”
“Yes.” Said Paul.
“I’m not.” Said Becca in a trembling voice.
Vikki and Paul turned to look in the back seat and saw Becca’s bloody forehead. Becca was removing a T-shirt from a gym bag to stop the bleeding.
“Oh my God!” Said Vikki.
“Paul, I’m using your shirt.” said Becca.
Becca, with her hands trembling, pressed the t-shirt to her head.
“How much farther?” Asked Vikki.
“We should be there. It should be on our right.” Paul answered, looking at his map.
“There it is.” Said Becca squinting, her eye’s wet with blood.
Off in the distance hidden by the silhouette of towering Cottonwood trees they could see the giant house. Vikki put the car into drive and got back on the road. She turned off onto a gravel drive which led them to the house. “Alright, when we pull in let’s do this fast.” Said Paul.
Paul opened his door before the car had fully come to a stop. The rain was falling even harder now, and Paul was soaking wet before he had both feet planted on the ground. He turned and opened the back door to help Becca out of her seat. He could see that the blood had run down through her blond hair and into her eyes. It was safe to say that her vision was more than impaired. Paul had recently become a certified EMT and like most people just entering the medical profession, he was more than eager to put his knowledge to good use. He reached for her hand. “I’ve got it. Just grab my bag. The house key is in the side pocket. Vikki grabbed hold of her backpack and the three of them ran to the door through the harsh winds and rain. Paul stumbled through the bag trying to find the keys. He yelled over the wind
“Where are they?”
“In the side pocket!”
“They aren’t here!”
“Give it to me.” Said Vikki.
Vikki reached in and pulled out the keys. Paul scoffed; a little embarrassed. Vikki quickly opened the large oak door and they rushed in soaked to the bone.
“I can’t see shit.” Said Vikki.
“The switch is on that far wall.” Said Becca.
Paul stumbled around looking for the switch in the dark. “Got it.” Paul flipped the switch. Nothing happened.
“The power must be out from the storm. Hand me my backpack.” Said Becca. She reached into her bag and pulled out two flashlights. “Always come prepared.” she said.
Paul took a light and shined it around the room.
“Holy shit.” Said Paul.
“This place is incredible.” Said Vikki.
“I told you guys. Worth the trip, right?”
“Well… no I don’t think it was worth this particular drive but normally I would say yes.” Said Vikki.
“We need a first aid kit.” Said Paul.
“I think there is a bathroom up those stairs over there. It’s the second or third door on your right.” said Becca.
Paul ran upstairs.
“We need to liven this shit up. Come on, I’ll show you the bar.” Said Becca. Vikki followed.
“You sure you’re okay, you think you should be drinking with your head like that?”
Becca raised an eyebrow at Vikki and cocked a sly smile out of the corner of her mouth. That was enough to answer Vikki’s question.
“Alright, show me the bar.” Vikki said in a playful voice.
Becca had always found a way to make anything fun. Alcohol was usually a way to get that done quickly.
“Follow me, it’s over here.” Becca said, wiping the remainder of the blood, which was now starting to dry, from her forehead.
“I really don’t think it’s that bad. I can feel it under my hair. It’s just a scrape right behind my hairline. Must have nicked a vein. Small cut, lotta blood. Let Paul do his EMT thing. He’s all gung-ho to help anyone who needs anything right now.”
“He’s proud of himself.” Vikki said laughing. “Being an EMT’s a big accomplishment for him.
“Yeah, I know. We all know ha-ha. I’m just kidding.”
The two of them walked into the kitchen and pulled a bottle of red wine off the rack.
“Thanks for coming.” Said Becca
“Of course, now we have the age-old predicament of a bottle of wine with no corkscrew. “Classic.” Said Vikki. The two of them began opening drawers and sifting through the rags and silverware.
“No, I mean it. I need this. You guys are both doing awesome in life and I’m the one you have to babysi…”
“Got it.” said Paul as he burst into the room.
“Nice, thanks man.” said Becca.
“Boom! Corkscrew.” Said Becca handing Vikki the corkscrew. She began opening the bottle.
“Sit down Becca.” Paul slid a chair out from behind the bar. Becca sat down and Paul took the seat next to her and began to clean her wound using a small medical kit.
Vikki handed Paul a glass of wine.
“Thanks. This cut doesn’t look too bad.” said Paul as he wiped the last bit of crusty clotted blood from the wound.
“That’s a relief!” Becca said kindly. Vikki snickered.
“Whatever, you guys are dicks.” said Paul
“Seriously though I wouldn’t be drinking.” Said Paul.
“I disagree” Becca said as she downed her entire glass of wine in one gulp.
“Understood.” said Paul.
Paul took a drink of his wine.
“Come on, let’s go check out the living room.” Said Becca.
“This place looks just like I remember it.”
The living room was enormous. A large fireplace with the head of a grizzly mounted overtop. Large glass windows looking out over the sea. The side doors led out to a large patio with a clear view of the cliffs uncomfortably steep and rocky drop.
Lightning struck. A bright flash came through the windows.
“This is awesome.” Said Vikki.
“I told you! It took almost a decade to show you guys.”
Becca walked to the fireplace. The sound of an igniter was heard. Crack, Crack, CRACK. The gas-powered fireplace burst into flames filling the room with warm light.
“I had the best summer of my life here. I met this guy who lived down the road. He was fourteen and I was 13. His name was James but for some reason everyone called him red.”
“Was he a redhead?” asked Paul.
“No.” said Becca. “I had my first kiss with him out there on that cliffside”
“I bet he still lives here.” Said Vikki.
“If I lived out here, I would never move.” Said Paul.
“Wait until you see it when the sun’s up. Hopefully it doesn’t rain the whole time we’re here. You really never know what you’re going to get with a trip to the ocean.” said Becca.
The three friends drank late into the night. Laughing and reminiscing until they realized they had become very drunk. The rain had not let up once all night. The storm over the ocean seemed to be endless. Paul looked at the clock on the wall and was surprised how fast time had passed.
Vikki was asleep and Becca was beginning to nod off herself with a bottle of wine still in her hand. Paul reached for a blanket from the grey sofa and a couple of the burgundy throw pillows. He handed them to Becca.
“Yup, would you rather sleep upstairs in one of the bedrooms? I mean… By yourself of course. Not with me. I just mean you don’t look very comfortable.” Paul said.
“Paul, you’re a master of making an ass out of yourself.” Becca said with a tired drunken smile, half asleep.
“Ugg… I know…”
Paul rose to his feet. He walked over to the patio doors to take a last look at the storm before heading off to bed. He saw that the rain had let up a bit, but the wind was still raging. He decided to step outside. The patio was complete with a rooftop which shielded him from the brunt of the storm. The light mist that he was getting was very nice. Blowing in his face, it felt refreshing. He unzipped his pants and relieved himself off the balcony. He took a deep breath and listened to the sounds of the giant waves exploding against the rocky walls below the house. He then noticed a knocking. He looked down and saw a large shadow on the water. It was rocking back and forth. It seemed to be caught on the rocks. “Maybe a tree…” He thought.” No, it’s too thick.” Paul’s mind; being from Ohio, wasn’t accustomed to the possibility of actually witnessing a shipwreck in person. He focused his eyes and saw bits of white and the silhouette of something moving on top. “A person! They’re alive.” His exhausted, inebriated brain finally caught up to the situation. “Hello!” Paul screamed. He heard no answer. He zipped up his pants. Careful in his excitement not to catch himself in his zipper. He ran inside.
People get a certain kind of high from seeing others in peril. Traffic jams are often caused by people slowing down to watch the aftermath of a car accident. Sure, the driver will claim “I’m just slowing down to see if anyone is hurt.” As if they are the model citizens. In fact, the majority of these slow-moving onlookers are motivated by the urge to see someone else having a worse day than they are. Ego is a powerful thing. It all gets even better if the onlooker gets the opportunity to actually help the person in need. Proving themselves to be heroic in the eyes of the no doubt, dozens of people they will be repeating the story to.
“Guy’s come here, hurry!”
“Oh my God! What dude?” Said Vikki, half asleep.
“He’s drunk Vikki, go back to sleep.” Said Becca.
“I think someone is trouble out here.” Said Paul
Vikki and Becca came outside sluggishly. Already dismissing Paul’s claim as drunken paranoia.
“There!” Said Paul
“I don’t see anything.” Replied Vikki.
“Let your eyes adjust for a second just keep looking.”
“I see what he’s talking about. It’s right there.” Becca Said.
They couldn’t see much from they’re vantage point, but they could tell it was a man who was now clinging to the bow of the wrecked lobster boat.
“Hey!” She yelled.
“They were moving around all over the place a minute ago.”
“We gotta get down there.” Becca said
The winds picked up. They could hear a large tree limb break and fall close by.
“I don’t think so, we should call 911. Can’t they helicopter him out of here in minutes?” Said Vikki.
“There is no phone.” said Becca.
“What do you mean?” Asked Paul.
“This house has been empty for a loong time. Our family doesn’t own it anymore. My parents said the bank is going to auction it off. That’s why the power was shut off. And that’s why there isn’t a phone.”
“Oh my God. Becca what the hell is wrong with you.” Said Vikki.
“Guy’s, I just wanted to show you the place before it was gone. This place is full of booze and… I knew it was… I’m sorry I should have told you.”
“I can’t believe you. Do you know how much trouble we could get in!”
“Okay, enough.” Said Paul. “We need to get down there.”
“Can’t we call from the neighbor’s house? Red’s or who the hell ever!” said Vikki.
“Yeah, but I’m not even sure I remember exactly how to get there.” Said Becca.
“ Listen, we gotta get down there, this guy could be crushed against those rocks any second.” Said Paul.
“Let’s go!” said Becca, leading the way.
“There is a trail on the side of the house, there should be rope in the garage.”
The three of them ran down the slick embankment. They could see him clearly now. They stood directly above him. He looked to be about 20 feet down. The man looked to be old. Maybe in his 60’s. He had grey hair and a short beard. He sported a bit of gut as well. He was dark skinned but not black. It was hard to tell in the dark, but he looked to be Hispanic.
“Hello! Are you conscious?” Yelled Paul.
“Yes.” Said the man waving his hand in the air.
“We are going to throw down a rope. Can you catch it?”
“Get out of here!” He said.
A huge wave hit the boat and the man grabbed the bow even harder. Holding on for dear life. If he were to slip off, the waves would throw him into the rocks hard enough to grind him into pieces.
“You gotta do it now! Paul hurry!” Said Becca. Paul threw the rope. It missed the boat completely and landed in the water. It hadn’t occurred to Paul until now that he may still be too drunk to accomplish a rescue. He reeled the rope back in, took a deep breath, focused on his target and with all of his strength tossed the rope. It hit the bow and the man could have easily reached for it. He almost had. He stuck his hand out and then pulled it back resisting the temptation.
“GET OUT OF HERE! GO!” The man screamed.
He slipped but caught himself in time.
“What the hell is wrong with this guy.” Said Paul.
“We can’t leave him out here.” Said Vikki.
Becca looked around for a path. That might lead down to the bottom of the cliff to get them closer. She shined her flashlight down the dark trail. The rain was pouring so hard it was difficult to see more than five or six feet ahead. As the light made its way across the path, she could see the area illuminate. Except one spot. A spot in the middle of the path that refused to be anything other than a shadow. It was black. Darker than shadow even. Becca took a step closer. It began to take shape. First it resembled an animal, a dog maybe. Then it grew taller and became something closer to a tall woman. She could even see a few strays on a large mop of hair. Next it shrunk down and laid on the ground. Becca walked closer and could see that it was now a solid object. She took a knee. She was looking at a rag doll. The doll was made of burlap and stitched together crudely with jute twine. It looked heavy. Like it was filled with corn or beans instead of stuffing.
“Hey.” Said Paul. “Becca, we need the light.” Paul continued. Becca tried to stand but suddenly a sharp pain shot through her stomach. She fell to her knees and doubled over in pain. The voices echoed in her head. The trees began to spin. She could feel herself go cold and pale. Paul and Vikki ran to her.
“Becca, what’s wrong?” asked Vikki.
“I don’t know. Do you hear them?” asked Becca.
“What?” Replied Paul.
Becca cringed in pain and doubled over again. She had kept her eyes closed to avoid the sight of the spinning trees. She forced herself to look up and saw the shapes of human figures among the trees. She quickly brought up her light and pointed it at the figures. There, stood multiple black silhouettes… They were not human. They had no mouths, no eyes. They were blank expressionless creatures. Becca let out a gut-wrenching scream.
“WHAT! BECCA WHAT’S WRONG?” Vikki said. falling to her knees to hold Becca.
“Look!” Becca said, grasping the light.
“Becca. There is nothing there.” Paul said softly.
Becca looked again. They were gone.
“You didn’t see that? You didn’t hear the people?”
“We didn’t hear anything. Just you screaming.” Replied Vikki.
Suddenly the pain in Becca’s stomach dissipated along with the spinning trees. She stood up.
“I don’t… I don’t know wha…” Becca was interrupted by the sound of a wave breaking and the bassy sound of splintering wood. The three of them quickly made their way back to the cliffside and saw that the situation had become dire. The boat had been broken into two sections. One small section and a large section which looked as if it would soon split again. The man was clinging to the latter half. “We have to get down there. Now!” Said Paul, aggressively.
“Come on, I think I saw the trail to the bottom.” Said Becca.
Becca led them to where she had seen the shape enter the woods. In the same place where she had seen the figures, sat the edge of a very thin trail. It looked like only the deer had kept it from becoming completely overgrown with brush. The three of them quickly made their way down the muddy slopes. When they met the end of the trail, they found themselves looking out onto a cove. The ship was now 15 feet in front of them and they could see the man bobbing up and down in the swells.
Paul threw once more, and the rope landed right on the man’s chest. This time he only hesitated for a brief second before the primal instinct to stay alive kicked in. He grabbed the rope.
“Tie it around your chest!” Paul shouted.
As he brought the rope up, they noticed the man had something big in his hand. Whatever it was, it was making it difficult for him to tie the knot.
“You need to drop that.” Said Vikki.
“Your life may depend on it!” shouted Paul.
The man either couldn’t hear them or ignored their shouts of advice. Fumbling, he managed to tie the knot.
“Do you see that big rock to your right?” Paul said, shouting over the wind and rain.
“Yes!” Shouted the man.
“Head for that rock.”
The man placed one foot on the rock and shifted his weight. He knelt over, putting his left hand on the rock with the bag held firmly under his right arm. His left foot on the boat. He began to make his move to the next rock and slipped. He grabbed the top of the rock and was now barely hanging on.
“Are you okay?” asked Paul.
“I’m okay, the rock is slick.”
“Can you climb back up?”
“I think so.”
The group then noticed the bag was attached to the man’s wrist with handcuffs. Like an old mobster movie. The man began to pull himself up and almost instantly fell into the water. The waves breaking over him. “Guy’s pull!” Paul shouted. The three of them grabbed the rope and pulled with all their strength. The man drifted toward them, struggling to catch his breath between waves while holding onto the bag. The waves were powerful enough to rip his wrist in half as the bag drifted away. As they pulled a massive wave swept the man into the wall knocking him unconscious. This took all the tension out of the rope and caused them to fall backward onto the ground. They quickly rose to their feet and began pulling again. They hoisted the man up the cliffside. This proved a job as the man weighed at least two hundred and twenty pounds. After a moment they pulled the man over the cliffside and onto the path. He had quite a lot of blood meshed into his scalp and his wrist was badly cut from the handcuffs. Vikki shined the light onto his head so that Paul could examine the wound. On the back of his head, he found a one-and-a-half-inch gash. As the rain washed the blood away Paul could see bone. “We have to get him up to the house. You two take his feet.” Paul said.
They drug him into the house and laid him down next to the fireplace.
“Becca, I need that first aid kit and a needle and thread.”
“Got it!” Becca replied, running up the dark stairway with her flashlight.
“Vikki, get me a clean rag from the kitchen.” Paul demanded. Now, fully switched into his EMT disaster persona. Paul rolled the man on his side to light the wound by the fire. He threw a blanket over him and placed one of the throw pillows under his head. He shook the man a bit to wake him but got no response. Paul smacked his face a couple of times. Not hard, just enough to make his cold damp cheeks flap a bit. The man groaned and opened his eyes before drifting back off. Just then Vikki Came back with the rag. “Can you keep pressure here please, hold it tight. We need to stop the bleeding so I can stitch this.”
Upstairs, Becca was having trouble locating the sewing kit that her grandmother had kept in the vanity of her bedroom. She remembered that it was always kept in the top right drawer. The summer she had spent there included many hours helping grandma stitch together gifts for family and friends. She would turn baby clothes into memory blankets and embroider bible quotes onto Christmas ornaments for stocking stuffers. Becca should be able to find it even if the only available light was her now dying flashlight. She stopped her search for the moment, calming down and realizing she needed to clear her head. She was panicked from all the action and maybe too distracted. She looked at herself in the vanity’s mirror and whispered to herself “Where. The fuck. Is it?”
It was then that she heard a bassy Hum. Not behind her or anywhere in particular. This seemed to be coming from all around her. She looked into the mirror. In her mind she imagined she would see some kind of monster. Probably an old woman in a black dress she thought, like half of the horror films she had seen in recent years. This wasn’t the case of course. There was nothing. She turned and looked around quickly. Her light turned with her, surfing over across the walls. The sound stopped. “What the fu…” “Becca what’s the holdup!” Paul shouted from downstairs. “I can’t find the sewing kit!” She replied. She went to open the next drawer. When she reached for the handle, she realized the sewing kit was in her hand. “Do you need help?” Vikki Shouted.
Becca stared down at the old sewing kit. She struggled to think of when she may have picked it up. She then shook her head, shrugging it off as we all do from time to time when things are unexplainable and aren’t worth investing too much time into. “I found it; I’m coming.” Becca ran downstairs and into the living room, she handed the sewing kit to Paul. “Here.” said Becca. “Thank you.” Said Paul. Paul threaded the needle and asked Vikki to remove the rag from the wound.
Paul stitched the gash to his best ability, and they bundled the man up close to the fire. The Clock now reads two forty-nine. Paul went to the sink to wash the blood from his hands only to remember the water had been shut off. He sighed. Becca walked over beside him and pulled another bottle of wine off the rack. “Jesus Becca.” Paul said with a smirk.
“The hard part is done, right. I’m not planning to sit here and watch that French dude sleep. Want a glass?”
“Ugg Yes. ha-ha” Paul replied.
“Me too! He’s not French though, Becca.” Vikki said.
“Definitely Spanish.” Said Paul.
“How do you guys know he’s not French? Mila Kunis is Russian but looks Greek and has an American accent.” Said Becca
“Have another drink.” Vikki said passive aggressively. Her tolerance for Becca was running thin.
“I will, thanks! Ha-ha”
“First thing in the morning we need to walk to the nearest neighbor and call an ambulance. He needs a hospital. I think we should try to wake him up.” Paul said
“Let’s do it, come on.” Said Vikki. They stood over the man.
“I wanna know what’s in the bag. Isn’t that bothering you guys?” said Becca
“I kinda wanna know.” Said Paul.
“He has something he isn’t supposed to have. Oh! you guys, what if he’s a bank robber, that case is probably full of money or jewels.” Said Becca.
“Maybe. My guess is no… It could be medications.” Said Paul.
“Yeah, you’re right Paul. It’s probably 25lbs of blood pressure meds!” Said Becca. Joking at Paul’s expense.
“No one carries meds in a bag like that. Also, I think most people don’t handcuff their medications to their wrist. Actually! Paul, you’re a dumbass.” Said Becca. Paul rolled his eyes. “You’re hilarious.” He said sarcastically.
The bag was brown leather. It was very worn and appeared to be an antique. It had a combination padlock on the front, next to three large tears. The bag looked as though someone had tried to break into it at one time. The leather was most damaged around the lock. There was a small hole dug through, if you looked in it you might be able to see what was inside. Becca knelt and slowly leaned in toward the bag.
“What are you doing?” Said Paul
Becca turned on her flashlight which flickered a couple of times and let off a low glow. She shined the light into the hole. “Do you see anything?” Asked Vikki. “No, it’s not big enough.” She put her finger up to the hole and began to pick at it. The man made a noise and grunted. This startled Becca, she jumped a bit. After a second, she went back in for a second attempt to widen the hole. This time she stuck the end of her index finger in and began to bend and stretch the leather.
“Are you alright?”
“I don’t know! Something stuck me.”
“Let me see.” Said Paul
“That’s a burn.” Said Vikki
Becca sucked the end of her finger and shook her hand back and forth a few times, Shaking the pain away. The skin on the end of her finger was white. Most of the skin was peeling off. “What the hell is in there?” Paul said under his breath. He put his ear to the case and for a second, he heard a low vibration. He placed his hand on the case to see if he could feel the rumbling. That’s when the man woke.
“No!” The man screamed. He jumped back and put his back to the base of the sofa, clutching the bag. Becca’s eyes widened in surprise. Vikki Jumped behind Paul and grabbed onto his shoulders. “It’s Okay.” Said Paul with his palms outstretched in a peaceful gesture. The man looked very confused and angry as he looked around the room assessing the situation.
“I’m Paul, this is Vikki, and that’s Becca.” Becca raised her hand and waved.
The man took a breath and seemed to relax a bit.
“Nicolás.” The man said.
“Hi Nicolás. Do you remember what happened?”
“My ship. Sunk down. in de storm.” The man replied. He spoke English, but not well.
“Was anyone else on board?”
“What’s in the bag?” Said Becca abruptly. Vikki shrugged.
“Give him a minute Becca, he just woke up.” Said Paul.
“I’m not grilling him; I just want to know what burned My finger. This could be serious. What’s in the bag Nicolás.”
Nicolás said nothing. He looked to Paul.
“Nicolás, I am going to take this flashlight and look into your eyes. I need to check for a concussion. Is that okay?”
Paul moved in closely to Nicolás and brought the flashlight to each eye.
“Wow.” Said Paul.
“What?” Asked Becca.
“He doesn’t have a concussion.” Paul said, smiling.
“Nicolás, you have a head of steel!”
“Es, good?” Said Nicolás.
“Yes, it’s good”
Everyone had fallen asleep. Becca was the last person to nod off. She felt as if she was the only one concerned for their safety. They didn’t know this man and obviously he was hiding something potentially serious. Becca wondered how Paul and Vikki could dismiss this situation so easily. What was this man doing on the water in a storm so serious in the first place? He had to have been running from something. She thought about what kind of trouble they could be in. He could hurt them. Or whatever trouble he was running from may catch up with him and they would be there to take the wrath right along with him.
The clock now read three thirty-seven and the storm had finally let up. The house was totally silent all for the winds whistling through the trees in the yard. All at once the silence was broken by a crash. Everyone sat up. “What was that?” Said Vikki. “It sounded like it came from outside.” said Paul. They all ran out to the front yard. In the driveway was their car. The hood had been crushed by one of the larger cottonwood trees. “Son of a bitch.” Said Vikki. The Spanish man’s face was one of dread. Becca looked at him and said “What, Nicolás. What’s so scary?” Becca began interrogating the man. “Becca! leave him alone, he didn’t do this.” Shouted Paul. “I know he didn’t do it. But look at him, he’s scared shitless. He’s trembling. Why is he scared of a fucking tree! Does this not seem weird to anyone else? Nicolás, what’s wrong.”
“You are being crazy! It was loud, it started him. It scared all of us.” Said Vikki.
The tree then exploded into a storm of flames so powerful that it blew their hair back. The Spanish man dropped to his knees and started to pray. He was crying and shaking. Although his prayers were in Spanish, one word was understood by Vikki. “Perdónalos” Translated to English it comes out to “Spare them.”
Vikki stared at the man; her concern was now coming closer to being on par with Becca’s. She turned her gaze back to the burning car and tree. Paul looked at Vikki, seeing her face he now knew that something was horribly wrong. A bassy vibrating rumble began to trickle in from the trees and the winds picked up. Another tree fell. The rumble began to surround them. “We need to get inside.” Said Paul, shouting just loud enough to be heard over the roaring winds. All at once the storm returned in full fury. “Come on!”
Becca pulled Nicolás to his feet. He was dead weight, refusing to stop his prayers. Finally, she got him up and pulled him into the house as Paul went for Vikki. Vikki had not left her spot. She stood staring at the flames.
“We have to go.” Said Paul.
“They’re saying something.” She said quietly.
“Vikki, we have to get inside.”
Vikki Snapped out of her trance and ran inside with Paul. They slammed the door behind them. Nicolás was still praying under his breath. His eyes were closed, and he was hugging his bag tightly. Becca marched towards him.
His prayers continued, growing.
“Aunque ande en valle de sombra de muerte,
no temeré mal alguno, porque tú estarás
conmigo; tu vara y tu cayado me infundirán aliento.”
“Tell us what’s going on!” Becca shouted.
“Nicolás, you need to tell us what is happening.” Said Paul.
His prayers stopped.
“I try to keep it away.” Nicolás said.
“Tell us man!” Vikki shouted.
“Them. It.” Nicolás said.
“Okay, okay… Listen, calm down. Come here and sit down.” Said Paul. taking the man’s arm and helping him stand.
Nicolás sat down on the couch. He reached for Becca’s half empty bottle on the inn table and took a swig.
“I did… Es… es, something terrible. I was, young man. I did not know. I touched them. Jus’ a touch.”
He took another drink. A drop of red liquid rolled from his lips as he brought his hand up to wipe it away, he said. “I was… work a job for a periódico.. eh.. Newspaper. I took pictures. A collector of cursed things opened a museum in my town. I took pictures of all the things. When I saw the muñecas I could not look away. The collector warned me about the power. I did not believe it. The reporter and the collector left the room for moment and I… pick one up…
“Muñecas?” Said Paul.
“Dolls.” Said Vikki with a tone in her voice that did not conceal her opinion of how ridiculous this was.”
“They aren’t all evil. One pulls them to the light. It holds them back from doing worse things.”
“Jesus Christ.” Said Paul.
“Paul.” Said Becca.
“Shut up, what happened Nicolás?” Said Becca.
“People become different. Hurt themselves… They hurt their friends. No one lives but me. The Muñecas, they don’t go away from me.”
“So, throw them out! Burn them. Why do you keep them?” Said Paul.
“I touched them. Now they are stuck with me. I thought I could leave. I went home to my family the first day after.”
He took another swig of wine.
Vikki stood there not sure what to say.
“I cut-em up, Burn dem. After I finished, I realize I have only hurt myself.”
Nicolás pulled up his sleeve, revealing terrible burn scars and slices.
“All over my body.”
Paul stood dumbfounded.
“I have been at sea many years. That is the only way I keep them from hurting anyone. Every few weeks I must to go to town for supplies. I pray to God that I am quick enough that they don’t hurt anyone. Sometimes I’m not.”
“Why don’t they hurt you?” Ask Becca.
“I am the host.”
“You have to leave. Now!” said Becca
“We can’t do that Becca, calm down. He will die out there in this storm!” Paul said.
“Paul, we could all die if he stays here! He has to go.”
“I am not gonna be a part of killing anyone.”
Suddenly Becca felt a razor-sharp pain in her side. It took her breath away. Her eyes widened in shock.
Vikki Had plunged a steak knife into Becca’s side. Becca let out a shrieking scream. Vikki pulled the knife out and re-inserted it between Becca’s bottom two ribs. Becca turned and with her adrenaline pulsing she swung. She delivered a powerful punch to the side of Vikki’s head. Paul ran over to grab Vikki. Just before he arrived Becca had grabbed the metal lamp from the coffee table and knocked Vikki again on the side of her head. She lay on the floor unconscious.
Becca fell to the floor breathing heavily and panicking. She felt the warm blood drooling through her teeth, down her back and side. Slowly it seeped into her jeans and down to the floor where it pooled on the rug.
“Aunque ande en valle de sombra de muerte,
no temeré mal alguno, porque tú estarás
conmigo; tu vara y tu cayado me infundirán aliento.”
Paul held pressure on the wounds as tightly as he could.
“Don’t panic, Breath. Take deep breaths.”
Paul listened carefully to her breath. He didn’t say anything to Becca but secretly he feared she had a punctured lung.
She had not.
“Whu… whut the fuu…?”
“Don’t try to think. Hold this tight.”
Paul placed her hand on the wounds and pressed down.
“I have to go to the kitchen to get some rags. Look at me. You’ve got this” Paul said.
“Yeah.” Replied Becca.
Paul got up to go to the kitchen and saw that Vikki was gone. He stopped and looked around the room.
“Paul. Where is she?”
“Just keep that pressure on there okay, your gonna to be fine”
Paul ran to the kitchen. He grabbed the last two rags from the drawer. He returned and found that Becca had gone ghost white and was sweating and shivering. He grabbed her under her armpits and pulled her closer to the fire. She grunted hard from the pain.
“They don’t look that bad. It looks like she didn’t get any organs and they don’t look too deep.”
“Paul, I need a doctor. I’m gonna die. I feel like I’m… passing out.” Becca said, gurgling up blood.
“I know but listen, the phone is out, and we don’t have a car. We need to keep you here. Warm by the fire. We just need to keep pressure on it. When the bleeding stops, I’ll stitch these up.”
The sounds of glass being smashed and screaming echoed down the hall.
“Where is she? Paul she was right there, where is Vikki?”
“Calm down. I’m gonna go find her.”
“Es not your friend anymore.” Said Nicolás.
“She’s fucking crazy Paul! I’m scared! Stay here… If she comes back, we’ll deal with it.” Becca pleaded with Paul.
“She’s, our friend. She’s going to kill herself up there. I’m… I’m going. I won’t let her hurt you.”
Paul walked down the hall into the shadows. Nicolás passed the bottle of wine to Becca.
“He is a fool… But it doesn’t matter. None of you will live. I’m so sorry.”
The sound of the vibration began to creep into the room.
Suddenly the smell of burnt hair hit Becca’s nostrils. She looked around the area of the fireplace and couldn’t see anything burning. She then looked over at Nicolás. The handcuffs around his wrist were glowing red. His skin was sizzling.
They were faceless.
“You’re burning!” were the only words that Becca could muster. She tried to scoot herself over to him but the stabbing tender pain in her back and side quickly put a stop to that.
Nicolás was not reacting in the slightest. The humming was louder now and accompanied by a rumble. As Becca watched in horror, his wrist began to drip. Rendering down to a mixture of char and melted flesh. The smell was putrid.
“Hey!” Becca screamed. “Paul! I need you!”
Nicolás’s free hand reached out and began to dial the combination into the locks on the front of the bag. “Nicolás, stop! Wake up!” She kicked him in the thigh and hip bone. She tried to kick the bag away from him with her legs but couldn’t reach. As Nicolás dialed in the last number the bag made a soft clicking sound. He picked up the bottle of wine and smashed it into pieces on the hardwood floor. Slowly, he began to put the shards into his mouth and swallow. Gagging and drooling slobber and blood. “PAULE! HURRY!” The roof of the case began to rise. The case slid across the floor to Becca with a quick force, pulling Nicolás over and causing him to fall to the floor. He continued swallowing glass in the fetal position.
They were simple. From the story Nicolás had told, Becca expected them to be scarier. Her mind had concocted a vision of gruesome looking voodoo dolls with jagged teeth and beady wooden eyes painted red. Probably with the blood of a goat, or child. But no. Becca knew these dolls from the path. Stuffed and stitched with jute string. And faceless. Becca remembered. The dolls had been in her head. She thought this entire mess may have been caused by them, going all the way back to the storm rolling in and their car hitting the cliffside.
6 of the dolls looked Identical. But the seventh had a white powder like fabric. This must be the good one.” She thought.
The dolls all at once sat upright. Then they stood, as if being controlled like a marionette. They rose into the air and the 6 dolls formed a circle with the white doll in the middle.
Becca watched the dolls closely. One by one the black dolls heads fell to the center of the circle. The white doll in the middle began to twitch. The limbs of the doll started to pull in all directions. Not a sound was made but somehow, she could feel the thing screaming. In her bones she could hear the howling pain of what should be an inanimate object.
Paul came running around the corner. “Becca! I got her!” Said Paul with an ear-to-ear smile. In his right-hand Paul held the steak knife he had taken from Vikki. In his left he held her head.
Vikki’s mouth hung open, her eyes milky and rolled back into her skull. Paul began to stab the head again and again. The sound of the knife hitting the bone was loud in the quiet room. Thunk… Thunk… Thunk… Becca was frozen in shock. The only reaction she was able to get out was her quivering lip and teary eyes. She knew that she was totally vulnerable and was more than likely about to die. Just then the six dolls began to rotate in the air. The seventh white doll held still in the center of the circle.
It was at that moment that she was flooded with the adrenaline that we hear about in news articles “The woman who lifted a car off of her child” Suddenly she felt no pain. Her vision was tunneled, and her mind had only one thought. Run.
Rising to her feat would have been excruciating if not for the adrenaline pumping through her body. Becca popped up like a marathon sprinter. She pushed off her right leg and like lightning Nicolás’s bloody hand reached out, grabbing her ankle. She tripped and fell to the ground. She looked back to her feet to get an idea of where he was and with all her strength kicked him in the nose. His nose broke sideways and his teeth protruded through his bottom lip. His hand released her. She rose to her feet to find herself staring into Paul’s chest. Paul stood totally still. Becca looked up to his eye level and saw that he was not looking at her. He was looking over her shoulder. Just behind her hovered the white doll. It began to let off a hum. The pitch was higher than the others she had heard. Paul looked down at Becca.
“What’s wrong?” Asked Paul caringly.
“Nothing, I… I’m okay Paul.” Said Becca in a calming voice. I just need you to stay here. I’ll be back in a minute. I need to go to the restroom.”
“Okay, holler if you need anything!” said Paul smiling, showing the blood in his teeth.
Becca quickly made her way down the hall. She told herself not to look back, but she couldn’t resist. Behind her she saw Paul Straddling Nicolás and plunging the knife into his stomach repeatedly.
The dolls continued to dance, levitating in the center of the room. The hum was louder than ever. She could see Vikki’s head laying on the floor. Her best friend’s beautiful face sagging and full of holes. She stared at the macabre expression.
Becca stopped running and took a second to watch “Peaceful.” Becca thought. The coagulation seemed to glow by the fire. A luminance of red. When Becca was 16, she had surgery to remove her burst appendix. She was terrified of surgery and was in the midst of a terrible anxiety attack as they took her into the operating room. The nurse injected her with Ativan to calm her down and she felt an immediate euphoria. She started to giggle and had never felt so at peace. Staring at Vicky’s severed head had given her the same sensation.
Then the feeling grew stronger. The feeling of your mothers’ fingernails scratching your back as you lay in her lap watching a movie before bed. The ultimate sensation of comfort that we all romanticize. She looked up at the doll which now had an aura of pink and blue pulsating and spinning with them.
Becca realized everything she had believed about good, and evil was wrong. Life is wrong. It keeps us away from peace and in almost constant pain. The arguing, the politics, the destruction of everything we love. Human beings are evil things with good intentions. Why were we born? We spend every moment consuming in the pursuit of happiness instead of being happy. Letting yourself die will end all of that. Becca saw it all in Vikki’s face and the message echoes through the ether.
Becca’s vision began to blur. She felt tired. The vibrant colors grew grim and the inviting ora around the dolls turned crimson. She fell to the ground. The next few hours came to her in bursts of hazy consciousness and twilight state.
“This one is alive.”
“Oh My God get back up!”
“Is anyone in the house? If you can hear me, I suggest you call out now!”
“We will live with him.”
“Vultures picked my mother’s corpse apart.”
“Feed us, feed us.”
Becca opened her eyes and looked around the room. She saw blood splattered walls and the mutilated bodies of a dozen police and paramedics. She heard sirens approaching as she drifted back to sleep.
When Becca regained consciousness, she found herself lying in a bed. The sunlight was shining brightly in her eyes through the window to the left. She looked around the room and saw that she was in her childhood bedroom. There was medical equipment and hallmark cards littering the room. She rolled on her side to begin to sit, but the sharp pain in her back and side put a stop to that. She grunted in pain. Then she heard footsteps moving quickly down the hall towards her room. Her mother entered.
“Sweetheart! Jeff, she’s awake!”
Her mother ran to her and sat down on the bed grabbing and squeezing her.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I have been so scared.” Becca’s mother said, crying.
Her father ran in with tears in his eyes.
“Thank God.” Said Jeff.
“Did anyone else make it?” Said Becca through her deep haze of medications.
“Ww…we can talk about all that later baby. Give yourself a little time. You are so strong.” Said Becca’s mother, a smile on her face and tears in her eyes.
Her father sat on the other side of the bed and took her hand.
“Becca, we found the dolls in your bag,” said Jeff.
“In my bag?”
“Yes baby, they belong to you now! Our family is blessed.” Said her mother.
Becca looked at the dresser against the wall behind her parents. The dolls sat on display. Becca watched as the dolls rose and danced in the air.
“You have brought peace into our home. We all see it so clearly now. We can live in the light!” Said Jeff.
Outside of her bedroom window, sirens, screams and laughter could be heard.
“GOD BLESS YOU”
Credit: Jordan Epperson
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