Estimated reading time — 22 minutes
This is part four and a half in the Ubloo Series. Please visit the series tag to read the prior installments!
My second car ride with Eli was nothing like the first. We took my personal vehicle this time, though I took my badge and gun with me just to be safe. I knew it wasn’t my first afflicted dream but this one hit closer to home, and knowing something was out there doing this scared the shit out of me.
When in the first instance I rode with Eli he was completely silent, this time I couldn’t shut him up. He rambled about his farm back home in Natchez, how the crops were just about ready to be harvested and that he planned to donate a lot of it to the local homeless shelter. He talked about his accomplishments at Northwestern and notable alums he had either taught or seen around campus, and how he completely distrusted dogs (much to my dislike) because as a kid he saw a pack of them surround and kill a rabbit.
“I’m telling ya, they didn’t even eat the damn thing, just took turns biting and shaking it. It was horrible.”
I didn’t mention to him that all he probably had to do was wave a stick at them and they’d run, but then again letting him talk endlessly allowed me to zone out and think about what laid ahead.
Well, not really.
I learned from the police database that she had passed away in 2010. She was a resident of Tawson for a while but she later moved to South Lewiston, Louisiana—about a two hour car ride down into the heart of the bayou. “Go somewhere more black” Eli had said was probably her motive, and who could blame her. From what I understand, a lot of kids faced racial taunting and malicious environments after that pre-school was shut down. Monaya must have taken it extra hard as well, given that her daughter passed away a few years later. Drowned one night when she had snuck off to go for a swim. If you ask me, that’s what drove her to move.
She was survived by a daughter she had later in life—whose name I learned was Kyla—and shared her mother’s last known address, which I figured might be the best place to start looking.
“Come on pull over!” Eli said breaking into my thoughts.
“Huh? What?” I said slowing the car down.
“Hell boy you haven’t even been listening to me have you?” He said, sounding annoyed. “I said pull over here and let me take a piss, Christ.”
I threw my blinker on and we turned into the parking lot of a diner. When we finally came to a stop in a space Eli opened the car door and hopped out.
“Now I’ll just be five minutes, don’t you go running off on me you hear?”
I grunted as he shut the door and proceeded to hustle strenuously up the ramp to the door.
It didn’t make much sense to me, to be honest. I understand this Monaya woman was pissed about what happened at the school, that I got, but how did she know how to perform that ritual? Eli had said—Abian too—that it was likely the ritual could have been performed in the past. People had realized that they could stave off the curse by burying the victim alive, and sometimes against their will, but bodies could always be unearthed by mistake, the curse reawakened, or if their theory is correct, re-summoned.
I shifted in my seat and looked down at my watch. It had been almost ten minutes. This is some long piss.
The engine was still humming and hung in the thick Louisiana air like the sound of a far off cicada. Something about it made me uneasy. I turned the keys in the ignition and shut the car off and realized it was completely quiet, eerily quiet.
I got out of the car and stretched. I paced a little around the parking lot and stopped at the end of it, watching a small stream babble lazily. I shifted on my feet and tugged at my crotch. Fuck, now I gotta piss too.
I walked up to the diner, the bright sun making the dark windows impossible to see through, and pushed the door open easily.
There were a few locals sitting at the bar top, they looked like truckers. Behind the counter a middle-aged waitress with blonde hair was pouring coffee into an older man’s mug.
“Can I help yah hun?” She said putting a hand on her hip, the coffee pot still in her other hand.
“No ma’am. Just waiting for my friend, came in to take a leak.”
“Ahh, older fellow yeah? White goatee?”
“That’s the one.” I smiled.
“Bathroom’s back there.” She motioned over to the end of the diner. “Feel free to wait or if you need anythin’ just holler.”
“Thank you ma’am.” I said as I made my way over to where she said the bathrooms were.
I passed by a jukebox that looked like it was on its last leg. The record inside was spinning, though it was warbling a little.”
“Hey, hey hey baby!” The jukebox sang, playing a scratchy rendition of “Hey Baby” by Bruce Chanel. “I want to know if you’ll be my girl.”
I stopped outside the men’s room door and noted the “occupied” over the door handle. I let out a sigh and leaned back against the wall.
“Sayyap!” I heard called in my direction in a grizzly weathered voice.
I looked up and saw an old man with long gray hair and a matching long beard, both of which looked scraggily enough to not have been washed in days. He was wearing a beat-up olive colored field jacket and a matching hat that read “Korean War Veteran” across the front. When we made eye contact he spoke again.
“That thur.” He rasped in a thick Louisiana accent, pointing towards my leg.
I looked down and saw the United States Marine Corps logo tattooed on the side of my calf.
“That’un match mine.” He said pulling back the sleeve of his coat and revealing a matching—albeit faded—version of mine.
“You served yeah?” I said nodding to his hat. “Korea?”
“Yahp, yahp.” He answered reaching back to grab his cup of coffee. He took a long audible sip.
“So did my granddad.” I said, stepping forward off the wall I was leaning on.
“Tiputhaspear.” The man garbled through his facial hair.
“Jeff Danvers.” I said walking towards him with my hand out. “Lance Corporal.”
He gripped my hand tight with his dirty palm and gave me a toothless smile.
“Robert Jennings.” He was gripping my hand tighter now and shaking it vigorously. “Private, first class.”
I frowned at him.
“I’m sorry, did you say your name wa—“
Just then he pulled a gun from his other hand and shot me in the thigh.
“ARGHH” I screamed falling to the ground and clutching my leg.
I heard the waitress gasp and the clamor of dining ware hit the floor as a few of the other patrons tried to run. This was followed by two more gun shots and a loud thud.
“NUBUDY MOVE!” the man said as I watched him pacing across the diner from the floor.
“Now Robert,” The waitress began in a shaken voice. “Let’s just talk about this yeah?”
“SHADDAHP!” He yelled, waving the gun. I watched as the other patrons ducked and held their heads.
He was pacing slowly now past the bar.
“Yeh dunno, dunno…” The gun was shaking now in his hand as he spoke.
I rolled over to get a better view and saw two bodies near the door. He must have caught them as they tried to flee. They had fallen in a way where you’d have to move them to get the door open, which explains why no one else has tried what they did.
“Out-un patrol and yeh find yer buddy’s body layin’ inna dirt.” He said choking back tears. “And when-yer other buddy roll’em over the body splode KA-BOOM!”
With that he fired the gun into the ceiling and staggered. He was practically sobbing at this point. His arm dropped to his side and he swayed a bit, and I heard him snort back his tears. Slowly, he walked alongside the bar top past a cowering patron, raise the gun to his head, and pull the trigger.
His brains splatted back against the side of the bar and the waitress screamed again. Just then I saw as the last patron stood up from where he was crouched down and ran at him.
“Rrrraghhhh!” he yelled as he ran.
He fell just a few feet in front the grizzly old man with two shots to the chest, his blood slowly leaking out onto the floor.
By this point I had managed to begin pulling myself up. I was sitting upright against the bottom of a booth, and wrenched at the table to pull myself up into the chair. When I finally managed to get myself up I panted, and saw that he was making his way behind the bar to the waitress.
“STOP THAT!” I yelled. “LEAVE HER ALONE!”
He began moving oddly side to side, a sort of side-step with a sway. Then he began shaking the gun in rhythm with his footsteps.
“Heyyyyyy hey hey babay!” he grumbled as he moved.
I looked over my shoulder and saw the jukebox, still playing the Bruce Chanel song.
“Hey, hey hey baby!” The jukebox churned out, but skipping and repeating just these lines.
The waitress was sobbing audibly now as he made his way over to her.
“Heyyyyyy hey hey babay!” he said whipping the gun forward so it was pointed into her stomach.
“No please…” She began as he grabbed her hand and kept dancing.
“Heyyyyyy hey hey babay!”
She was sobbing hysterically, him just rocking her arm back and forth.
“Heyyyyyy hey hey babay!” He said again, and I heard the record needle finally catch and play the second half of the chorus. “I wanna knooooo-o-o-o-o-ow, if you’ll be my girl!”
With the last word he had stuck the muzzle of his gun under her chin and pulled the trigger. The ceiling now coated in a deep red with bits of blonde stuck and strewn to the splatter.
I winced as the gun went off and recoiled, unready for the sound. He stood there for a moment staring at the ceiling with that toothless smile, then his eyes slowly fell to the woman on the ground, laying there lifeless and cold. His smile faded.
Slowly, he turned around and walked back around the diner, headed towards my booth.
“NO! NO STOP THIS!” I said, falling down to the floor and crawling on my elbows and one good leg towards the end of the diner.
The record was skipping completely now, the song had ended. It seemed to sync with his footsteps as he slowly paced after me.
“I’m a police officer! I can help you! Come on, put the gun down and we can discuss this, please!”
He wasn’t listening, and kept getting closer. By now I had reached the end of the diner and turned to prop myself up against the wall, watching him slowly creepy forward.
“Hmmmmm, hmm hmm hmm-hmm!” I heard him humming, and realized he was still mimicking the jukebox.
His toe hit my foot and he stopped, standing by my feet, the gun hanging at his side like a weight.
“Please, please I have a wife and son.” I pleaded.
He smiled down at me again, then threw back his head and let out a long almost cackling laugh.
His head snapped down and I saw the clean shaven face of Thomas Abian.
“Boo.” He said in a voice so dark and deep it sounded almost fake, then shoved the muzzle of the revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
There was just enough time to see his head burst.
I snapped awake to the sound of knuckles on the windshield.
I looked over to the sound and saw Eli peering in through the passenger side window.
“Open up it’s hot as hell in hand basket out here!”
“Umm, yeah.” I said fumbling for the electronic locks. I snapped them locked at first and then unlocked them fast. “Sorry, must have dozed off.”
Eli opened the door and then stopped halfway into the truck as he heard what I said.
“Oh…” He started. Then turned to look at me. “You alright?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine.” I said turning the key in the ignition and blasting the air conditioning. Christ it had gotten hot in here.
“Well, I’m ready to hit the road. Unless you gotta run in for a quick leak as well?”
I paused for a moment and then looked up at the diner over the steering wheel. I caught the eye of a brunette waitress, a little younger than her made-up counterpart. She noticed me staring then smiled and waved, although I couldn’t manage to move a muscle.
“No, no.” I said buckling my seatbelt and checking to make sure no one was behind me in the lot. “Let’s hit the road.”
The rest of the car ride went about the same. Well, minus the little part where I passed out in a parking lot and dreamt about Robert Jennings going on a killing spree.
Eli picked up right where he left off, talking about his career and whatnot. I think he knew I wasn’t listening, but just liked having someone to talk to all the same. Life on a farm can’t be too social.
Eventually we passed a sign on the interstate that read “Now Entering South Lewiston,” and the cab of my car fell silent. The purr of the engine and the steady rush of the air conditioning the only noise.
I looked up at the GPS on my dash and saw we were just ten minutes out.
“Say, Jeff.” Eli finally piped up.
“I know we’re here to talk to Kyla but, have you given any thought to what you’re gonna ask her?”
I thought about this for a second or two.
“Yeah.” I finally responded.
“And?” Eli asked.
“I still don’t know.”
We drove the rest of the way in silence, off the interstate and through a rundown town center, a left and a right here and there, until we reached a small winding road with houses spaced far, far apart.
“You have arrived at your destination.” The GPS chimed as I slowly crept to a halt over to the side of the road.
I shifted the car into park and looked down a long dirt driveway at a small brown house. It looked like it needed a fresh coat of paint and some shingle-work on the sides. A windchime hung over the porch with three yellow birds dangling amongst the thin metal pipes.
I looked at Eli and he looked at me. He nodded, and we both got out of the car.
As I walked down the driveway I looked around. The yard was mowed—to a point—weeds and tall sawgrass had snuck in from the side of the road, and must have been slowly inching their march into the manicured patches of grass and dust for years now. There were a pair of lawn chairs up on the porch with a table between them, a glass of what looked like sweet tea sitting on it, sweating in the hot Louisiana air.
Eli and I walked up the front steps onto the porch, exchanged a quiet sideways glance, and then I reached up and knocked on the screen door.
The sound of footsteps echoed from inside, and then a woman came to the door, opening it a little over a foot and then stepped halfway out. She looked like she was in her late thirties or early forties, but was still very pretty.
“Can I help you?” She asked suspiciously.
“Yes ma’am, we’re looking for a Miss Kyla Guthrie, is she available?” I said, trying to sound as polite as possible.
“She is…” She answered, “Speaking actually.”
Eli and I shifted uncomfortably in unison, him letting out a short cough.
“Ma’am, my name is Jeff Danvers. I’m a police officer with Tawson, Louisiana and this is my associate Eli Jacobs.”
“Ma’am.” Eli said tipping his hat.
“We were wondering if we could ask you a couple of questions?”
Kyla looked from me to Eli, and then back to me.
“And what does an officer in Tawson need with me?” She asked.
“Well ma’am, we were wondering if… ahh…” I said trailing off.
“We were wondering if you wouldn’t mind us asking you a few questions about your late mother, God rest her soul.” Eli chimed in. “She used to live in Tawson correct?”
“My mother?” Kyla said turning back towards Eli. “She did yes, both of us did. But what could you possibly need in regards to her?”
“Ma’am, this has nothing to do with any investigation. We just…”
Now it was Eli’s turn to trail off.
“We found a note.” I blurted out.
“A note?” Kyla asked. Her stare gave me chills.
“Yes, we found a note from your mother.”
Kyla eyed us both, now very suspicious.
“What kind of note?”
“It was discovered at a crime scene at the old pre-school in town.” I blurted again. Eli giving me a glaring look.
Kyla gasped, a little, confirming my very sure yet skeptical suspicion that she was just as human as I was.
“Well, come in then, come in.”
She opened the screen door and I followed her inside, Eli doing the same after me. Her house was surprisingly cool, which must have been due to the natural shade she got from the surrounding trees. The furniture was a bit dated but somehow it worked, and the whole place just felt… surprisingly wholesome.
We followed her to the living room and she motioned over towards the couch.
“You can sit there, if you’d like. Can I get you anything? A cup of sweet tea? Ice water?” She asked.
“Water would be lovely ma’am thank you.” Eli said as he took his hat off and sat down.
“Nothing for me, thanks.” I said, following his lead and taking the other side of the couch.
Kyla walked through an open doorway into the kitchen as I watched her pull a glass from the shelf, open the fridge and produce a pitcher of water. She poured it into the glass and then place it back where she had got it. She shut the fridge and I squeezed my hands together dropping my gaze, not letting her know I had followed her every move.
“Here you go.” She said handing it to Eli.
She sat down in a lounge chair across from us.
“Thank you ma’am.” He said as he took a long sip, then placed it on the side table, being sure to use a coaster.
We all sat awkward for a second or two before we all remembered what we had sat down to discuss.
“So, this note.” Kyla started. “May I see it?”
I turned towards a small pack I had carried in with me and unzipped the top. From inside I pulled out the note, held in a small plastic bag, and handed it to over to her.
She took it and stared down at it, narrowed her eyes at it, then read it again.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand?” She finally said looking back at us.
I let out a small sigh. Patience has never been a strength of mine. Luckily, however, there was an interrogation tactic for this. Come out with the fastball off the bat, and hope you catch them off guard.
“Ma’am, do you have any reason to suspect your Mother would have been involved with voodoo?”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Eli slowly turn towards me, and felt his eyes practically boring a hole through the side of my head. Kyla on the other hand stared at me, mouth slightly agape.
After a few seconds she started laughing, almost hysterically.
I looked over at Eli who was scowling, and I answered with a shrug. Kyla continued to laugh for a few more seconds.
“Wooo!” She finally said, fanning herself with her hand. She looked back up at me for a brief moment and then laughed again.
When she was finished she wiped the beginnings of a tear from the corner of her eye.
“I’m sorry.” She said. “It’s just—“
Another short laugh.
“You see, my mother was a God-fearing woman.” She said finally composing herself. “Church every Sunday, prayers when you were bad, prayers for you when you were sick… If she even heard the word ‘voodoo’ she would have set to giving both of y’all a good whooping.”
She laughed a short bit again, and then sat back.
“That’s good to hear.” I said smiling. “It’s just—this note—we think it may have been left at the site of what looks like a voodoo ritual, hidden beneath the floorboards of the old pre-school.”
Kyla looked at me and her smile faded slightly.
“Oh, you’re serious?” She asked.
I nodded, solemnly.
“Well, since I took you through the ringer with that laughing fit, I may as well tell you.”
Eli and I both leaned in, attentively.
“My mother, you see, she was pretty upset when they shut that school down.” She said, reaching for a pack of cigarettes, taking one out and lighting it. She took a long drag and then exhaled. “Now, she may have loved herself some Jesus, but she was fierce, like a lioness.”
Eli handed her an ashtray and she nodded back in thanks, placing it beside herself and knocking her cigarette on it.
“See, when it came to me and my sis she did anything for us. I mean, arguing with the teachers over our grades, making sure other kids were never bullying us, everything. She always wanted us to be treated with nothing but respect and for us to treat everyone else the same.”
She ashed her cigarette again and then continued.
“But when they closed that school down—well—that was the angriest my mother had ever been. Hell, she went off on me and my sis a few times even, just because she had so much… so much rage from it.”
I edged closer, leaning over the small coffee table.
“Now, bless her soul, my mother was definitely a saint.” Kyla said taking another drag. “But would she fake some voodoo mumbo-jumbo to scare people out of that school? Well, I have to say, I wouldn’t put it past her.”
Eli and I slouched a bit, our tense stature wearing out on an instant.
“I’m sorry, faked?” Eli said.
“Yeah well, last I heard that school still ain’t sold.” Kyla answered, snuffing out her cigarette. “Not sure what she did had anything to do with it if it’s just now being found but, sounds like whatever it was worked, no?”
I sat back against the couch in disbelief. Kyla sensed this and gave me a peculiar stare.
“What part of Africa is your family from, Kyla, if you know?” Eli asked through the silence.
Kyla shifted her stare to him, looking suspicious again.
“And what does that have to do with this?” She shot back.
“I was a professor of African History at Northwestern for—well—maybe twenty years.” He smiled, and then got up, walking over to the wall and pointing to a painted wooden mask. “But I can’t seem to place what art style this is. Hell, been bugging me since I came in.”
Kyla cracked a smile.
“My mother loved that thing, I—on the other hand—always thought it was hideous.” She said getting up and walking over to stand with him, taking it off the wall. “Mali.”
She offered it to Eli, who took it with a smile and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
“Mali! Ahh, beautiful architecture there.” He said, turning the mask in his hands and inspecting it. “And would that be East or West?”
“Well East I believe.” She said, putting her hands into her back pockets, beginning to get uncomfortable.
“Near the border of Algeria?” Eli asked, staring directly into her eyes.
“Yeah… Actually that’s pretty much all I know.” She said. I could tell she was starting to get uncomfortable.
“And the tribe, specifically, it wouldn’t be the Binuma, would it?”
Kyla glanced over at me for just a second and then back to Eli.
“I… I’m sorry but that’s really all I know.”
Eli stared at her for a few more seconds and then smiled, looking back down at the mask in his hands.
“Well it’s lovely all the same, thank you.” He said handing it back.
She took it giving Eli a skeptical look, and then placed it back on the wall.
“Well, Jeff.” Eli started. “I think that about does it, yeah?”
“Yeah, sorts it nicely I think.” I say, standing up. “Thank you for your hospitality and cooperation ma’am.”
“Of course.” Kyla answered gaining her composure. “Let me show you out.”
She walked us to the door and we exchanged another thank you, then Eli and I walked back up the driveway, the feel of her stare on our backs the whole way. We eventually reached the car, got in, and drove off for a minute or so in silence. Eli finally broke it when we got back onto the main roads.
“That mask was ancient.”
“You’re sure it wasn’t fake?” I responded.
“Couldn’t have been, I’d have known it.” He said, cracking a smile.
We drove for a bit longer in silence again, this time it was my turn to break it.
“So what now?”
“Why don’t we stop somewhere for lunch, compare thoughts?”
“Sure.” I said, pulling into a deli that happened to be on the route.
We ordered a sandwich and some chips and ate outside on a picnic table. Eli went over how he managed to determine the mask was authentic due to some sort of carving method the tribe was known for, and how the Binuma wandered around between the border of modern-day Algeria and Mali. We agreed that Kyla probably had no knowledge of her mother practicing voodoo, and if she did she was a damn good actress, but by the time we had finished Eli was firing on all cylinders.
“What do you say we grab a room somewhere so I can run through that book? I know it’s a long shot but they may have mentioned a mask in there somewhere, and I may have not known to look.”
I was getting a little frustrated. I don’t know what I expected to gain today but my lack of patience wasn’t helping me find it.
We left the deli and stopped at a hotel in the center of town. It was a bit seedy but—hey—we’re in the bayou. Eli set down immediately and started flipping through the pages of the book, all the while writing what I think were translations or notes in a notebook to the side of it. I was starting to get really tired, and the decrepit mattress in the room was looking better and better. I shook the sleep from my eyes and finally managed to speak.
“I’m gonna go grab some coffee, you want some?”
Eli stopped and looked at me as if he forgot I was there.
“Yeah sounds alright. Milk two sugars if you can.”
I left the room and walked down to the lobby, where I couldn’t find coffee. At this point I was tired, and needed to get out of that room, so I just kept walking. Eventually I came upon a convenience store that had some. I opted for iced, as it was hot out and it was a long walk and hell, I was the one paying. It took me another ten minutes or so to get back and by the time I got there and opened the door, Eli was pacing around the room.
“JEFF!” He yelled as soon as the door opened. Fuck I wasn’t ready for that.
“Here’s your coffee.” I said handing it over.
He took a sip.
“Iced? Good man.” He set it down and started talking rapidly immediately. “I found in the book, Jeff, I found… You’re never gonna believe it.”
Exciting as it was I was too tired for this.
“Slow down, man. Let me actually hear it.”
He gave me a sheepish look.
“Sorry. It’s just, I read that the witch doctor—the one who cast the curse—see he always wore a mask just like the one Kyla had on her wall.”
“No shit.” I said stopping mid-sip. Eli nodded excitedly.
“Now, chances are slim it’s the real deal, but it’s mentioned in this book and elsewhere mind you that with voodoo, it’s not total accuracy that validates relics, it’s the intent.”
I digested this for a bit.
“Yeah, see, if someone made this—hoping to make a replica of what the witch doctor wore for whatever reason—and the original was destroyed…”
“Even though it’s not a perfect copy, it would be honored as such…” I said, thinking about the words as I said them.
“Exactly.” Eli smiled.
“So someone, at some point in Kyla’s family, made that mask?”
“And her mother loved it.”
I sat there, digesting it all.
“So, what, she’s a descendant of the witch doctor?”
“I think she might be.” Eli answered, sounding even more excited.
I paused for a second.
“But I thought you said they were all killed?”
Eli stopped and thought for a second.
“Well who’s to say he didn’t go on to father more children? Hell, his own wife was with child when she died, and voodoo priests were allowed to have lovers—more than one for that matter.”
This was a lot to take in. I sat back and thought it over as I drank my coffee.
“Okay, so she’s a descendant. How does that help us? To me it seems like she has no idea what her mother did—if she even did anything—so what help is she?”
“You’re not going to like this.” He said.
He came over and sat down on the bed next to me.
“There’s a pretty rigid rule, with voodoo.” He started, fiddling his hands together. “To reverse any curse, you simply reverse the ritual.”
I frowned at him, and then thought about it.
“Wait… are you suggesting we…?”
“Yes, Jeff, I’m saying we need to burn Kyla, the same way the witch doctor originally burnt the sacrificial totems.”
I gave Eli a burning scowl for a long time.
“Eli we can’t kill anybody.”
He looked back at me, confused.
“Jeff her people summoned a spirit that’s been killing other innocent people for thousands of years…”
“Let’s say—and this is a stretch mind you—that, this mask you found is legit, okay? Still, Kyla is innocent. I can’t just kill someone who’s innocent.”
Eli stared down into his lap.
“Yeah, yeah.” He began. “Look I… I saw this coming with Abian. That crazy son of a bitch… See he was logical. He was a great guy, smart as all hell, but cold and calculated. Hell, he asked me if I’d bury him alive if it came to it, just to stop the curse.”
“Fuck…” Was all I could manage.
“Yeah, see, I knew how long of a shot it was to find a living relative to that tribe, but if he managed to and I told him what I just told you…”
I thought about this, for a long while.
“There’s no other way?”
Eli shook his head in solitude.
“Well.” I started. “You’ll help me, right? I don’t have to do this alone?”
He sighed, and I knew I wasn’t going to like what I heard next.
“My wife is sick, Jeff.”
My heart sank, but Eli kept talking.
“She needs tending to, you see. I really shouldn’t have been gone even this long and I’m sure the nurse I hired out is right sick of her by now.”
I thought about my own wife and son, back at home. Wondered how they’d get along without me, when they knew I’d eventually succumbed to this… this thing.
“Go, go on.” I said. “Do you need a ride?”
“No, no it’s alright.” He said. “Truth be told I don’t live too far, we’re close enough to the Mississippi border. A cab should do just fine.”
He got up from the bed and began collecting his things, the ancient text among them. When he finally reached door he stopped, and looked back at me.
“I’ll be thinking of you, Jeff.” He said.
And with that he was gone.
I waited until nightfall. My car was parked a ways down the road where Kyla lived, between her and her neighbors house which were conveniently almost a half mile apart. I took a deep swig of the bottle of bourbon I had in my hand and winced off the strength of the liquor. Was I really going to do this? Was I going to burn an innocent woman just to save myself?
I shook my head and tried not to think about it, then reached over and opened the glove box, and produced a few adderall that I borrowed from Abian’s evidence locker. Compared to the bourbon they were easy to swallow.
The car door was shut silently enough, and I made off down the street carrying the equipment I’d need. Eventually, I reached Kyla’s driveway, took a deep breath, and started down it slowly.
I set the gas tank down in her front yard and then crept up the stairs to her front door. I took one of the lengths of two inch by six inch planks I’d picked up, then slowly and painstakingly—trying to be as silent as possible—screwed it over the door. I circled around the house and did the same to the backdoor I found, checked for no bulkhead, and realized it was time.
I picked up the can of gasoline and walked around the outside of her house, pouring it on the base and walls as quietly as possible. Eventually, I came back to where I started and stopped.
This was it, there’s no coming back from this.
I lit a match from the book I had, and tossed it into the gasoline. It took immediately and spread around the house in a circle, too hot for me to even stand near. I walked back out into the yard and picked up the bottle of bourbon. The fire was beginning to catch on the walls now. I took one last swig of it, stuck a rag down its spout, soaked it a little, lit the end, paused for one last moment, then threw it through a window of the front of the house.
It exploded inside, and coated the room it landed in with flames. I stood there for a second, taking it all in.
Then I heard the screams.
Kyla had finally woke up.
The door before me barked as she rammed into it, trying to get it open. I jumped back in a moment of brief shock. The doorknob shook and turned and there were bangs, cries for help, then nothing. There was nothing for a few moments, and then the glass shattered on one of the windows.
Kyla’s arm came through, slicing on one of the shards of glass left.
“HELP! HELP ME PLEASE CALL 911!”
I stood in silence. The windows were old. I’d noticed them on my first trip here earlier today. So old, in fact, that they were four panes of glass separated by a thick wooden cross, which would need a good deal of force to break. Attempting this, however, would smash the glass surely, causing the escaping smoke near the window to be choking and unbearable.
She was trapped.
I stood long enough to hear the screaming stop, the house still ablaze, tossed in the cordless drill and empty gas can, then left.
When I reached my car I got in and sat down. I turned the key in the ignition and drove off.
I’ve never known silence like I have in that moment.
When I was a few miles away, what I considered a safe distance, I stopped on the side of the road, parked, and turned the car off.
I sat there for a while. Minutes, hours… I don’t know how long. Then I realized I didn’t know why I was even waiting. What was I waiting for? Should there be a sign? Some sort of signal? How do I know what I did worked?
I frowned, and looked around the car.
I didn’t feel different. I was still tired but I’d be damned if I was going to sleep right now.
“Is this it?” I said aloud, not expecting an answer, and not getting one.
Frustrated, I ran my fingers through my hair, took out my phone, and called Eli.
It rang twice and he picked up, sounding dozy.
“Eli. Hey it’s ahh, it’s Jeff.”
“Jeff…” He sighed. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah.” I said. “I did it, it’s done.”
There was a long silence between us.
“You did what you had to do, Jeff.”
Again, I didn’t know what to say. I picked up Abian’s diary from my passenger seat and began flipping through the pages mindlessly.
“I just wish there was some other way.” I finally said.
“Well, I could have buried you alive.” Eli said, managing a small fake laugh.
“Ha, yeah, thankfully we didn’t have to—“
I stared down at Abian’s diary in disbelief.
“Jeff?” Eli said.
I didn’t understand. The lines of his journal reading in my brain over and over.
“June 4th, 2016.
I met today with Eli, an African history professor who lives in Natchez Mississippi. He lives alone in a small farmhouse on a large plot of land…”
“Jeff? Are you there?”
“Y-Yeah.” I choked out. “Say Eli, how’s your wife?”
“She’s doing fine.” He chuckled. “Happy to have me home, that’s for sure.”
My heart was going a mile a minute, this can’t be happening, it can’t be.
“Eli…” I began.
“You don’t have a wife.”
There was a long silence, and then I heard him smile through the phone.
“No, Jeff, I don’t.”
And he hung up.
Ubloo part one may be found here
Ubloo part two is here
Ubloo part three is here
Ubloo part four is here
Ubloo part four and half is here
Ubloo part five is here
Ubloo part six is here
Ubloo part seven is here