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The Poolhouse in Weinwick, Oregon

The Poolhouse in Weinwick, Oregon


Estimated reading time — 75 minutes

For Christyana and Dean: The shrapnel of my contagion. If you know, you know.

The following is a transcript of a transcript, having been posted to an early internet forum page called “Oregontalesandtrails.com” in 1998 by an anonymous user. It’s claimed to have been typed based upon a book of letters addressed to someone named Conrad. The story was shared as a popular copypasta by email.

Each letter was posted in succession each week after the first, inciting interest from several users. After this forum soap opera ended, it received little buzz before falling away to obscurity.

Forgotten for years, it’s recently gained a small amount of interest as a cult study after being asked about on a few obscure media forums.

Efforts have been made by forum users to find the person or persons that this might have been written by, but few leads have turned up in the years since.

Regardless, it’s an interesting read and a testament to early internet legends and rumor farming. I’d like to personally thank users “Alansmilesfornoone” and “Peachy78” for their help in cataloging and archiving what remains of this little story from the good ole days.

Please enjoy.

Samuel Giest

8/15/1995

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Hey, Conrad.

Boy, do I wish you were here, and not me. You should see the state of the place, now that the holidays are coming up. The streets smell like pumpkin, and there’s spooky decorations stuck on every porch, tree and window. I actually just got done setting up a little pumpkin patch out in front of the Rec, the elementary school kids are gonna come by on Friday to pick the ones they wanna take home and carve. I did it without any help from our all powerful manager Vince, too. Cassandra actually helped me out. She felt bad that she was gonna have to leave me here to finish the rest of my shift alone, but I don’t hold it against her.

I’d leave too if I had the chance.

I did ask her to rake up the leaves on the Baseball and track field before she locked up, though. Really, it’s the least she could do. Don’t even get me started on the madness at school, the holiday is taking over the place. Last week, we had a group of those metalhead kids run screaming down the hall wearing Halloween costumes. Ms. Crouch caught one of them and chewed him out in front of her entire fourth period class. Truly, a testament to the stock we grow here in bumfuck nowhere.

I’m actually writing this while on shift. I’m in the lobby, sitting at the reception desk. I’ve been staring at the tacky wooden walls so long that I think I’m going crazy. I really hate that sign above the door, you know the one. It’s so gross and cheery and I can’t get those silly words out of my head. “Thank you for having fun with us! Please, come back to Weinwick Recreation Center again soon!” It’s so damn hoakey that it makes me wanna barf.

I’ll have to head out and do our security rounds here in a minute, but It can wait till I’m finished writing. Ever since you left, I’ve been stuck with twice the work and half the sleep. I’ve been thinking of moving to day shifts, since I’m all alone now anyways. But, the pay is really good. Little Mimi needs her cat food, and I’ve got to make the big bucks so she doesn’t starve. She misses you, dopey. I’m sure she hates being home alone all night, at least when you were here, she had a visitor sometimes.

How’s University? I hear the Ducks are having a rough start this season, can’t say I’m doing much better. It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve heard back from you, Dopey. Maybe you’ve gone and left your old buddy to focus on a new girlfriend, huh? Boy, would Vince get a kick out of that. Both of us stuck working nights here at the Rec center, and you’re up in Eugene, dating some coed. If that’s the case, I really hope she’s nice. Maybe you could bring the mystery lady back home with you this summer. You could show her all the WONDERFUL sights we have here in Weinwick. I bet she’d dump you on the spot, ha ha.

Anyway, I don’t really have much to update you on. I’m still here, still being Vince’s good little watchdog on graveyard shift. Though, nights have been pretty busy the past couple weeks. The Weinwick Wombats have been down on the baseball field every other night, putting in some practice before the season starts. Sheesh, it’s seems like forever ago you and me were wearing those uniforms.
Remember when you were getting hassled by that little prick down the street? He was talking mad crap while you were on the pitching mound. He was up to bat, and you nailed him in the forehead? He didn’t even get a chance to swing, god that was hilarious. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews have been hitting the gym like nobody’s business. Can I just say, cleaning their sweat off the equipment might be the nastiest part of my day. Tell you what, when you get back, YOU can take care of bleaching the weights. No more old people sweat for me, thank you.

At any rate, I’m okay. I get bored a lot, though. Vince hasn’t been showing up lately. I haven’t seen him in a week, but I guess I shouldn’t complain. Ever since he came back from Uni, he’s been a real stain. You better not come back with the same attitude, or I’ll kick your ass, Dopey.

You know, I don’t think he’s doing too well. I mean, yeah he’s all smiles and stuff. But he looks very, very tired. I don’t know. He’s all sweaty. His shirt sticks to his skin all the time, and he’s got these fat purple circles under his eyes. You know he dyes his hair now? Yeah, that’s right. He’s now the only Bellenshamp in Weinwick city limits with black hair instead of blonde. I think he’s got himself on some sort of pedestal. None of the family has heard from him in a minute either. That cousin of mine, am I right?

Speaking of the rest of the Bellenshamp tribe, nobody really visits me and the house anymore. I think they just assume I’m okay. I’ve been by myself this long, what do they have to worry about? Truth be told though, I can’t be alone there too long. I just sleep so I don’t have to look around. I spend most of my day like that, passed out on that old floral couch with the tv on. Half the time I’m wrapped up like a mummy in my mom’s dusty old blankets, the heater stopped working last week. I leave all the lights on too, just so the room is bright when I wake up. I wasn’t any comfier when you were here, but I really miss the company. I see other sixteen year old guys running around with girls at the movies, or shopping downtown. Meanwhile I’m at home, staring at Mimi and the 1950s furniture. It’s a real drag. Don’t feel bad though, I’m proud of you, really. You’re super smart, and I’m sure it’ll be fun up at uni. I just miss you is all.

Alright, Con. I best be getting back. I’ve still got to patrol through the fields out back, and I’ve gotta check up on the poolhouse. God, I wish they’d just light that whole damn building on fire. Those giant windows on the front really bug me out. They just stare out at you, like the thing is hungry or something. You know, the other night, Vince caught one of the Peltzer kids throwing rocks at them. I wish he would have done a better job, maybe taken one of that place’s eyes out. They’re supposed to come by in the spring to renovate the place, get the pool cleaned and stuff. Man, that place hasn’t been open since my DAD was a kid. But, I guess it beats building a whole new deal from scratch. Still though, it’s just so big and empty.

I’ll write you again soon, Conrad. Gonna keep all my letters in a notebook, that way you’ll have to take your time reading these instead of some dusty old textbook. Talk to you later, chump!

Jed B.

8/15/1995 – 11:30 PM

Con, I just got back from my rounds, I had to call the police. You gotta hear about this, man. I’ll tell you all about it later, I can’t think straight right now. The water was everywhere, there was a guy in the place, I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I gotta call Vince anyway, get him down here to help me figure this out. I don’t get paid enough to have Sheriff Gerald hounding my ass. Oh, god damn it, that guy’s face is just sitting in my head, all twisted around like that. Jesus Christ, Con, I wish you were here.

Jed B.

8/17/1995

Hey, Conrad.

God, you’re not gonna believe a lick of this. I’m not even sure any of this has really happened at this point, ha ha.

I’m at home now. I just got back from school, actually. I haven’t really gotten a chance to sleep at all, not even at the police station. They left me alone in that room for a while, but I wasn’t really tired. My brain was going a million miles a second for hours and hours. Didn’t help that the walls were all white. It stinks like hell, too. But, The receptionist at the station gave me a cup of coffee every couple hours. She was this real nice old lady, skin like tissue paper. I must have had about ten cups before they let me go. At any rate, it was better sitting in there than in a room alone with Sheriff Gerald. I’ll never understand why people would vote for a guy that MEAN.

Okay, so I’m gonna get this down before I tucker out. Mimi is staring me down, I think she knows I’m tired and wants to cuddle. Okay, here we go.

I was on my walk. I went through the employee exit and headed toward the locked gate where we keep the golf carts. Now, I wanted to grab one so the rounds didn’t take so long, but the engines busted on one and the other wasn’t even filled up, so I’m walking. So I open the gate up and close it behind me, and dig out that giant baton flashlight from the pocket of my uniform jacket. It’s snowing, of course. There was like, six inches already, and there must have been a foot by morning. But I start out onto the field, trudging along. Thinking about it now, it was like this great big sea of snow from there. Right up to the fence line, every inch shiny white. I could see the waves of fat snowflakes falling and felt them melt onto my cheeks. It was freezing. The whole night was windy and white and cold. Except for the Poolhouse, standing out there in the corner of the property. It was black in the night. Tall and looming, like a storybook monster. You could still make out those damn windows though, the light from the Rec glancing off the glass. And I walked out there, feeling it watching me all the while.

I must have only been a few yards away when I heard the crash. I was hit by the echo of shattered glass and I know now that I should’ve just called the cops. I froze up, Con. I stood out there in the snow and in the cold like a moron. I don’t know what I was thinking, I could just walk back and get the jailhouse on the phone. But I didn’t. I followed it. I just started jogging toward the poolhouse.

I get to those big wooden doors, keeled over and breathing like I’d ran a mile. Hot fog is shooting from mouth like water from a hose and I fish the ring of keys from my belt loop. Im jerking the stupid old lock around trying to stab the bastard into the keyhole, and I swear to God, there’s this horrible SCREAM. Mean, every fucking inch of my body lights up like a Christmas tree and I’m standing there with a head full of static. It was so loud, and it was really, really sad sounding. Like a baby almost, just pathetic. The hair on my head is standing up and I twist the key without even realizing it.

The scream was echoing through the field and in my head, and I can still remember the wet way it warbled out. Like it was a banshee drowning. The lock clicks and I feel it fall from the chain around the door handle and bounce off the toe of my workboot. That giant old door creaked open, just enough to let the dark out a bit. I could smell this awful mossy smell from in there. Mold, or something. It was ancient and terrible and nasty and I had just heard the most terrifying scream I’d ever heard from just inside. I don’t know, con. I just don’t know why I went in. I was all up in arms, and my blood felt hot. I wanted to be done with this whole thing in a hurry, but you could say that the prospect of calling Vince up that late was the real reason I’d decided to brave the dark. Who knows, right?

They must have left this place to rot, Con. From whatever day back then that they shut these doors, they must have let well enough alone. My first footstep pressed into a bed of dead leaves and pine needles. When I followed it in, I felt the air choke the breath out of me. Not only did it stink, it was disgustingly warm. Outside, I’ve got Jack Frost jumping on my dick, but in there, it’s an absolute swamp. When I swung the flashlight around, I could see the moldy wall tiles glisten with condensation. The floor was littered with faded old sign-in papers and dust, you could barely make out the checkered paneled flooring underneath.

I take it a little further, and I catch the words “Pool This Way! PLEASE NO RUNNING!” painted all pleasantly on a hanging-sign right above the end of the hallway. I even said it when I was standing there, I said no way, no fucking CHANCE I’m getting caught any further in this goddamned creep-house. But then there was that scream. There was the crashing outside, and one right after the other, too. That wasn’t just a problem, this was BAD. I HAD to go down there. Maybe Vince would have me minced at the thought of incident paperwork, but Gerald would have my ass jailed if I’d just given a shout and left them to figure it all out.

And that’s just how I figured it, standing there in that warm, dark pit. I don’t know. I was stuck, and there was really only one way out without losing my job. So I called out to whoever and whatever, starting to walk toward the Pool Room.

The stink doesn’t let up in there. I’ve been trying to compare it to something since I got home. Trying to find something close, but nothing comes to mind. What’s even creepier, are the vines of dead gourd plants crawling along the seam of the wall and floor. Long dead, probably years old. Now spreading like cracks across the tile, above and below and on the walls. I watched them all dissapear once I turned the corner at the end of the hallway, and stepped into the dark.

There was this rush of air as I walked in, like the immediate impression that the room had gotten impossibly big. The dark in there felt heavier than in the hallway for sure. So there I was, standing in this hall, and the stink was stronger here. I could smell it waft over to me from the center of the room. There was this slapping sound, and I guess it was the pool. The water was washing against the rim, heavy and strong. Like someone had just tossed a big rock in there just a few minutes before I’d gotten in. I called out again. I didn’t want to go further in if I didn’t have to, and after nobody called back, I was pissed that I’d have to investigate a bit more.

The pool was in here with me, though I couldn’t see much in the beam of my flashlight. But I knew it was there, and I knew it was big. 27 yards of pitch black ooze waited for me somewhere ahead, wanting to swallow me up. No idea how deep it is. I don’t want to think about it. I hate remembering the noise of churning water, bouncing off the walls in there.

So do I leave? Do I take a couple laps around the room to see if someone’s hiding out? I didn’t have a choice. As I was walking further in, I kicked something and I heard this ping sound. Whatever it was rolled out into the dark. I heard it roll over the tile floor, and then the ominous plop sound of it landing in the water. I swing the flashlight out, not too sure what to expect at first. But I caught a metallic glint in the nasty green waves. It was a can of spray paint. The water knocked it around, the little ball inside hitting the walls of the can as it turned in the waves. Someone had brought in a can of red spray paint and emptied the damn thing. I figure somewhere on one of those walls, I’d see whatever they’d painted. But I didn’t get time to look for it.

Conrad, this is all so blurry in my head. There’s so much that happened last night, I just don’t know how to get into it. But it was like this.

I was watching the can bob around in the water, when I felt something wrap around my ankle. It gripped me hard, and Instantly knew that it was someone’s hand. I bolted up like I’d been electrocuted. The hand held tight though, and with the tile around the poolside being so slick, my foot didn’t know where to land. I smacked into the floor and hit my head on the ground.

But I didn’t think twice about it, in a second I was smacking the flashlight into whatever was on my ankle. It came down hard and I heard something crack underneath the head of the light. Whatever had me, let go. I wasn’t gonna let it get another hold so I squirmed my way back and away from it. There was this horrible wheezing sound, and I whipped the beam of the flashlight in its direction.

I wish I just called the police, Con. I really do. I want you to know that if I would have been in my right mind, I’d have helped. I mean it, really.

About five feet away from me, there was this guy. He was crumpled in a ball on the floor, soaking wet. He was laying in a puddle of sludge, his shirt and pants soaked to his skin. I noticed his mop of black hair and the way his ribs poked through when he exhaled. At his sneakers, a trail of something red and whatever else lead back to the edge of the pool. I had a feeling that I knew what it was.

I couldnt get a word out. For a second, our breaths were the only thing I could hear. Then, I saw his fingers uncurl, and he patted around the empty air. I guess he wanted to grab onto something, anything. That was when he looked up at me.

Conrad, I was frozen. His hair was curtained over his forehead, and I saw his eyes. They were bloodshot, shaking in his head. I watched him enter the light, and saw that the entire half of his face was gone. Not just scratched, or burned. The skin was melting down his cheek. Clumps of pasty white flesh sliding down his chin. I could see glazed muscle sinew showing in some places, and the eye was bubbling around the rim. It was covered in this ink, some kind of black oil stuff. Everywhere it touched, another inch of his head gave way. A stream of blood swam down the bridge of his nose, mixing with the oil. We locked eyes, and his mouth opened and could see a segment of jawbone under his teeth. He screamed.

It was loud and gargled and painful and I pissed myself, Conrad, I pissed myself right there on the floor. We both laid there in the quiet, myself on the verge of going apeshit. Then, I caught something moving behind his legs. I shot the light over, and I barely caught something moving. Something on the edge of the pool, hovering over the end of that bright red trail of blood. It was hard to make out, it was all so fast. But it wasn’t really anything I can describe. Think, think of a trash bag. The lip of a big black trash bag, just slinking back into the pool. That was it, that’s what it looked like.

Well at that point, I’d had a fucking fit. I started kicking and struggling to pull myself up and I dropped the flashlight somewhere in the moment.

I ran, Conrad. I ran so goddamn fast, all through the snow and the gates. I must have slipped a hundred times, but I didn’t stop until I had the Rec phone in my hand and the sheriff’s number dialed. Nobody answered the first two times, but I kept trying. I got them to send Gerald and Karlson, and I asked for an ambulance. Said they’d have to grab one from the hospital in Portland, but I said to do it anyway.

I sat there on the floor, under those fluorescent lights, and I cried into my knees until they came back. Then I heard them pull into the parking lot outside, sirens blaring. When I finally looked up, I saw the blues and reds shine on that stupid sign above the door.
” Welcome to Weinwick Recreation Center! We have fun here!”

It’s a stupid thing to remember, but in a wierd way, I thought it was funny.

Alright, I’m really put out now, buddy. I don’t know how to end this letter right now, so don’t expect any Shakespeare here.

Goodnight.

8/19/1995

Wow, what a killer week. Oh god, I can feel bags starting to grow under my eyelids.

Hey, dopey. I think I ended the last one in a wierd place, so I’ll fix it up a bit here. Let me get my bearings first, though. I just got back from school, and guess who I get on the ringer? Vince Bellenshamp. He’s better on the phone than in person, but not by much. He chewed my ass for like fifteen minutes. I didn’t even have a chance to get a word in, how about that?

I’m telling you, Con. He’s weird now. I wish you didn’t leave so soon after he got back from Uni. You didn’t get a chance to see how he’s been. He’s meaner and nastier and there’s a stick up his ass something awful. He’s telling me how I should have just let the whole thing alone, and how Sheriff Gerald hounded him with questions all morning, and I’m lucky we’re family and that I didn’t lose my job. He wants to back in the poolhouse tonight to clean up the graffiti. I asked what the point of that was, they’re just gonna fix the place up during the renovation. He said that I deserved it for having him called back to the Rec center last night.

God, what a bastard. He asked if I was coming into work, and I said yes. Of course I wanted to slam the phone down after telling him where to shove it, but I got too scared. So I just finished school and I’ve got five hours till my shift starts, wonderful.

So, lemme read back and see where I let off. Ah, okay, I remember. So Gerald and Karlson drove up and I spent the first hour sitting on the back of their squad car. I must have repeated the whole thing seven times, it was a real drag.

Then I hear Vinces f150 plow into the parking lot, and my heart dropped in a second. He was acting all pro, too. He stood there with his arms folded, dealing with all the questions like he was some kind of responsible citizen.

He let’s them into the field through the side gate, and the ambulance heads toward the poolhouse. I was thankful. I really didn’t want to see that guy again. Even that soon after being in the poolhouse, I felt horrible about leaving him in there all alone.

Then I catch a look at Vince after the cops gather up together around the car, and he’s scratching at his arm really hard. There’s beads of sweat on his forehead, or maybe it was snow. Either way, he looked like a small fish on a big hook. He was staring daggers at me, like the guy melting in the poolhouse was all my fault. Yeah, I did it all just to bother you, Vince.

If only.

8/20/1995

Okay, Conrad. You’re gonna flip out after you finish this letter, and believe me, I’m having an even more insane time right now.

Alright, let me get it all together in my brain, jotting all of this down right after I got out of the poolhouse, so I’m gonna need a second. I just don’t know how to start, you know? This is absolutely insane, and I’m really having a hard time here getting the words out.

Okay, okay.

From the top, I guess. So I got in a few minutes late today. Cassandra was really understanding about the whole thing from the other night. She bought me a couple donuts from the seven-eleven, actually. She wanted me to talk to her about everything, but I told her it was okay. It wasn’t, but I don’t wanna bother that poor lady with my horror stories. She even offered to take the walk for me tonight, but I told her I’d be alright, and to not sweat it. She asks me if I had someone hang around earlier, some guy named Darby. I said no, that I don’t even know anyone named Darby. She let it go.

Weird.

So she heads out, grabs her bag and tosses the key ring to me. Then she gives me one last look, and closes the door behind her.

It was just me sitting in the lobby, with a flickering overhead light and cheap plastic plants surrounding me. There’s the sound of the ventilation unit pumping warm air through the building, and the heavy breaths of the old folks in the weight room. I don’t know why, but just sitting there all by myself was really heavy.

I was thinking about that guy laying on the floor. His breathing was so harsh. It sounded like it hurt him to inhale at all. I pictured him on the floor of the lobby in front of me, clothes soaked and blood trailing off somewhere in my periphery.

I must have sat there staring at that ghost on the floor for thirty minutes. Two strangers, stuck together in an empty room, one already dead, but still here. I heard the old couple say their goodbyes, I remember them paying for the time they were here, and I remember them leaving. But I never looked away from the ground.

Eventually I caught myself and looked around, seeing the outside bathed in black behind the windows. I got up and locked the doors, and then set off to the maintenance shed. I needed some cleaner and a big brush, a bucket too. I got everything and headed out to the poolhouse across the field. Lugging my cleaning supplies along the way. I could feel it staring down at me.

I hate that stupid building.

The snow was still there, covering everything up to those big wooden doors. There were two warning signs plastered on them now, but I opened the door just the same.

The place was just as warm as the night before, the moisture in the air choking breath out of me like huffing a bottle of vinegar. It was only when I got into the actual Pool room that I remembered how pitch black it was. So imagine how stupid I felt having to drop all the supplies and wander back out to the maintenance shed for a bigger light. Now, you know the tool shed, you know what we have in there. I’m struggling to find anything to light that place up a little, but I only found a pile of old chlorine buckets. I wish they’d dump the whole load of those into that stinking tar pit.

Anyway, I wasn’t gonna take that little baton light and try to wash away the paint on the wall all night. I needed something bigger. So, I thought it’d be a better idea to head back to my place for a second and grab my dad’s old Nautical spotlight. He used to use that thing at the autoshop when he worked alone, it’s big and bright and has no problem staying on once it’s hooked up to a Generator.

I locked up the Rec, there’s not usually any business past eleven anyway. I jogged home and dragged that stupid thing all the way back to the poolhouse. I took one of the Golf cart batteries and some duct tape, and kind of rigged everything together. It looked like shit, but I nearly blinded myself once it was on and shining. Bet you would’ve done a better job, dopey, you’re the mechanic between us for sure.

Anyway, pow! The thing is running and there’s a constant coughing sound pumping out of the generator. The whole place erupted, that chugging sound bouncing off those tall walls and coming back down to me. The spotlight stabs through the dark like a drill, and I can see clear across the room. Still, the dark in there crept out where the beam couldn’t reach.

I pick the thing up (you should try it sometime, I nearly popped my spine lugging this thing.) And take a look around the place. There’s strings of police tape, cut loose and blowing around in the cold breeze. I can see the walls, black mold chewing it up from the roof down. There’s a thick blanket of mouse skeletons and pine needles everywhere, and I got sick thinking about how many I’d probably stepped on on the way in there.

I panned around, looking for any sign of the graffiti. Luck had it, about a foot above me, the guy had tagged the wall in big red letters. It almost looked like modern art, surrounded by dead vines and sun bleached walls. I guess this guy was a big fan of local urban legends, and not a big fan of the sheriff. He wrote, “IT DWELLS STILL! EAT SHIT, GERALD!”

I laughed out loud all to myself.

It was hilarious, Gerald coming in to tape off the whole poolhouse as a crime scene, then looking up to see this beautiful billboard. As I got the chuckles out, I heard something behind me. It sounded like a wet slap, and I jumped out of my skin, swinging the light around.

Then, I saw the pool. Holding the light at my waist, I watched the swamp of blackish green slop sit and churn. A weird mist hung over the water, just wading around the air. The water was rippling out from the middle, sending out those little waves to the edges. It spooked me at first, I nearly dropped the damn spotlight. But I stood there, just thinking that it couldn’t be a big deal. I probably just kicked a pebble over and hadn’t noticed. Now it was probably sinking down to the bottom of that puke colored abyss. Still though, the thought of something popping out of there sent chills down my spine. I thought about that bag I’d seen slip out from behind that guy the other night. The one that’d slunk off into the pool.

What was it? Something he brought in to get rid of? Maybe more spraypaint?

It was hard telling, not knowing. But something was bothering me. It felt like a match was being held to the back of my neck. Not burning, but it was getting warm. How did that guy do that to himself? Melt his face, I mean. Maybe that’s what was in the bag. He tagged the place up, then splashed himself with draino or something. That poor guy held up in here by himself, skin falling off his head. I hated to remember the face. I hated to remember the scream even more.

But there I was, about to wash away the last thing this guy ever did. His last footprint, if you think about it.

Then it happened again. There was a splash, and I know I didn’t cause it myself. It happened, and I heard the noise echo off in the huge chamber around me.

So, taking a second to catch my breath, I point my little supernova toward the water again. But there’s just the little waves. Now, at this point, I’m really trying to puff myself up. I’d never seen you or Vince scared of nothing, unless it wore a police badge. So I’m being a little manly-man, just like you two. I take a step toward the edge of the pool. The light goes about a foot farther, but there’s still that shadow creeping around the end of the beam.

So, I go a little further.

I’m breathing deep and there’s hairs standing up on both arms, even though I’m practically standing in a sauna. But I keep staring, waiting to see a mouse or something, taking a little swim across the water. Instead, I only make out the little outlines of water bugs and pine needles, drifting around the surface like pool-floaties. The mist is getting thinner, probably escaping through the newly broken window on the other side of the room.

There’s just quiet now, but I can still hear my heart pumping a thousand miles a minute in my ears.

Then, it just drifts into the light.

It’s floating across the water gently, slowly coming into view. The boundary of the light hits this, I don’t know, MASS of some kind.

I could only see the rim at first, almost blending into the water, but not quite. It was the edge of some kind of growth, I guess. It was almost purple on the top, with black boils growing on the skin of it. Some of it bent under the surface of the water, while most of it just rested on top.

It crawled out under the mist and the light, and it just kept growing. This blanket of weird tar stuff was just floating toward me.

I kept the light on it, stepping closer. It was HUGE, Conrad. I mean, it was the size of a Volkswagen Bug, easily. It wasn’t a perfect circle, it was unevenly stretched out end to end. Wisps of this black stuff came off of it as it waded through the water toward me. Picture a big deflated raft covered in oil, if that helps.

I was speechless. I mean, I was in the room alone, so I guess it didn’t matter if I had anything to say. But I couldn’t look away from it, I felt like gagging, but couldn’t get one out. I just crept a little closer to the water, staring at the map of disgusting, pimply skin on the surface. I could see tiny things caught in the edges of it, cigarette butts and pinecones, but also soggy, wet mouse carcasses. One stared up at me with hollowed eye sockets and peeling skin.It was a mass of sinew and bones, floating in the water toward me.

I wanted to poke it, if I’m being honest. It was just so amazingly gross, I couldn’t believe it was real. Fifty years of rot and bile sitting in this water just collected together, making a raft of nastiness. I couldn’t even hear my heartbeat now, not as I crouched down at the edge. Now that I was closer, I could see those water bugs jumping away from the thing. Crawling over one another to get as far away as they could.

The thing wasn’t moving, at least that I could see, and yet I could make out tiny waves spreading out from under the lip. It moved steady, and slow, and I gripped the light tighter as it did. There was little plumes of steam, I guess, coming off of the surface, like it was really warm. It smelled, and I can’t even TRY to describe to you how bad it was.

I was maybe two or three feet away from it now, just close enough for comfort.

That’s when it leapt up. The whole mass of the thing shifted and lurched upwards, and I can only just see the underside of it as it caught air. There’s a forest of tiny black feelers, all wiggling and glistening in the light, covering every inch of this thing.

A torrent of water slaps me in the face, and I keel over as the lip of the thing lunges toward me.

I smacked my ass on the ground, and wipe off my eyes only to see it wrapped around the toe of my boot, it’s little feelers latching to the leather.

The light fell and rolled over next to me, but still shone on the poolside.

The black finger things are wiggling around, trying to gain ground on my boot. This slopping, black gunk comes off of them, dripping down the foot of my shoe. I stared at it at first, not even sure what had happened. I was sitting there, watching this blanket-thing lick at my shoe. In a few seconds, I was getting a hold of myself. I watched the creature cling to the ledge, still trying to get after me.

It was trying to suck me back into the water with it.

Conrad, I had no idea what the hell to do. I just sat there, watching the stupid thing slap at my pant leg, struggling to get a grip.

It was trying to pull me in, like it was hungry. It was fighting with everything it had, the sides of it waving and spraying water around pointlessly in an effort to reel me toward the Pool.

I taste that smelly pool water that it’s dumped on me, and I get a grip. I wasn’t thinking about it or what it was or what was happening, just that I wasn’t going to let this thing get me.

I just start to kick at it. But it’s hold was really strong, even with only the little bit of me that it had. I reach out for my boot string, see if I can quickly untie it and pull away. But I accidentally swiped at the stuff it was drooling onto me, and I pulled my hand back real fast. At first, it was cold. But then, I felt my skin on my finger start to burn.

There was this horrible feeling, like I’d stuck my hand against a red hot stove-top. It wasn’t stopping neither, it was burrowing slowly into my fingers, and I started to scream.

Holding my hand against my shirt, I felt tears welling up in the corners of my eyes, and I just smashed against the thing with my other boot. I stomped over and over again, hearing my kicks plant wetly against this thing. Then, there was slack, and I pulled my foot away from the edge as quick as I could. In my rush to get away, I kicked the light, and it rolled towards the corner of the room, now facing a wall.

It was just me in the dark now, me and that thing.

My hat had flown off in the whole mess and now my hair was hanging down my forehead, tickling my nose and getting in my eyes. I was breathing hard, trying to wipe that molten stuff off of my hand. I took a rag out of my back pocket, and just raked my fingers against it. The pain was so intense, I didn’t even think to wrap my hand or nothing. After going at it for a few seconds, the skin felt weird, and my breaths blowing against the wound struck up this horrible stinging, it ran from nerve to nerve all the way up my forearm.

At least, for now, the pain was going away. I guess I got most of the stuff off of me, and I nudged the rag away from me, trying not to make contact with that gunk again.

Before I could do anything else, I felt my chest give out. I was out of breath, I guess. My arms felt so heavy, and my head felt really hot. I laid there, panting into the dark. Hundreds of tiny white dots were dancing in front of my eyes, coming out of the dark and then disappearing back in. I must have given all the energy I had, because I don’t think I’d ever actually seen stars from being tired before.

Thought that kind of thing only happened in cartoons, ha ha.

Behind the wispy gasps I was letting out, I could hear the pool water lapping against the concrete shore.

Something wet was wriggling onto the edge of the tile floor. It slapped around from one spot to another, and I realized that that monster-tarp thing was looking for me.

I slowly dragged myself over to the Nautical spotlight. Getting a handle on it, I pointed it out towards the pool. The thing was gone. There was a wide puddle of water where it’d landed on me, and I could see darker puddles of the slop it was spilling out. I didn’t want to move too quickly, but I was already confident that I could get a little closer.

So I picked myself up, wincling a little from the strain on my fingers. I tucked the injured hand into my armpit and walked over real slowly.

I was prepared to jump back at any second, not wanting to get surprised and end up underneath that damn thing.

I pointed the beam of my light out to the center of the pool, and there it was. It was drifting away from me now, slow as it was before. It lazily dragged itself along, and I watched as the front of it dipped under the water. Then, the rest of it followed. It disappeared into that black pit of greywater without so much as a splash. A cloud of waterlogged trash and debris spread out from the depths in its wake.

Then, it was gone.

I didn’t bother washing the paint, I don’t even think that needs saying. I didn’t grab the battery or the light, but I unfurled the wires so as to not start a fire or something. Not easy to do with a bum hand, dopey.

I spent so much time in that dark, that when I opened the doors and looked out at the orange field of snow, it nearly blinded me. A sea of white colored in by those giant field lights at either side of the property.

I didn’t lock the place up, I didn’t even remember to grab my hat. I just stepped out into the night and I didn’t stop walking, the cold biting at the soaked bits of my shirt and pants.

When I got back inside of the Rec Center, the ventilation unit was going crazy, filling the whole place with warm air. It kind of gave me a shock, going from warm to cold to warm again, and I felt a little sick.

I didn’t even make it to the reception desk, Conrad. I just collapsed on the floor, and laid back against a wall. There was a pit in my stomach, and it never really went away. I still can feel it now, as I’m writing this. I think it came from that smell, when that thing leapt up at me. It was so obnoxiously strong and horrible that I was ready to spill my guts. Something like rotted fish and sweet motor oil. That’s the best I can give you, it’s just about beyond words.

I knew that I couldn’t fall asleep, but I was so drained that my eyelids were fighting me for an hour or two of rest. The rest of the night was just as quiet as any other. I didn’t finish my rounds, and I didn’t even clock out for lunch. I stayed put, trying to stay awake.

I looked at all those black and white pictures hung up on the wall there in the hallway. Different people from different times, some dead now probably. I thought about how many years this place has stood around, and how many people have worked here and been in the building. How many years that old poolhouse stood in its muck and ruin and watched it all. Those big windows staring out at these generations of people getting old and being born, and all the while something horrible and Hungry was growing inside its walls.

Years of mice and garbage feeding it until it was big enough to eat something bigger.

Something like that kid from the other night.

Maybe he heard it splashing around, maybe he walked over to check out the noise. Then, it would’ve blindly grabbed whatever it could, and tried to pull him in that corroded black soup.

I thought about that kid’s face, and how so much of the muscle and bone in his head was right out in the open. I thought about how the same black stuff I’d seen leaking from his face was eating at my hand only a few minutes ago.

I slowly pulled my hand out from in my armpit, and it hurt to even do that much. I unfurled my fist, and I was hit with immediate agony.

But it was nothing to seeing what had happened.

My forefinger and middle finger were blistered to the bone. They didn’t even look real. The tips were worn down, and now I could see bright red flesh coiled around the tip of the bone. They were enflamed, cracked and bleeding all the way to the knuckle. I might as well not even have them anymore. They stung in the open air, and I held them again to stop the pain.

When opening time was about an hour away, I got up.

I’m home now. I just left after locking the place up, I haven’t even taken my uniform off yet. I have school in a couple hours, but I don’t know if I’m gonna go.

Ha, if you were here, I’m sure you’d give me hell for even thinking of skipping.

I should be at the hospital, or even calling the cops. But what am I gonna say? What are they gonna do? Believe that a living blanket of stomach acid is lurking at the bottom of the poolhouse?

Am I gonna pay for that doctor’s bill with what I’m getting paid? I’ll just wrap it up with some neosporin and some gauze.

I just miss you, dopey. I’m so tired, and I’m so scared. Everything around me seems like it’s not even really there. The couch, the TV, the cops, that kid. None of it weighs the same as it did in my head just a little while ago.

There’s just mimi, sitting on the arm of my sofa. She’s staring at me. Probably smells the oven baked pizza I tossed in an hour ago, I’m sure she’s hungry.

I’m so scared, Conrad. I feel so alone. Not just in this house, or in Weinwick. I feel hollow and bleached, like I’ve been sitting in the sun too long.

I think I’ll go to school. I don’t wanna be alone right now.

Miss you, dopey.

Jed

8/22/1995

Vince called today.

He called yesterday too, but I didn’t answer.

I didn’t come for my shift last night. I didn’t even call out. I was just nodding off at school all day yesterday, trying to stay awake. I didn’t though, and I got a one way ticket to the Principal’s office for it. She didn’t really mind me falling asleep at all though, she was nice enough to send me home, actually. You know, I think she was worried about me working at night all the time. She asked about my hand, but I told her it was nothing. She kept coming back around to it though, even asking if me and Vince had been hanging out. I told her no, but I don’t think she bought it.

She told me that if something were to happen, that I could come in sometime to talk about it.

“Well, now that you mention it, there’s this frankenstein monster hiding in the pool house at my job and last night it got a nibble off of my fingers and the other night, it ate a kid’s face right off. Do you think I could get a number for a shrink or maybe a paranormal exterminator?”

Boy, wouldn’t that be a laugh.

Now that I’m a little more awake, I think she was thinking Vince had done something to me. A little weird, for sure. It’s not like Vince is really known for running around, ripping skin off of fingers. But she was real insistent.

It was kind of neat to see that she really cared about me and how I was doing. She let me go with a cheery little smile, and I left.

You know, I know that these past few days have been a real headache, but I don’t think I’m crazy. I mean, I’ve got monsters and dead kids on the brain, but I’m not seeing things. I’m still pretty on the books, you know? So check this.

As I was walking out of that place, pulling on my shades to keep my eyes from bugging out in the sunlight, I could have sworn I saw Vince’s truck outside in the parking lot.

It was off to the side of the soccer field, parked a little ways away from the street. I stood there for a second, but I didn’t see Vince at all. No cheesy dyed hair in sight. But, there was this kid kicking back against the grill. He was tall, and was covering head to toe in denim. I mean, this kid was straight out of that Outsiders movie. Greasy hair, waving around in the breeze. He was lankey and his face was beat red with bad acne. He was wearing this heavy metal t shirt and looking real sly. He didn’t go to school here, no way.

He had to be older, maybe he was here with Vince for something. But he looked nasty, that’s for sure. The kind of guy you and me used to make fun of when you would pick me up from school or from the arcade.

He didn’t look toward me, at least not at first. That’s when I hear the back gate to the soccer field open up. There’s two guys, one bigger than the other, walking out towards the truck. It’s Vince. He was in a collared polo shirt and leather jacket with his hair freshly slicked back. He was holding hands with this other fella, though.

This guy had to be my age, for sure. Big poofy red hair, a backpack slung over his shoulder. He was really good looking, dressed in ripped jeans and a tight t-shirt. I think I remember him from a class or something. He was grinning ear to ear, and I think they were laughing together. This kid is looking up at Vince like he’s the Mona Lisa, just basking in him.

They get to the truck and Vince helps the kid into the passenger side seat. The other guy is looking at me now. He doesn’t look happy, either. He’s just eyeing me up and down while Vince heads in and the truck roars to a start.

This greaseball turns, climbing into the back of the pickup. He’s settling in and leaning against the back of the cab, and the truck pulls out. He keeps looking at me, giving me the fucking creeps. Just as they turn to the main street, he looks away, wind blowing his silky black rug all around.

Fuck me, I don’t even wanna start getting into whatever that was. Let’s say this kid is my age, and let’s say I do know him from some class. What the hell is he doing out of school? I got a freebie, but I didn’t see anybody come in to check him out of class at the office. So this kid must have just skipped, met up with Vince and hightailed it out of here.

Maybe Vince has a new lackey or something, whatever. I’m all for Vince having new friends as long as I’m not one of them. But what about this wannabe Dallas Winston? This metalhead looked like a crackhead out of trailer park hell. Now they’re probably off somewhere, firing up fun at the arcade or jacking around in town. Bunch of fucking wierdos.

Fuck I hate this place, Con.

Anyway, So I’ve spent the past how-ever-many hours passed out on the sofa with the curtains drawn.

I think my body is too well trained for this job, because I woke up pretty early before I usually start. Remembering that I had the night off, I was already tucking myself back in for a few hours more of rest.

That was when I got Vince’s call.

He sounded a lot different from how I thought he would. He wasn’t so much pissed, he was more upset and worried. At first, I thought he might have been sweating all day thinking about me, but I should’ve known better. He didn’t ask how I was, or why I hadn’t called back earlier. He wanted to know if I still had the key ring. He said that Cassandra came in yesterday morning and had to open up with her spare. He was begging me to head back and bring them in, saying that he needed them to do the rounds tonight.

Now, ain’t that something? Two years at the Rec, and NEVER have I EVER seen Vince take the rounds. He’s always home before eight o’clock, and never bothers to cover them on my days off.
He was really breathing heavily the whole time, too, really badgering about how badly he needed them back at the Rec center. There was another voice in the back, too. It was soft, almost like a girls. But Cassandra isn’t even scheduled today. Boy, this whole thing is going off the rails.

I’ll head out in an hour or so. Get my clothes on and walk them over.

I’m so sick of everything. I thought I’d feel better by now, maybe I just needed sleep. But between my hand and those ghosts passing through my head, I feel even worse.

Your own personal, real life monster attack survivor,

Jed.

8/22/1995

12:38 AM

This place feels so plastic lately. The cheap chairs, the silly little pictures on the silly walls and the stupid smells.

I feel plastic, too. I feel like a picture that’s not colored in. Everything about everything I do is just so empty and small. You’re out there doin the best you can, probably on your way to being a teacher or something. There’s kids around town shooting the shit with friends, seeing movies and stuff.

But I’m all alone. I work, I sleep, I go to school. Rip the page out and start again, over and over and over.

You and them, you’ve all got your own movies going on. Climaxes and stuff, girlfriends and real life things going on. But I’m a paper cut out, dopey.

I’m only seventeen, and I already feel like I’m on my way out. Shit, I’m even down two fingers now, too. Guess it doesn’t matter too much, not to real folks like you.

I’m not doing anything, there’s no big plan going on over here.

You’ve got college buddies and classes, but I’m stuck here, back home with monsters.

God, listen to me, moping like a bleeding heart Shakespeare-guy.

Anyway, Vince wasn’t at the desk when I came by to the rec earlier. Shit, the place looked dead as I walked up to the doors. But they were open, and I stood there with the keys in hand, looking around for my slophead cousin so I could get back to doing my routine of nothing.

He wasn’t around though. Shit, the place was almost dead quiet. But then I heard this voice on the other side of the room, nearly jumped outta my skin. I turn and see this fella sitting down quietly on one of the lobby chairs.

It was that kid I saw, the one holding hands with Vince. He was staring up at me doe eyed, his hair all nice and done up. He was dressed to the nines too, white sneakers and a Sleater Kinney t-shirt. He looked meek and small, Vinces giant leather jacket stretched around his shoulders.

He just said Hi.

His voice caught me off guard, it was soft. I think I might’ve heard him in the background of Vince’s phone call from earlier.

I stood there like an idiot, mouth open and eyes wide.

“HI! Are you Jedidiah?”

“Uh, yeah. Yeah I’m jed.”

“Oh! Well Vinnie has been looking for you! I’m, uh, Darby. I think I know you from school, maybe we have a class together?”

He was almost shaking, he looked like he was waiting in that spot for a hot minute. But he was trying not to let that show, I think. He seemed really nice.

“Oh, uh, I don’t remember, I’m sorry. I’m always half awake most days.”

“I’m sorry! Are you feeling okay?”

He seemed to be sweet, almost. I dunno, it’s weird to talk about another guy that way, but I dunno. He was wearing makeup, too, I think. But I don’t really know for sure, if not he was just naturally that pretty.

“Well uh, yeah I’m good. I’m solid. I mean, I’m okay.”

He just kind of laughed, but not really in a mean way.

“Are you grabbing these for Vince? Is he here? I can just hand them off to him.”

But he shook his head, laughing again and pointing down the hallway.

“No, I think he’s in his office. I’m just waiting for him. We’re trying to catch a movie later.”

I didn’t say goodbye or anything as I walked away, but I did give an awkward “Thank you” and waddled down and around the corner. God, I’m such a tool. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I just got kinda detoured by looking at him.

Trying to ignore how awkward I was, I took a b-line to the office door, seeing it wide open with the light on inside.

A shadow was cast on the wall opposite, showing the hunkered shape of someone inside, hovering over Vince’s desk.

I peeked inside, and there was my cousin. His hair was drawn back, but several strands were hanging over his eyes. He looked sick, pale as a sheet and his shirt was yellow under the armpits.

And when I say there was a waterfall coming down his forehead, I mean it. He had both hands around the handle of a screwdriver, the end stuck in the lip of his filing cabinet. His sleeves were rolled up, and I could see bright pink marks freshly scratched into his underarm. His veins were popping out of his skin almost, putting everything he had into getting that cabinet open.

There’s not really a proper way to go about intruding like I was about to do, so I just drifted in, staring at my shoes.

The whole air around him felt nasty, and it was shooting up my nose and filling my head. I felt like a kid whose parent was about to chew out their ears.

But he didn’t notice me at first, only looking up when he heard the key ring jingling in my hand.

He looked up at me with his lip curled, like a dog with rabies. He took half a second to fix his face, dropping the screwdriver on the floor and running up to grab the keys.

As he snapped them out of my hand, I only managed to whisper.

“For your rounds. Sorry it took me a minute. “

But he ignored me, jabbing the smallest key into the cabinet as fast as he could. He slung the thing open with a weird gasp, and I flinched at the loud clanging noise the drore made as it clanged open.

He was wrist deep in manilla folders before I could say anything else, but he stopped fiddling around and pulled out a folded rag. He started unwrapping it with this fire in his eye, almost growling as he got it open to see…nothing.

A thin, plastic wrapper and a bread tie fell from the cloth, landing on the desk. We both stared at it, only him knowing what the hell was going on. His face had dropped. He was frowning up a storm, and I could see tears welling up in his eyes.

He dropped the cloth with an exhausted moan, and grabbed at the sides of his head with his hands, taking deep, quiet breaths.

He looked at me, as if he just realized I was there at all.

“Hm? What’s up?”

I just stuttered out something about the rounds, telling him that I just came by to drop off the keys. He nodded, but with this weird look, like he had no idea what I was on about.

He nodded over and over again, staring at the floor. He was trying to keep up appearances, but something was tearing him up inside.

That was when I heard a knock on the door behind me.

I turned real quick, already pretty on edge, and very confused.

I met eyes with two ice cold orbs stuck above a puffy, acne ridden face. A mean looking face, too. It was that guy, the one that was kicking back against Vince’s truck. His black, greasy mop still hanging over his ears and parting around his forehead. He had on this King Diamond t-shirt, and a scrappy denim jacket with Sherpa on the collar. There were cigarette burns up and down the sleeves, and a fresh Marlboro tucked behind his ear.

He was looking down at me like he’d stepped in dog shit, and I probably didn’t put up too much of a poker face.

I was too floored to say anything, but I heard Vince chirp up behind me.

“Hey, uh, Barnie. Glad to see yah, uppercut. You uh, you’re in luck tonight.”

“Barnie” turned over to Vince, and didn’t look on him much better than he did me. He moved his mouth like he had to spit, and was really hanging on to his tough-guy attitude.

“You’re needin’, then?”

Vinnie just nodded, both of them seemingly carrying on despite me standing there with my mouth open.

“Yeah, I’m up the creek, bud. You’re not still hanging on that uh, idea you had are you?”

Barnie slipped a hand around the doorframe, turning to look down the hallway, toward the lobby.

“Yeah. You’re still down from last week, unless we’re talking twice what we did before, there’s one way to cover both. I knew you wouldn’t have any on reserve, a snowball like you.”

Vince chuckled, he was pacing back forth, stopping and taking a breath when he had pieced together whatever was going on in his head.

He looked up, giving me this defeated look, like he’d lost a house in a game of poker.

I slipped my hands in my pockets, just keeping my head down.

“Yeah, okay, Barnie. We can run it your way. Just lemme grab my coat, I’ll tell Darby you’re coming with us. Just let me…let me talk to him beforehand. I’ll do it when we get to the Drive in. You got it with you?”

Barnie nodded, and even in the corner of my eye, I could see that pizza-face split in a wide smile. He patted at his coat pocket with his hand.

Vince clapped his hand together, making way to the door. As he passed me by, I caught the ring of keys as he tossed them to me.

“Not asking you to take a shift, Kiddo, just lock the place up after we leave. I’ll uh, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

With that, they both strode out of the room together, moving like a pair of lions on a TV documentary. I could hear Barnie laugh a little, his evil chuckling echoing back to me from down the hall.

I just stood there a minute, not wanting to join the group for more awkward silence. I was more comfortable with just myself, sitting under a flickering fluorescent light overhead.

I waited until I heard the door to the lobby swing shut, and stood in the empty building, all by myself.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but I remember being really pissed off. All these things I do, all these stupid little things, and I’m given nothing for it. There are whole scenes playing around me, movies playing right off the screen, everyone getting to be their own Indiana Jones, or Luke Skywalker.

But I’m just a sidekick left somewhere back on the cutting room floor.

But, I had the keys, Noone was there to stop me. They were heavy in my palm, weighing almost as much as this whole mystery-shit on my mind.

I walked over to the desk, and I wrenched the cabinet open again. There were piles of manilla folders, all thick with incident reports, absence notices, and pages and pages of nothing.

But flipping to the very back, and reaching down to the bottom of the tray, I felt my two bandaged fingers graze the shell of something small and long. I fumbled for it a bit, trying to grab it without straining my hand too bad. It took a minute, but when I pulled it out into the light, I was even more confused.

It was a thin glass syringe, the plunger flush against the mouth of the needle. A pasty brown puddle swished side to side as I held the thing. The insides were stained with dried brown gunk, and I gagged a bit.

So this was Vinces movie. His big manifesto, all bright shiny and with some wacked out drug running through its bloodstream. You know I’m more of a straight shooter, I’m not too full of info on this kind of stuff. But I like to think I know something bad when I see it.

There was that feeling again, like a match on the back of my neck. Only now, I gave in and I dropped the needle. I felt like a kid who walked in on their parents, and I wanted to wash my hands immediately after it hit the floor, and shattered onto the concrete.

So this is what Vince does, with his time, and with his college degree, and with his nice big truck.

What a fuckin waste.

I closed the door behind me, but left the mess I’d made. Fuck, I hoped he’d find it. I walked slow to the reception desk to head out and lock the doors.

As I twisted the key in the lock and pulled at it to make sure I’d done it right, I turned to see Vince’s truck rev to life in the parking lot. Barnie stood in the bed as it swung around to head down the driveway.

I caught Darbys smile as they drove passed, waving at me as they left.

He seems really nice.

Then, I was alone, walking back to my shack.
Now I’m home, shooting down episodes of Unsolved mysteries to keep me awake.

Mimi’s here, brushing against my hand so I’ll pet her instead of gluing my face to the rest of this blank page.

You know, I don’t think I’m going to be here much longer. Don’t jump the gun here, Conrad, I’m not gonna off myself. At least, I hope I don’t end up dead soon. But all this stuff, all this electric air about the town and between Vince and you and me and that thing in the pool, it was dragging me somewhere I really didn’t like. But I think I’m starting to get it now, there’s a shining somewhere in my head.

I want to do more, I want to have my own things going on. I’m tired of being alone, and I don’t think it’s fair that I’m waiting on you to come back for me to be happy again. I have no family here, none that I care about anymore.

Whatever happens, little Mimi is coming with me. But I think I need to set a course for something. There’s all sorts of tutors and advanced placement classes I can be shooting for before graduation. I think I’m gonna go to uni. Maybe with you, up there in Eugene, or maybe somewhere else.

I don’t know, isn’t that fun?

Seeing that guy, Darby, I think he gave me this wanting, like, for another person in my life. Someone to help out with the bad stuff going on, and someone who really likes me.

There’s so much to do, but it’s nothing compared to staying here any longer. I’m getting out, and I’m starting my own little movie.

But before I pack my bags, there’s a fat, smelly blob of stomach acid that needs to be taken care of.

Believe it or not, I’m more scared of it than leaving Weinwick.

Lemme get some math together, I’m gonna need something to end this thing. What that is, I’m not really sure.

There’s gasoline, but I don’t wanna burn the whole forest down with the poolhouse, although I wouldn’t mind wiping that shack off the face of the earth. Though, I would gather a few odd looks from anyone if I was seen dragging a couple gas cans back to the Rec Center.

I dunno, I think it would get the job done, but it seems like a final cavalry kind of thing.

I just don’t know what to do. I can’t just leave that thing in there, eating up kids and mice. It would sit there, waiting. Shit, it probably spent its whole life that way. How many teens have gotten in there, out to have some fun with no one knowing where they were?

Hell, all those stories about that church in the woods, and here we’ve already got a real, flesh and blood nightmare. What about that Egon kid from a few years back? Maybe he went out to tag up the Poolhouse, and that’s why he dropped off the face of the earth. I don’t know, but I can’t just let it lie like that. It’s mine now, my responsibility.

I can’t go do what I need to while it’s lurking under the water.

I’ll keep you posted while I think of something.

Jed

08/23/1995

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4:30 AM

Oh boy, have I got a plan for you, buckaroo.

I’ve been mulling this over in my head the past few hours, trying to get down to brass tacks. I’ve got two cups of coffee sitting in my stomach and a list of things in my head, but I think I’ve got it.

Tonight, I’m heading to the Rec. This is gonna be my last night in that place. I’m leaving a resignation letter on Vinces desk, and I hope he has to ride out the rest of my scheduled shifts.

I’m not going to mop up the bathrooms, no wiping sweat from the gym equipment, no security walk.

I won’t even clock in, haha.

I still have the keys, so every inch of the Rec Center is my playground. Once I get in, I’m gonna pay a little visit to the maintenance shed. In the corner, I know there’s that stack of Chlorine buckets. I’ll dust them off and take off to the poolhouse.

Now, that pool hasn’t been touched for so long, that blanket in there will probably have no way of dealing with actual Pool chemicals.

Let me explain where I’m at: when I was little, I remember playing around in my mom’s garden. I was on pest-duty, I guess. My job was to knab any Katydids or Snails that might be slinking around the roses. Now, I’d catch a good four or five of these snails, and I’d keep them in a jar. I’d take it to my Mamma, and she’d open up the lid. She took down a salt shaker, and just let the little things have it. I’m not really a fan of doing that kind of thing to little helpless critters like that, but it got me thinking.

If salt can boil up a snail, then why can’t chlorine do the same thing to that monster? I mean, it’s kind of a big slug if you think about it. At least, I think it’s like a slug. But if it’s anything close to one of those little snails, then this is the ticket. No fuss, no mess. It’ll just melt away, and I can sleep better tonight knowing it’s gone.

I’ll stay a couple hours, bring a few sodas or something. I’ll stay to see what happens, and if it doesn’t work, then I’ll be back to square one. If I have to torch the place, I’m not gonna shed any tears. But, if I can stay out of the eyes of Sheriff Gerald, I’ll take the quietest road I can.

That’s it, that’s the meat of it. Woo, what a way to spend a couple hours. I’m a regular Van Helsing, dopey. Maybe I could get a job like this, taking out boogeymen all over the country. Then again, maybe one is enough for me.

Luckily, the Rec is empty right now, and I’ve got plenty of time to take care of business.

I’m already feeling better, but I would be lying to say I’m not terrified of going. If I take care of myself and stay away from the edge of the water, I should be fine.

Mimi is looking over here again, pacing back and forth. You think cats know when something is up? I hope not, the last thing I need is to worry that little lady.

I’m gonna wrap up my uniform in a shopping bag and bring it with me, it’ll be nice to dump the thing on Vince’s desk.

Wish me luck, dopey.

Jed

08/25/1995

I don’t know who I am, Conrad.

I mean it, I just don’t know anymore.

I just spent the last few hours talking to Sheriff Gerald, and let me tell you, he didn’t hold any punches. Can’t say I blame him, though, he’s been in my face twice in one month. He’s seen one too many ambulances pull out of the rec center parking lot.

I have too.

They took Darby home. I saw them load him into the car, and haul him away to his parents place. I can’t imagine what kind of Hell is waiting for him there. I asked the Sheriff to just let me walk home, but he argued a bit. Said I was lucky that they were letting me off at all, and that it would be silly to make me walk all that way.

He didn’t drive me though, instead, he walked me home. I think he could tell that I was going through it, and I’m sure that seeing my fingers didn’t make him feel too much better.

But he walked me home, and we just shot the shit. He was trying to get me laughing, I think. I was getting odd looks from him, like he pitied what had happened.

He told me that things happen, and people do things that hurt other people, mostly because they want things. He said that me and Darby should come back in tomorrow, just for paperwork though. We won’t have to worry about this after all the evidence is taken care of and everyone has said their piece. He asked if I was okay, but I told him I wasn’t. He nodded, wiping at his mustache.

The big bad Sheriff, trying to play Father all the sudden.

To be fair, after the hassle he’d put us through, I didn’t expect him to open up like that. He talked about his kids, if I had seen them or if we had any classes together.

It was pretty nice that time of the morning too, piles of dead leaves raked onto the sidewalk, chilly air blowing all over. And we just walked in the sun, talking.

Somewhere in the neighborhood, I swear, someone was baking something, the whole street smelled like cinnamon.

I think…I have to think about it. Let myself walk around in that sun and those leaves just a little longer. It was really nice. It was almost perfect, I guess. It reminded me of holidays you remember when you were a kid, like I was living and breathing through a happy memory I had from some day long ago.

Otherwise, I think I’d take a long walk off a short pier.

After all that, seeing their faces in my head, not just that kid anymore, but Vinces and Barnies too. The screams, Conrad, the fucking splashing.

Seeing Darbys crumpled body, that bright red trail of blood wrapped around his head and chin.

The smell. God, that sweet motor-oil smell.

It’s in here, swimming around my brain. Just writing about it now, I can feel it drifting up from inside. But I can’t just think about this morning forever. Maybe when I’m finished, If I’m even able to bring that bright little feeling back. Maybe tomorrow, after I’m done staring into empty space. Maybe when I stop hearing that damn pool, sloshing around. Then I’ll sit down with mimi, and I’ll mull over that nice memory for a minute. I need that, I need something.

Something really bad happened this morning, Conrad.

The way the Rec felt, walking in the halls and opening the doors, it felt empty. I felt real, for the first time in a real long while, but the place didn’t seem so big anymore. It was just a bunch of drywall and furniture now, and I was the only real thing in the whole building. Wooden walls and pictures in frames, plastic sunflowers in tacky mosaic vases, all painted stale under that stupid fluorescent light. But me, I was in glorious technicolor, like those old movie commercials say.

My fingers didn’t even hurt, not even when I wrenched the shed doors open. I waded through two-foot high piles of garbage and tools, kicking away dusty rags and empty cans of antifreeze.

I almost didn’t see the crates of pool chemicals, instead I nearly collapsed onto them in the dark. But they were there, wooden boxes filled with chlorine bricks the size of my forearm. Clouds of dust came off of the lids as I hauled them into the back of the Golf cart, giving me a bad cough for a few seconds.

I knew that the battery had to be fixed back in place, and took a spare from the broken one (I didn’t want to go back to the poolhouse without my trusty chlorine weapon just yet.) I was at the hood when the car pulled up to the sidegate. There were two bright headlights beaming down at me from beyond the chainlink fence.

It surprised me so bad that my eyes felt like they were imploding when the light hit me. I didn’t want to shield them just yet though, the fright was turning to nervousness just then.

Customers don’t pull up to the sidegate, you know that.

I think they were just as shocked to see me there,standing with a golf cart and old crates, because nothing moved at first. The lights didn’t go off either, and my eyes were getting used to the brightness when I heard a door to the vehicle open with a loud creak.

A dark shape moved around the grill of the vehicle, standing like a paper cutout against a sunny window pane. I could see the arms spread wide and their fingers curled around the chainlinks, still not saying a word.

Then, after a gust of October wind swept up a herd of dead brush, spilling dead leaves and pine needles at my feet, they finally hollered over to me.

“Boy, Cuz, you must be more about this job than I thought, huh?”

The voice was frantically drawing breaths between words, and his sentence tapered off to a weak little laugh.

It was Vince Bellenshamp, staring at me like a tiger does a hunter.

He seemed half a human now in the dark and the cold, like the way Dracula did in that movie from forever ago. Shaped like a monster, talked like a monster, and beat his attention down on me like I suspect a monster would.

I was bridging the light from my eyes with my hand, giving my best Clint Eastwood-look so as to not give away how shit-myself scared I’d been.

But I didn’t say anything yet, I didn’t want to go shouting back so my voice would crack and he’d figure something was up. Instead, I watched as he hunkered down to the bike-lock on the gate, and fumbled at it with his hands. When he’d correctly punched in the three digit lock key, he pulled it away in a hurry,tossing it onto the asphalt and trying with all his might to push the gate open for his truck.

He cut back to the driver’s side of his pickup, leaning into the window to say something to someone that I couldn’t see. He raised his pointer finger passed me, directing this somebody out into the field, back in the corner. The truck revved out of neutral, and Vinnie jogged around the grill again, standing aside for the truck to pass through. He waved at me, motioning for me to do the same and pull out of the way. I did, but slowly. As if doing anything he said from now on had to be done in the most aggressive way I could manage.

We both stood against the wooden wall of the tool shed, and I noticed him staring out at the starry night instead of meeting my eyes at all. The truck barrelled past us slowly, and I turned to see Barnies’ pissed off face looking back, piloting the pickup into the field. The truck carried on, and I watched it drive slow and quietly out onto the snow.

Turning back to my cousin, he was pushing against his back, like he was working out a kink or two. His shirt was darkened from the neck down, Cleary showing his night had been a physically demanding one. His hair had given out, laying limp in all the places he so often pulled it back. There was stubble digging out from his upper lip and jawline, painting him like some awkward drunk from a vaudeville film. He looked like shit, and as much I enjoyed seeing him lacking in the looks department, it didn’t soothe me to know something was up between these two bozos.

He clapped his hands, whistling dixie before sputtering out something to close the silence.

“Wowee, these months are gonna be so damn cold, you know it?”

I didn’t want to give him any satisfaction in my answering, I felt like I was now getting my shit together, so there wasn’t any call to play small-talk-neighbor with him.

“You’ve really been pulling more than your own share, Cuz, I’ve been watching and I’ve seen it. You’re a mighty team player, and I, uh, I want you to know that I see it and thank you for it.”

Standing there in the dark, I watched his hand shoot down into his pocket and he fished around for a bit before pulling out a pack of Lucky Strike Red shorts, popping the lid open to offer me one.

Now, I’d never smoked before, and I’m not wanting to start necessarily, but feeling like such a big man all the sudden, I saw that cigarette and got this feeling, like it was owed to me.

You’d have my ass if you’d seen it, but I took the stogie and leaned over as he struck at his zippo, clumsily pulling back the smoke and giving a few stuttering coughs as it shot from my lips.

He carried on though, not taking the opportunity to give me grief for not being able to handle my lungs properly.

“That’s the hit, bud, that’s that pride you give me, you know? Treating this all as it should be, a family endeavor, right?”

I didn’t let my eyes leave him, flicking at the ash built up on the end of my lucky strike.

“I would be digging at my own time if it weren’t for you on this project with me, no doubt in my mind. That’s why…”

He pulled his own smoke between his lips, fumbling with the striker on zippo until the flame leapt up and charred the tip.

A big, sloppy plume of smoke whistled from his mouth like a storm cloud, and I noticed that the cigarette was dancing in his hand, like he was shaking in his boots.

“You’re my man, Jeddy. Sure as shit.”

The words were slow, and he sounded like his voice was leaving him.

“I wouldn’t just spring something on you if I didn’t know that you could handle it, like us Bellenshamps always handle it. Like us real men, handle things.”

Now the silence was getting heavy, and I thought about dipping back home, jogging away so as to not hear him finish the thought.

“I…uh, need a favor, Jeddy. It’s not nothing big, it’ll take five minutes of your time. Really, though, no bullshitting.”

I watched his finger nails tear at the dip of his arm, almost digging through the cloth of his shirt.

“You see, uh, well I’ve got something to do inside here, finally I’ve got the time and resources, you understand. Just need to dot some I’s and cross some T’s inside here, and uh… Well you just head down there after the truck, just talk to Barnabas and he’ll get you on the right track. It’s nothing, really, just a load of garbage he needs help tossing. I’ll be…uh, I’ll be down in a few to make sure everything’s taken care of, then you can head on home.”

He was puffing up his chest, like he was trying to get a hold of himself. His toe was tapping like mad though, and I could smell the stink of lies perfume his cigarette smoke.

He still didn’t meet my eye. All these words out his mouth and still, he couldn’t bear to lock down with me and talk to me man to man. But it wasn’t his ego this time, shit, you’d be hard pressed to hear a lick of ego in anything he said. He was raspy, out of breath, sweating like a pig, and he seemed to be in an awful hurry.

He didn’t wanna lock eyes with me because he was too scared to. He was hiding something, no hair gel or button up shirt would hide it now.

Far off, I heard a brake pad squeeze to a halt, and I turned to see the bright red brake lights of Vinces truck vanish into the dark shade of the poolhouse.

Barnie was down there, needing help with something having to do with that nasty black pit, all for Vinces sake.

What would happen if he saw something in the water? What if they saw my carload of pool chemicals and asked about it?

A red hot iron was pressing against the nape of my neck this time, and my knees were shaking bad. Whatever manly-man, Conan the barbarian feeling I’d had was flushed right out of me. I stood there with my back against a wall, tasting tobacco as it flew down my nose and brushed against my tongue.

I looked back at Vince, who now looked directly at me. His brow was still, drooping over his eyes. The color was practically gone from his cheeks, too. His eyes looked like a sick dog’s eyes, inflamed and sad.

I did what I thought I had to do, and I nodded. Not for him and his family talk, not for my job and not for being a man. I started out to the truck because that thing was in there, and I needed to keep these idiots from getting caught up in the water. To keep them from getting eaten, probably.

This monster was my problem, Conrad. It’s whole being alive was up to my discretion now, and It was my job to keep it from doing anything else to anybody.

The way I saw it, and the way I see it now, there was already one life on my head. Maybe even more, counting all those nameless vandals popping into the pool house for years. But especially that kid, laying on the floor in a puddle of his own skin. That was on me, and now no more, not ever, would be on me again. I needed to get these guys gone, finish whatever silly job they had in mind, and then finish what I came here to do. No more Rec, no more Vince, no more Blanket.

So off I went, Vince dipping into the Rec Center behind me, hearing my footsteps crunch into the dry snow. Following the muddy tire tracks of Vinnies truck all the way to the Poolhouse.

Barnabus was waiting under those big windows, staring out at me with his own cigarette between his fingers. As scary as pizza-face was, I was more put off by those big, dark panes of glass looking out on me.

Funny, that this was my last time going in there. I thought that I’d feel better about it than I did. But there they were, keeping my newfound way of thinking from getting a start while I was under their wide gaze.

A big cat, Conrad, that’s what that whole damn shack is. A big cat in tall grass, watching what it wants live and walk around, not knowing that it’s big, nasty teeth are just waiting to sink in.

If Vince was Dracula, then I was walking my happy ass right into his castle, fit with an eldritch guard dog who was just waiting for me to dip a toe into the water.

As I drew closer, walking into the shadow the Poolhouse shown against the moon, I watched the cherry of Barnabus’s Cigarette float in the dark, away from the doors, and it glided over to the back of Vinnies pickup, the shape of Barnie reaching a hand under the latch to let down the tailgate.

I stopped a few feet away from the bed, Barnie turning to me with his back shielding whatever he hid behind him.

“If you’ve got the keys, get at that door.”

I kept my head down and did as he said, just repeating the plan in my head, get in, get out, kill that thing.

As the ring of keys smacked against the big iron lock, I heard Barnie shuffling with something behind me. The bed of the pickup squeaked as he tugged at something big, and it dragged gradually off the lip of the tailgate. His hands gripped at it, and I heard the thing shuffle like it was wrapped in canvas, falling to the snow with a fat crunch.

Barnie struggled with it, breathing heavy with a nasty gargled wheeze, probably from hunks of mucus singing in his air filled lungs. The snow under his feet let out a snap for each of his steps, and then a growling dragging sound as the thing he was hauling was pulled along.

The lock popped with a click, and I swung it around into my palm, tossing it to the ground behind me. The door let open with a loud creak, and I smelt the familiar grog of moss and rot. The Poolhouse let out a massive breath, and I felt warm, wet air stick to my nose and cheeks.

I turned around, and Barnabus was there. He was bent over his knees, fighting for breath. At his feet was a bundled, black duffle bag. It was huge, about two feet wide, and six feet long. The tarp material waved around frantically in the cold breeze, like a flag sounds during a storm.

He looked up to me, scowling with his fat mouth open wide, pulling the last of his tired breaths.

“Grab…a side…jackass.”

So I did.

The weight was amazing, my arms immediately strained to hold up my side. My fingers burned in the bandages, wrapped around the plastic handle for dear life. Whatever was inside was limp, like I was hauling a deer carcass in a paper bag. I lead the way, walking backwards into the dark hallway. My footsteps slid across the tile floor, I wasn’t able to lift them too high without feeling like I was gonna pull something. The dark came on us then, and the light from outside the door spilt only as far as the first few feet into the hallway, leaving us in pitch black, shuffling forward toward the Pool Room.

I felt the bags insides toss and turn, and I imagined blocks of ice slamming together inside. The stitching on my handle was getting slack, but I kept hold with my crippled fingers. Each step we took, I felt another stitch slip out from its place, and the handle gradually separated farther and farther from the actual duffel bag.

I almost spoke up, but Barnies wheezing was loud and determined, pushing me farther along with his hips as he took long strides.

I didn’t notice when we’d slipped into the hall at first, not until my ears filled with air like I’d gained altitude. The must in there wasn’t as strong as it’d been before, and I suspected that some of the air was seeping out through that broken window, letting the cold night breeze pull it into the field outside.

Not wanting to take a dip backwards into the pool, I shook my end of the bag, motioning for Barnie to let up and drop his end. He noticed, but only slowed his gate enough to stop himself shy of passing out. We’d only been at it a few minutes, and here he was breathing like we’d done a marathon. I let my side of our cargo down with care, not knowing or wanting to know how fragile whatever inside of the bag was.

But Barnie didn’t let go just yet, just holding his handle at his hip, taking in air like a bike pump dishes it out.

I couldn’t see him in the dark, but I could smell his breath from just a few feet away. The room was quiet besides him, wind whistling out of the room through the door we’d left cracked open.

Get in, get out, kill that thing.

Get in, get out, kill that thing.

Before I could hook my thumbs into my belt loops and stroll back out to the truck, I heard Barnabus wheeze over to me-

“Not…done just…yet…junior, Pull your ass up and…get this thing… to the edge.”

Barnabus in the light was intimidating enough, but in the dark, he was far more so. Knowing that pimple-faced dope-slinger was itching for a chance to get at my hide did me no favors, but thinking about how close I’d have to be to the water didn’t either.

Get in, get out.

So I reached back down for the handle again, my fingers recoiling from the sudden pressure on the wound. Just then, the handle finally gave way, and the bag fell from my grasp like an anvil in a looney tunes episode. It smacked into the floor with a thunk, and I frantically dipped my hands at the canvas of it to reel it back up and get moving.

But the cloth had torn where the handle was attached, and my hand fell into the pit it’d left. I touched the thing inside, and I felt horrified by the sheer sensation of it.

I had planted my hand on a thick scalp of hair, Conrad. Curly hair, too.

My fingers swiped at the sticky residue that it’d left on the tips, and I felt my stomach drop.

Barnabus groaned with irritation, and I heard him swing a hand absent-mindedly into the dark between us, trying to lay a smack on me.

“FIGURE IT OUT, YOU MASHED-BRAINED NEEDLE-DICK!”

He was tired, and he sounded wimpy now that he’d been worn out. But I was still in shock, kneeling down again to feel inside the rip.

I slid my hand across the hair again, and I felt the slab of a forehead and a button nose just below. There was a person in the bag, and I felt tiny, shallow breaths brush against my palm.

Barnabus, probably not realizing what had happened, grabbed at the collar of my shirt, the seams snapping around my neck.

I didn’t think about when it’d happened, but my injured hand was already swinging into his gut. My aim struck him somewhere between the stomach and kidney, and his head fell into my shoulder as he barrelled over in pain.

I didn’t mean to do it, it was just some kind of reflex. Hell, I was halfway to apologizing before my brain got a hold of me.

Before I could check if he was alright or knock him even harder, his hand latched onto my crotch and he squeezed as hard as he could. The pain shot through my lower body like an atomic bomb and I yelped real loud. No embarrassment in saying it, I screamed like a baby.

My knee slammed into his face as hard as I could swing it, and I heard something crack in his head. He squealed like a pig, and I heard him finally drop to the floor in a heap, crying over and over.

“Oh fuck, MY EYE! YOU BROKE MY SKULL, MAN!”

I think that I might have cracked his eye socket, but at the time I didn’t care one way or another. While he was screaming, I wrenched the bag open at the tear, spread it wide with a loud ripping sound. There were those shallow breaths, panting pitifully in the dark.

I bent down and lightly felt around for the person’s face.

“Hey, hey it’s alright! I’ve gotcha now, it’s alright. What can I do? Are you hurt badly?

I didn’t get an answer in words, but heard a baited groan whisper from the invisible person. They writhed around a bit in the bag, probably waking up to more pain than they deserved after the way Barnie was throwing that sack around.

I was still clutching at my pants zipper, praying for the sting to slip away sooner rather than later, when I was snapped back to the present with a boot print stamped into the back of my neck.

If you value your damn neck, you’ll never let your back turn with a junkie behind you, because his kick sent me flying to the floor like a kamikaze. My forehead met tile with this disgusting splat, and before I even knew that I’d been hit, I recognized that sweetly warm stream pooling across my cheek. Stars were everywhere, and bright flashes of white spun me in and out of thinking properly.

A voice was speaking from somewhere above me, cutting up its words with little whimpers of pain.

“Oh my eye, my whole damn head is on fire. You miserable little hick, I’m gonna bury you in this place!”

I don’t remember exactly if he’d said that perfectly, but that was the general idea. Not that I understood much of anything going on at the time, curling over like a baby, holding my head in my good hand.

I heard his boots scrape along the floor, limping toward me to hang another few hits on my battered shape in the dark.

In the confusion, hearing him talk and snarl, and listening to my invisible friend moan and come to, I think my brain took a bit of an autopilot option.

I started flailing around, the way I remember it. My boots sprung at dead air, hoping to hit him.

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I won’t pretend that I didn’t know what was behind him, picturing that big trench of soup was my only thought the entire time. God help me, Conrad, I knew that if I could push him in, that’d be the last of it all.

A body in a bag, a vertebrae dislodged, and that disgusting musty odor building up all around me, I knew and I didn’t know, all at once. I knew I wanted him gone, I knew that me and my new friend were fucked either way.

But what I didn’t know is how damn light Barnabas really was.

I got to my feet before I’d even thought to. I sprung both arms out in front of me like I was heading for a dive off of a ledge of the empire state building. My head was nuzzled into my shoulder, blood soaking into the armpit of my shirt, and I sprinted at Barnie with hell at my back.

Truth be told, we both know that Hell was definitely in front of me.

Barnie fell into my arms with a gasp, and our legs tangled together in the crash. My head smacked into his, and I felt the strands of his greasy hair stick to my tongue. My tackle was more than enough to carry us both, and in a second, we’d caught air. We hovered just a second probably, at least in Barnabus’s mind I’m sure it was that long. But for me, knowing what I’d just done, hours passed in that little moment. The air brushing the hat right off of my head, the breeze tickling the wet bits of my face which were splattered with my own blood. The rot and stink of that shack shooting up my nose at that moment, the water of that pool now closer than I’d ever wanted it to be.

My outstretched fingers were the first of me to sink in, but Barnies weight pulled us down fast. The brunt of our impact sent a tornado of rotted piss everywhere, and before I could scream, the water folded over my back like a blanket, and I closed my eyes to pray.

There was a short minute where Barnies body kept up heat against mine, but his struggling pulled us away from one another. Then I was cold, freezing all over. The pool wasn’t warm like I thought, but frigid like an ice bath. I was silent, just lost in the whole experience. Sinking down, bubbles of my own breath fluttering up to the surface, I wasn’t thinking at all. Contrary to what I might’ve thought, I wasn’t really scared either.

I can’t say the same for Barnie, because his yelling back came to me like it was muffled under six feet of dirt. It was a weird humming, almost words but just not quite concrete enough. Almost like singing, kinda.

I felt strings of some weird grassy growth brush against my arms and face, long drowned containers and trash floating up around my head. I didn’t lift like you’d think I would, probably knocked the air out of myself after tackling Barnabus. I was sinking, spread out like a star, into the water.

I felt the water above me rush and churn, Barnie up there somewhere, struggling to keep a float. I think I could’ve laughed down there, thinking about that big, scary chump screaming for someone to help him out of the water.

That was when my boot met the bottom. Thinking about it now, I’m terrified. I don’t even know how deep that water was, could’ve been 16 or 17 feet. But then I was standing on solid ground, calm as a statue.

All my mess seemed to be at a real fever pitch, but I was still coasting along in my own head, white painted all over in my mind like a psychward bedroom.

I felt like I imagine it feels to be a baby, quiet and knowing nothing but the fluid all around me.

The water was soaking into my bandages, and the leftover muscle and nerves in my fingers started to scream. I was pulled from my little moment like a yoyo, everything coming back to me in streams of thought going a thousand miles an hour.

Then, the water shifted.

My feet, I thought, were on the solid concrete bottom of the bowl. But as I started coming to, my feet rolled back, the darkness below me slipping off somewhere behind me. I was floating again, the gallons of stuff around me swirling as something down there swam up to the surface.

I knew what it was, and I didn’t have a choice in just letting the inevitable take its course.

I’d known when I rushed Barnie, and I was okay with it, I guess. It took me away from all of it, the stupid, crazy mess that was boiling up all over. At least I could just let it all go, and I felt warm knowing that.

But nothing wrapped around me, I wasn’t tasting the flesh of that blanket as it used me up for a midnight snack.

I was alone.

Was it hovering over? Was it sniffing me out?

I didn’t know. Not until I heard that awful gargled noise from above.

It wasn’t going after me, at least not yet.

My feet kicked, and I found my arms latching onto the wall of green, mossy stuff. I climbed up, pulling myself foot by foot toward the surface.

I was flying blind, having no idea where I was or what was going on because the water hurt my eyes too much to keep them open. The thrashing above was now behind me, and I was safe for the moment. I didn’t know how fast it would take care of Barnie, nor did I wanna pause to give it enough time. My chest was already starting to squeeze, and that pressure on my brain was kicking me further and further into a fight or flight. I’d wasted too much time floating down there, now my lungs were ready to implode.

There wasn’t any rhythm to my mad stabs at the wall, but repeated frantic handfuls of empty water pulling me up and over, each lurching heartbeat that slammed into my ears like a sledgehammer told me how stupid I was to waste that time.

But then my hand shot again into that dark green soup, instead feeling the matted, soaked chill of open air. My head and shoulders followed right after, a torrent of that stuff splashing into the dark as I took a huge, desperate breath.

My voice echoed off the walls of the room around me, coming back in distorted, nauseated screams. I scrambled with both arms toward the direction opposite of the intense tornado of strangled moans and crying behind me, feeling my hands slam into the concrete edge of the pool.

I wasted no time in lunging up, my ribs barreling into the tile and bruising while I slung each leg onto solid ground, the cold air around already cutting into my skin.

I laid in a puddle on the ground, not far from where I’d started before. I could feel my hand resting on the shoulder of my invisible friend, who’s chest pulled in and pushed out steadily, and I was happy for that.

It was us alone in there, with Barnabus’s howling in the water. I’d been at the bottom so long, that he was almost gone when I’d swam up. Now that I could hear him properly, there was only the occasional splash, his hand or leg planting in the water, kicking at the thing that was digesting his body. But the screaming, it didn’t stop. It only died down real slowly. Even as his throat got tired and he was well stuck in the tarry feelers of the blanket, a raspy whimper would bleed out.

Under his noises came these squelching hiccups, probably the skin of the thing pulling at Barnabus’s flesh, taking the best bits.

If I’m being a bit dark here, it’s because I want to be. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel safer now that that creep was gone, but it didn’t change the fact that I was the one who’d done it.

Asshole or not, I killed him, Conrad. Thinking about the weight of that kind of thing, I don’t know. It makes me think that way, all black and drab. But it feels right to write it out like this on a page, like can get some of that feeling out of me but handing it off to you, if you don’t mind. It would be unfair for me to take all of this on my own plate, it’d be nice to unload some on someone else.

I don’t think there’s enough of Barnie to bury.
The last I saw, in what light I had before what happened next, there was the faint visage of a single hand drifting across the surface in a small raft of debris. In the dark, it shown like a vaguely glowing cartoon ghost. I looked over the edge when he’d finally gone quiet, and seen it there riding the waves of Barnies last splash, going a lap around the edge of the pool like a Renaissance jouster would have done with his opponent’s head.

In the dark, while I watched the fingers of barnies severed hand dance in the ripples, I felt someone else’s drift against mine, inspecting my fingers before wrapping around them slowly.

My invisible friend finally spoke to me, in a silly little whisper, bookended with a nasty cough that sounded like it hurt.

“What happened?”

I didn’t reply, refusing to take my attention away from the pit, knowing that the blanket would probably lick around the ledge, looking for another bite.

My body was basically emptied, now soaked to the bone with the nastiest water in the world. I laid on hard tile floor with a random, injured person two feet away. Someone was dead, someone was hurt, and someone was still back at the Rec Center, waiting to see both Barnabus and I walking out of the poolhouse.

Someone who knew what was in the bag, someone who used me to get rid of that dirty little secret, Someone who I’d practically known since I was born.

And he was just a few yards away, feeling the gust of that new air conditioner in his office, pushing a needle four or five inches into his arm and just slipping off somewhere in his head.

Someone, I guess, who was likely going to venture on down here when he didn’t hear or see his truck pull back into the parking lot.

There was no way I could get out of this one, not with my own lungs hardly able to keep up.

I felt my friends arm wrap around me, clinging to my side as they dragged their body across the floor. A ball of hair laid against my chest, and I heard the tiny breaths pull in and out.

“Jedidiah?”

I knew the voice, but it took me a second in my confusion to pull out a face from my brain. It was a soft voice, almost like a girl’s.

It was Darby. It was Darby all along, limply tossed around in that duffel bag. Even as I struggled for breath, and felt the heat of my skin against the soaking sheath of my clothes, a nasty picture was painted in my head.

I thought about Vinnie and Barnabus, what I’d heard in his office spoken between them like a plan out of hell. Vince had asked Barnie for something, which Barnie could supply. But Barnabus wanted something for it, and He’d said Vinnie was low on cash.

These fucking monsters. The whole God damned troop of them, with their business and trades, and they had traded, didn’t they? You’re not such a bookworm that you’d not get the general idea.

Thinking about it now, I feel disgusting even to have stood next to these guys. If I’d known, maybe I could’ve done something, I could’ve maybe saved Darby from all of this.

But this isn’t a comic book, I wasn’t superman in this whole story. You know Conrad, I don’t think there is a superman. Not in stories like this, not in stories like mine. Just my luck, huh? Even when I decide to make my own way, my own movie with my own plots and goals and life, I still can’t get it together. Stuck in this town with Draculas all around me, I’m still just trying to clean up the nightmares they make.

But in the moment, his head on my shoulder, I didn’t think any of this. Instead, I wrapped my hand around his, and tried to offer him whatever warmth I had left.

We laid that way in the dark for a while, maybe half an hour before I heard something from just outside those giant windows.

It was a stream of footsteps, crunching into the snow, making their way closer and closer to the poolhouse.

He’d be coming in soon, I thought. He’d come in and He’d see what had happened, and we’d end up with hell to pay. What would he do? There was no telling now what Vince would be capable of. He wasn’t somebody i knew anymore, we weren’t the same people that we had been when it was just you, me and him running around, being good ole towny kids.

He didn’t even see us as his friends anymore, of that I’m positive. When was the last time my cousin had asked how I was? Or visited the house to check up on me and mimi?

No, ever since He’d gotten back home, he’d made it clear that we weren’t the same anymore. Whatever had happened when he’d gone to uni, however he saw himself now, that was all there was.

The man who stood at the door of the poolhouse and shoved himself inside now, I didn’t know what he’d do.

I heard him step into the hallway, dragging his feet along the dirt covered floor. His steps were wild, like he was dancing to a song only he could hear. He’d stop every few seconds, adjusting himself before walking along again.

“B…barnabus?”

“Barnie, you lounge cat, what are you…what are you up to?”

His voice was strained and stuttery, slurring at the ends of his words. I realized then, that Vince was riding the tiger at that moment. He was bathing in some dreamy state of mind, probably not even sure where he was. There was a metallic click somewhere near him, and I heard him lightly smack something in his hand. A beam of light shot into the dark above us, cutting into the misty air. I saw flies buzzing in circles around us, dancing in and out of the beam as Vince drunkenly swung his flashlight around the room.

When he’d spoke, Darbys fingers squeezed mine, and I heard him gasp at the realization of who was in there with us.

The shock in his noises, the way he shivered against me, this pit grew in my brain as I felt how scared he was. I was beyond angry, the genuine hate that filled me was something else. But if I was planning to jump up and be my own little superman, the time to do it had passed. My chest hurt, my arms and legs were shot, there was nothing left in me to fight with, to confront Vince with. I was a sack of meat and bones, no choice to do anything left in me at all.

So I sat in my puddle of muck, listening to the steps steadily close in on me and Darby. The crunching pine needles drew close to my head, and I felt the warmth of the flashlight finally fall on my face.

“Barn…oh, oh jeezus. God, fuckin JEEZUS!”

Vinces steps slid away, his breath diving into his chest with a huge gasp.

“What are…oh what are we gonna.. gonna…”

He slurred and sputtered, coming back into his voice with whatever effort he could shoot up from his addled brain.

“BARNIE! Oh, anyone, little…little jed is down, guys. Little, little Jeddy…”

Some muck from inside of him got caught in his throat, and I heard him hock it out, the spit landing somewhere close to my face.

I wanted to light him up, Conrad. Every fiber of hate and fire in me was begging me to get up, to launch a five-finger A-bomb into his gut and lay him out on the poolhouse floor. But all those little signals firing off in my head didn’t add to much.

What I could do, was manage to hoist myself up with my arms. My legs were concrete, but I slung my shoulders into the air and clung to my knees, catching myself before I fell.

My cousin shit himself when he caught sight of me, leaning back against his ankles in shock.

“Oh, man, Jeddy! Jed, Jed, Jeddy, you’re up and- Oof, you gotta understand, pal, buddy, This is all just a big…big misunderstand-“

But that was all he got out. Maybe it was the piles of debris on the floor, but his broken brain couldn’t have helped much. He slipped, and I stared up.at the light as it flew from his hand and bounced off of the tile at his feet. He went slack onto the floor, landing in a sickening, meaty plop. He’d gasped as he caught air, and sealed his surprise with a disgusting crunching sound as his head pounded the ground.

I felt Darbys body lift and lean against my shoulder, his hair bouncing against my chin as he looked on with me.

The silver arm of the flashlight rolled lazily in the dark, softly stopping against my hip. I wasn’t in a hurry, but I grabbed it, and waved it toward the hunkered shape of my cousin on the floor.

His massive, muscley frame was piled together in a sweaty, well dressed heap. His black leather jacket was spilled over his torso like a blanket, and I saw his face grimaced and plated against the tile. The whites of his eyes showed beneath his twitching eyelids, and his lips were drawn back, slobber waterfalling down from his tongue.

Darby and I watched a dark red stream of blood pool out from beneath his curtain of dyed black hair.

Neither of us moved at first. How were we gonna help? Why would we help?

Am I a monster too, Conrad? What am I after doing what I did? If you think I’ve given you the worst, you have no idea how bad this already is. I need you to know, I had no idea what to do. I don’t want to lose you as my friend, but you have to know the truth too. It’s tearing me apart Conrad, between all these monsters and their business I’m stuck wondering if I’m no different.

I spent every day of my life here in this town, all the time hanging out with you and Vinnie. You two were practically my parents for fucks sake. Without mom and dad, it was always just you two. But now I’m not a kid anymore, and you’re long gone. I looked at that disgusting pile of poisoned meat on the ground and it didn’t even look like my Vince anymore. The things he’d done, the people he was hurting, all under my nose. My Vince was dead and he was dead a lot longer than I even knew.

All that was left now was me, and whatever was left of my cousin. No, of it.

And instead of grabbing him, instead of getting up and phoning the police, I just stared at the light reflecting off of the ocean of blood steadily crawling towards me.

The slope of the tile coaxed the rim of the blood into a stream, and it flowed faster down the grade, slipping over the edge of the pool.

The beam of the light followed it, and I knew what would happen next. There was a bubbling in there, a pot set to cook. Then the slick, muscus-y slapping breached the surface. The blanket was here, and it was hungry again. The black folds of its surface were barely visible in the light, but I could still make out its lips lapping at the tile, licking at the crimson milk that flowed right into its mouth.

Did Darby see it? I don’t know. We haven’t talked about it, and I don’t know if we ever really will. I don’t know how I’d live with myself pushing the weight of that thing onto someone else. But if he did see it, he didn’t tell me. He didn’t scream or curse, so it’s up in the air.

But what he did do was stand up.

Darby stumbled up from the ground, catching his weight on my shoulder so as not to fall. It surprised me, and I moved to grab his hand to stop him. But he didn’t notice me at all, he just steadied himself, and he took a step away. I turned the light on him, just to see where he was going. That’s when I saw the state of him.

He was practically naked. I mean, no shirt and no pants at all. He was down to his underwear, showing all the snow white skin underneath. They were ripped, the cloth below the waistband slung down his thigh in ribbons. A dried red streak drew down from beneath his underwear, and made a coarse down his thigh and calf. His pale back was littered with bulbous purple bruises. I felt my heart stop when I saw them trail along, right across his shoulder and spine. The back of his neck was collared with a dark red crown, the patchy shapes of fingers still printed around it.

The sight of him shut me up so fast that I had to bounce back to some other thought. Anything other than what I’d seen and what it implied. I thought about Mimi, I thought about home, I thought about school and I thought about you, Conrad.

I had to close out that evil nastiness trying to paint a picture in my head that I didn’t want to see, so I thought of every nice thing I could.

Darby took no notice of me or the flashlight, and I saw his steps draw nearer to Vince. His bare foot planted wetly into the puddle of blood, but Darby didn’t seem to care.

He stood there, standing over Vinnie and breathing heavily. At first you’d think it was silent, before hearing the soft implosive whimpers under Darbys breath. I realized he was crying, and I closed my eyes to give him whatever privacy I could manage.

He stood there and cried, but not for too long. He stopped before I heard him wrap a hand around Vinces ankle. I didn’t open my eyes, I knew just as well as if I had seen it. Darby struggled to get both of Vinces ankles in each hand.

He’s a smaller fella, more of a shrimp than a varsity athlete, but it didn’t impede his progress much as I heard him give the first tug on Vinnies body. It drew heavy on the tile, and even through his raspy, tired breaths, Darby committed.

The sound of Vinces cheek squeaking against the floor would fill the room, stopping every once and a while so that Darby could draw another breath.

When I did open my eyes, it was to make sure that Darby was careful to keep from the edge while he did what he was going to do.

I knew, Conrad. I’m not stupid, I could give a guess as to what Darbys goal was. That’s where my big problem comes in, because that’s where I let it all go. I didn’t move to stop Darby, even knowing what was going to happen as soon as skin touched water.

Darby didn’t know what he was doing, I think. The things that had happened to him that night, I can’t imagine that he’d be in the right frame of mind for a long, long time. He was just a kid, doing what I think anyone would do having been through what he had.

Even if I was a Saint, even if it was my own cousin being dragged into that soup, I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone what’s right. Darby was owed something, I think. That’s all.

What was he gonna do? Tell the police? You think a town like this is gonna dawn a trial like that? No, I don’t think so. Good ole boys don’t see time for things like that, not when it hurts to even look at the things they’d done. Weinwick is a hole, and whatever Darby would try to bring to light, likely would sink down deep.

So I let him, Conrad. When I heard Vinces shoes splash and Darby shove Vinces upper body over the ledge, I sat there and let it happen.

I like to think that when Darby sat back down next to me, holding his head between his knees, that he didn’t hear the noises. But he had to, because the pathetic waking groans of Vinces brain coming to in the water were too sickening to ignore. It got even worse as his hands slapped around, trying to find purchase somewhere to keep himself afloat.

Then the blanket came out of the dark, and the other side of the pool let a nearly silent wave creep towards his hollering.

There was one scream, that’s all. It was bright and loud like a bomb siren, and then it was drowned. Buried under gallons of liquid as that thing pulled his head under the waves.

Oh, there was thrashing in the dark. Long blades of water streamed across my face from his struggling. Little echoes of his voice would poke through the torrent of crashing water, but none could be interpreted as words. Not in reality, at least.

In my head though, they were all melting down to the same few syllables over and over.

“Jeddy! Jeddy! Jeddy!”

I didn’t move.

“Jeddy please, help me Jeddy!”

I couldn’t block out the thoughts.

“Jed, remember how we were back in the day? Remember the baseballs, the movies, the games?”

It wasn’t even pretending to be real anymore. It was a ghost in my ear, and I pictured it with Vince’s face, teeth baring and eyes glowing like hot red coals.

“Family, Jeddy, it’s all about the God damn FAMILY!”

“BE A MAN, YOU SPINELESS SACK OF SHIT! BE A GODDAMN, CLINT EASTWOOD, ALL-AMERICAN MAN!”

I didn’t say anything to it. I’m not one to sit and talk to myself. Instead, this fat frog jumped into my throat and I felt the waterworks start up in the creases of my eyes.

In the dark, it was me and Darby till daylight. I felt his face press wetly into my shoulder, as I’m sure he felt my tears fall gently into his hair.

Darby fell asleep soon after the sounds slipped away into silence. But me, I was stuck awake. I guess there was no rest to be had with me, not even with how broken I’d felt.

After all, I had one more job to do.

Even if Vince and Barnie were gone, the blanket was still in there, floating around somewhere in the dark. I was no longer terrified now, though. After all that had happened, how could I be? I used up all my fear, I guess. Instead, there was the nagging thought in my head, reminding what I’d come here to do in the first place.

So, when darbys breathes got deeper and I was sure he’d fallen asleep, I stood up. I stretched a little, feeling the aches of my wounds and bruises swell up in gradual pain, and then I just…stepped toward the door.

It was miserable outside, a giant orange sea of clouds was lit up above, dropping heavy snow. I felt the cold attack my soaked clothing, but I still kept walking. I kept walking till it almost felt like I could walk no more. But I’d gotten to the golf cart, and I drove it down the field and over to the poolhouse. I dragged each bucket of Chlorine tablets inside, and popped the lid off of each before kicking them over.

The surface of the water erupted in a giant hiss, seeds of bubbles growing from where the chlorine had met the water. Great big yelps of air shot up from the water as the air inside the buckets evacuated.

A growing circle of white foam stretched out from the middle of the pool, viscously scraping against the edges as it met them. The steam grew thicker over the water, and that chemical smell wasted no time in filling up the room.

The surface writhed, and I saw its black flaps jerk around in the waves. I guess the chlorine was too strong at the bottom, so it’d come up to relieve itself from the chemicals. But I knew it wouldn’t be long, no way in hell. The amount of that stuff I’d poured in could clear a lake, let alone burn that pool until nothing could live inside.

It struggled silently, and I watched. I like to think that if it had a mouth, it’d be screaming. It was in pain, that was the best part. That meant that it could feel, that it could die.

When I called the police department, it had to be past six in the morning. I wasn’t gonna give a big speech or anything, I just asked that they come with the ambulance again, and that there had been bad things that morning at the Poolhouse.

That was it. That was my nightmare, tied up in a big, blood soaked ribbon. Sitting there next to Darby, watching the sun come up behind those giant glass windows, I wondered if this was my movie. If this was my whole story, just like I’d wanted. Wouldn’t it be just my luck that my own story would last a week and a half? That’d it’d be filled with monsters and bastards, that wouldn’t even get to be my own hero?

Just my luck, sure.

But now that I’m home, and that the worst has passed, I know it’s not. It can’t be, or at least I won’t let it be.

Some stories start badly, it happens all the time. You don’t get a fair shake sometimes, that’s just the way it goes. But now I get to really take hold, you know? From now on, it’s my show. I don’t know what I’ll do, I can’t decide just yet. But I won’t die in this town, just like I didn’t die in that evil shack.

Me and Mimi are gonna go somewhere, somewhere far and somewhere that feels right. University or 9 to 5, I don’t care. But it’ll be my choice, and that means it’ll be the right one. I’m no one’s Doughboy anymore, that’s clear enough.

But I can’t leave just yet, there’s still time I need to put in. I need cash, and I need a diploma. And more than that, I need to make sure that Darby is okay. I feel like I owe it to him, I guess. All he’s been through, that little window into my life sent him into hell, and he deserves someone to talk to.

Tomorrow, I’ll jog down to the school and see if I can’t get his mailing address. I don’t think he’ll be in the visiting mood for a bit, but I can still write to him.

Here’s to hoping he doesn’t remember everything that happened to us in that nightmare last night. But if he does, I’ll make sure he’s able to deal with it. What are friends for?

Wish me luck, Dopey. I’ll see you around.

Jed

Credit: Samuel Giest

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