Rip Her II
She was dirty. She slept in a bed that I paid for, and I paid her to do it. And the night before she slept in a bed that another man had paid her to sleep in. So I cut out everything I had paid her for. I woke to her wicked chest rising and falling, and I left in the silent, blood-soaked night. I left her with nothing to keep her chest rising, but instead permanently fallen. Lungs deflated. Veins collapsed. And I’m wondering if her stolen heart is the same shade of red as every other sinner’s in this town. And I see only one way to find out. Rip them open. Steal what’s inside. See what’s the same. Find the cursed parts and destroy them. I want to watch my blade glide through soft skin and feel a warm rush of darkness slip across my steady hands. Silver slicing from end to end. Liquid shadows dripping from between their legs, ending in unholy puddles at my feet. I want to defile their pretty faces to match all that is spoiled inside of them. Desecrate their flesh the way they desecrate their own bodies. I may as well take what I’m paying for. They sold their hearts and their bodies to the devil, so I will take them all back. A savior to the damned.
My name is Jack, and I swear I’ll be the second coming.
Beholden (two of two)
"When I said the prayer, I didn't even realize I was praying."
The priest listened attentively, watching tendrils of smoke curl heavenward.
"I'd prayed before. All of us found religion at one point or another. Days get longer and the nights last forever out on long range patrol."
He stared off into 1967.
"We weren't s'posed to engage. Hell, that run, we didn't even carry enough ammunition to get through much of a brush-by, let alone something that lasted. The thing is, they managed to find us. They didn't always. But just once was enough."
The priest managed a wan smile. "They found you enough to have you finding religion?"
There was a pause between the men. The much older of the two inhaled his Salem, pausing to collect thoughts and savor a menthol reprieve from hells of yesterday.
"Padre, have you ever seen a man die?"
"Yes, of course. I'm no stranger to administering the last rites."
"Old women curled up in their beds, out of it and half asleep. That aint the same, padre."
"I've been on the scene of less peaceful passings." The priest seemed a little defensive. "But if you're asking if I've seen war, no. You know I haven't."
"I know you haven't."
The pause continued, with the only sounds being the whir of an air conditioner and the soft crackle of burning tobacco.
"I been livin' on borrowed time since 1967, padre. I shoulda died in the mud of Cambodia. Or maybe it was Laos. If there was official reports of that day, it would list it as 'Nam, though. Aint nothing divides 'em but an imaginary line, noways, so what fucking difference does it really make?"
The rhetorical question plumed, riding skyward on a trail of smoke.
"Imaginary lines in the jungle. Imaginary lines between our gods."
At this, the priest uncomfortably shifted.
"Oh, I got your attention with that, eh, padre?" A phlegmy chuckle punctuated the question, which was really more of a statement.
"You've had my attention all along. Ever since you hinted at this story when I first took over the parish. I've seen you worn down over the years. Burdened. You're our most loyal parishioner, strict tithing, great volunteer hours. You're in every Sunday Mass, at a minimum. The only time you were ever absent was when you were in Colorado visiting your son, when your first grand was born. Even then, I believe you attended services as a visitor in Boulder."
"So I give money. I listen to your sermons. I keep up the maintenance on your HVAC. I ladle soup on Tuesdays. Big fucking deal, padre. Is that all I am to you?"
"Of course not. You're one of the flock. A rock. A leader. People respect you. I respect you."
"But do you love me? Because I'm pretty sure he loved me, and that scares the shit out of me."
"He is incapable of love. He's the opposite of love."
"Maybe so. God knows I saw hate at the same time."
"How did it happen? All these years, you've talked around it. Why not share now? I want the whole story."
"You want the whole story because you think it'll make me feel better, or because you're just a busybody? I've managed on my own for decades."
"You're stooped under the weight. You know it. My job is to help the people of the parish. You're not just a face in the crowd, you know. You're a friend. How many times have we shared a pint in my 'other office' down at Frank's Place?" The priest smiled. "Give me a damned cigarette. You're driving me back to vice."
The older man smiled, handing over a crushed pack and a worn Zippo.
"If Sister Ellen catches you, there will be hell to pay."
The priest nodded, and struck the lighter anyway.
"Have you ever wondered just why I'm here so much, padre?"
"I think I get the idea, but tell me."
"Fear. Knowledge. Original Sin. We was driven out of Eden 'cause we knew too much, right?"
The preacher waggled his hand in a so-so gesture. "More or less."
"I know too much, too."
"He told me I'd live to see seventy years and a day. He told me I'd have three children, and one would render to Caesar in my place. That always haunted me more than the rest. He told me that part the second time I seen him, in the hospital. When Junior joined the Corps, I fainted. I passed out right there in the living room, liked to gave everybody a fit. When I came to, they was all aflutter. All I could do is just cry. Never told anybody why. I couldn't."
"And then he died in Desert Storm."
"One of the 148. I managed to avoid being one of the 58,000. But I had help."
Silence settled between the two men again.
The old man continued. "I've been damned all this time. I supposed I've still had hope, though. Good deeds. Good works. Confession."
At this, the priest raised an eyebrow. "This is the first you've done a full accounting, and you know it. If anything, today should see you cleansed of the burden of secrets."
"There aint no secrets from God, padre. The way I figure it, this shit is between me, Him, and Old Scratch. I'm only tellin' you because you asked."
"I think you need to tell me. The weight is crushing you."
"I'm getting closer to 70. Kids are gone. Wife's buried for five years now. I didn't see that coming, but I figure I deserve that, too."
"People die, man. Cancer doesn't pay attention to debts, obligations, or deals you think you made in the jungle."
Eyes narrowed, a flash of anger shone through the pall of smoke. "I know what I did, padre. I was fucking there. This shit aint in my mind, some shell-shocked fuzzy recollection of a goddamned survivor. My guilt aint from surviving. My guilt is from bargaining."
The priest made another gesture with his hands, this time patting the air between them in a "calm down, mea culpa" motion. "Go on. Tell me about that."
The flash of anger burning away as he lit a new cigarette, the grizzled veteran of a half century-old war and five decades of secrets settled back into his chair.
"There was this kid from New York City. We called him Manhattan. He was the newest in our unit, but we'd worked together for long enough that everybody got on. Ours was one of the few that never saw many replacements. Manhattan was a funny kid. Always playing jokes on the fireteam, hell, a few times he even got the Sarge."
A shuddering breath was drawn in between drags.
"He was the first to get it. Right in front of me."
The old man cut his eyes at the priest.
"You killed him?"
"I killed them all, padre. Haven't you been paying attention?"
"I'm sorry, no, I guess not. I thought you were ambushed, or stumbled across an encampment, or something?"
Rueful laughter gave way to a smoky cough.
"We did. We were ambushed by a patrol outside of a full-on company's encampment. Regulars. Something right out of a nightmare. Five little guys in khaki uniforms called down hell on us, and a hundred motherfuckers found it their mission in life to erase six American idiots too dumb to know we'd kicked a hornet's nest."
"I heard the thunk of rounds hitting a tree before I heard the actual gunfire. We all hit the deck pretty quick. Shit fell apart damn fast after that. I started mumblin a prayer somewhere between my third and fourth magazine. The prayer got answered about the same time a grenade landed two feet from my face."
"Did it go off?"
"Not the way you'd expect."
More smoke filled the air, adding color to the war story.
"I heard it cooking, padre. The little sizzle of the fuse. I could hear it. Fucking bullets zipping all around like mosquitoes, goddamned explosions rocking the world, and I heard the little sizzle just as sure as shit you can hear Snap Crackle and Pop in your goddamned Cocoa Krispies. And then it just stopped."
He snubbed out his Salem after using the tip to light a new one. The amber ashtray looked like a graveyard with round paper tombstones sprouting from ashy black soil.
"Everything just stopped. Like some science-fictiony shit on the tube. Only it was real. It happened. Not an exaggeration, like, 'my heart stopped as time stood still,' no, padre. I mean time really fucking stood still. Only, I wasn't exactly there anymore. The sky was different. It was black, but somehow still lit. Like fire. Like how you can see the stars through fire-haze and woodsmoke, when you're outside roasting marshmallows. It was like that. I could hear screams, but not the screams of the fucking soldiers being wounded and dying around me. No, these were screams of a different note. Screams and moans from everywhere, like they was screamin and moanin since time started. Since the world was born. You know what's funny?"
The priest didn't answer, waiting for the story to continue.
"I read Dante. I read Milton. They had that shit all wrong. There aint no circles, there aint no cave, there aint no explaining the workins of God to Man or different levels for different degrees of evil. It's all just chaos. It's all just pain, and it never stops. I heard all of that in them screams, padre. I still hear it when I sleep, I still feel that pain I felt in those seconds that have lasted forever."
The old man's hands were shaking as he recounted his experience.
"I know it was Hell, padre. I was there. Only it was Laos, or Vietnam, or Cambodia, and the goddamn jungle was on fire around me. Only it wasn't."
"So what happened with the grenade?" The priest tried to steer the conversation after a pause that lasted a full two minutes and half a cigarette.
"It exploded. Only, not where it landed. He made me move it."
There was another pause, this one not quite as long as the last.
"Time stopped. I didn't quite realize what had happened until I saw that grenade just sort of freeze. Screams and pain echoed around me, but gunfire had completely stopped. I looked around, thinking I was dead or passed out. I looked all over for Manhattan and the rest of the guys, but I couldn't see nobody. It was just me. Alone. Except for him."
A shuddering breath filled the old man's lungs, then they released into a light cough.
"He smiled at me as he stood there. His teeth were perfectly white, and his eyes were perfectly black. He was big. Not a giant, but big. Perfectly chiseled, but not like a bodybuilder. Just granite-cut, lean muscle. Big barrel-chest, like the black and white Superman from when I was a kid. He was naked as the day is long, and he was absolutely covered in blood. He held out his hand, and I took it. I remember his grip; icy strong. Like stone."
"What did he say?"
"It's like he was fucking with me, padre. Like I was the butt-end of some kind of cosmic fucking joke. He said, no shit, he said 'Let's make a deal.' I was scared out of my mind, and I'm pretty sure I shit myself somewhere along the line. I just nodded, and he laughed."
"Do you remember what you said before he arrived?"
"How can I forget? I prayed. I asked God for help. And then I said 'Fuck you, God. Anybody, just get me out of this. Buddha, God, Satan, whothefuckever, just get me home, and I'll do whatever you ask."
"And then the grenade landed in front of you?"
"And then the grenade landed in front of me. And the sky got all funny and the place changed."
"You think you were in Hell?"
"I know I was."
"And you still made a deal?"
A pause. A puff. A nod.
"How long were you there?"
"Long enough that it's haunted me for fifty years."
The priest crossed his legs. "I guess I just don't understand what would make you do a deal, after seeing that."
"He showed me things, padre. I saw my wife. I saw my kids. I saw my future, and knew I'd live a quiet, happy life right back here at home if only I said yes. He made me promises and I was desperate to believe in something."
"In all my years, padre, do you know how many times I've seen God?"
The priest stirred, uncomfortable.
"In all my years, padre, do you know how many times I've seen the devil?"
The priest picked an imaginary thread off of his frock.
"When I tell you, padre, that I killed Manhattan, I'm not exaggerating when I say that the devil made me do it. It was the seal on the deal, see. I took that grenade, and I walked over to that kid's hiding spot, and I put that grenade right next to him, where he couldn't see. He never even knew what happened. One minute, he was fighting for his life, and the next, he was sipping scotch with St. Pete."
"Do you believe that?"
"Not even a little bit. That kid's in hell where I put him in my place."
"You traded the Devil a soul for your life?"
"Oh, padre. I did so much more than that. He took all of them."
"What do you mean?"
"At the end of our bargain, he killed them all. Every. Single. Man. Uniforms didn't matter. Religion didn't matter. It was a bloodbath, and not some figurative bullshit. He was bathed in blood. He made it seem so small, the price I paid. All I had to do was promise him my soul, and just sacrifice the one kid from New York. He did the rest."
Silence bloomed between the two men, and the priest decided to just listen. Finally, the confession concluded as the last cigarette was snuffed out in the ashtray.
"I did what he asked, padre, but I only regret the part where I promised him my soul."
Through the lingering smoke between them, the padre was truly chilled to see the old man's face flicker with the ghost of a smile.
Lucky, Lucky Girl
...and so it was, between the shadows of a peek-a-boo moon, that darkness descended. Bony tendrils of eternity scuttled across her mind like the dried husks of broken dreams. Her fears had left him unsatisfied; his feast was spoiling. Her silence had angered him, like a petulent lover denied his release. The taunts and torments thrust upon her had not left her broken, as he had grown accustom, but rather had steeled her against his advances.
Oh, he remained to have his way, for this is what he did. She remained to still be his, for it was, sadly, not for her to say.
Undulating waves of glory and grief battered the shores of her consciousness. Rocks reduced to stones reduced to the sands of time told her that many, so very many had preceeded her, and yet she knew his icy seductions would never cease. Never.
Drool from the ancient maw pooled in her eyes, forever closing her earthly sight. His tongue flicked and flicked until her mortal flame was finally extinguished. This night belonged to him.
And so it was, beyond the shadows that haunt this world, a lucky girl, nay, a blessed girl, unfurled her pristine wings and ascended into peaceful light.
Chief sat up in the bed, trembling and dripping in sweat. The covers were tangled around his legs and there was a strong smell of piss. Rodger, the border collie, was barking at the foot of the bed.
“What’s going on?” his mother said, flying into the room and flicking on the light. Pink rollers poked out from beneath her pink head scarf. “Chief, are you okay? What’s going on?”
Chief felt the tears on his cheeks before he felt the choking cries that cut from his throat. A jumble of words exploded out of him as he tried to tell his mother what he had just seen.
The clown had been right there at the foot of the bed, smiling at him with a crooked crimson chasm of a smile. Chief could still see the knife and feel the blade as it went into his chest -- into his heart, into his lungs. His mother rushed to him and dropped to her knees beside the bed. She wrapped him in a comforting hug.
“It was just a dream, honey. Nothing but a nasty dream. Calm down. It’s okay.”
It took her a while to notice the piss, but when she only gave him a sad smile. Chief’s mother helped him climb out of bed and pull off the soiled sheets. With the dirty bedding was safely out of sight, she tucked Chief back in under a clean set of bedding. Rodger jumped back up to his spot at the foot of the bed and curled into a warm little ball at the boy’s feet.
“I told you those scary movies were a bad idea,” Chief’s mother chided him. “I told you that it was too late to be watching movies like that. I said you'd have nightmares.”
Her tone was loving. Chief nodded andwiggled down low beneath the covers as she pushed the edges in tight around him.
“Now go back to sleep,” she said in a soft coo, as she pulled the door from the latch and flicked over the light switch. “There’s nothing in here but that old dog and buckets full of my love, okay?”
Chief smiled as his mother flicked off the light and left the room, the door clicking behind her.
She’s right, he thought to himself as the darkness overcame him. Mama’s always right.
Mama wasn’t right, though.
The nightmares continued each night for weeks and weeks and each night they became more graphic and more gruesome in detail. Some nights Chief woke up in the yard, trembling and covered in small scratches.
“What do you see in your nightmares?” Chief’s mother asked him one morning as she drove him to school. It was warm out, but he was wearing a turtleneck to cover up the scrapes and the bruises. Dark bags hung under his eyes and his belt was pulled so tight that a long length of it hung down around his hips. Chief looked up at his mother with big empty eyes.
“It’s always the same thing,” he told her. “I go to bed and the clown's there, waiting for me. He’s not a clown, though. He’s a man. A man in a clown mask and he has a big knife. He laughs and he stabs me, over and over. Sometimes I run, but I never get far. He always catches me, and he always kills me.”
Chief’s mother frowned but she never took her eyes off the road. They drove in silence and she didn’t speak to him again until they reached the drop-off line.
“Let’s not tell any of your teachers about this, okay?”
Her voice sounded unsure, but Chief was so tired he didn't notice. He gave his mother a watery thin smile as he climbed out of the car.
“Sure, mom. I won’t tell anyone.”
He didn’t have to. That afternoon Chief’s teacher, Mr. Rutherford, called an urgent meeting with Chief's mother.
Betty Peterson didn’t show up until the school was all but abandoned and free of prying eyes. Chief was sitting alone in the corner, drawing, when she waltzed in with her cheap heels clicking and a cloud of dollar-store perfume billowing all around her.
“Ms. Peterson,” Mr. Rutherford said, rising from his desk and making his way to the door. The teacher held his hand out in front of him.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last. A pleasure.”
Chief's mother shook Mr. Rutherford's hand. Trig Rutherford was a small man, standing only a little taller than Chief's mother, with thick black glasses that made his eyes look oversized. A bald head sparkled above a speckled polyester blend sweater vest and matching oxford shirt tucked neatly into the pleats of his khaki slacks. The trousers folded neatly anove a pair of shiny penny loafers.
Next to him, Betty Peterson looked like a Hollywood starlet, her curled blonde hair and ruby red lips a shocker next to the teacher's pale facade.
“Thank you Mr. Peterson. I’m sorry for running so late. Single mother. It’s hard.”
The man fidgeted. No one liked to talk about the death of Eric Peterson quite like his own widow, who used it whenever she could to remind people that she did on her own what most people did in happy pairs.
Chief took a seat beside his mother. Mr. Rutherford perched on the edge of his desk and looked down over the thick rim of his glasses. He crossed his arms over his chest.
“Ms. Peterson, I’ll just get right down to it. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed any behavioural changes in your son?”
Betty gave Chief a sharp look. He kicked his feet and stared down hard at the shining linoleum. Chief’s mother looked back to the teacher.
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Behavioural changes?”
“Yes. In his moods and the way he interacts with others?”
Chief didn’t dare look up. Instead he kept his eyes glued to the floor and his head cupped in his hands.
“What are you talking about?”
Mr. Peterson sighed before shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“Ms. Peterson, quite frankly, I’ve noticed that your son has become withdrawn at school. He’s falling asleep and he seems to have difficulty focusing. Chief is struggling to work with the other children, and the other children in the class seem to be...perterbed by him.”
Betty Peterson’s cheeks turned red and invisible waves off steam started billowing off of her. The last thing you wanted to tell Betty Peterson, mother of the year, was that her child was perterbing. She shot up from her chair, purse dangling from one arm, and pointed a finger right at Mr. Rutherford's chest.
“Are you telling me my kid is a weirdo?” She snarled.
Peterson recognized right away that he had overshot his bounds.
“No, no, no,” he said, throwing up his hands and waving them in defense. “I think you misunderstand me, Ms. Peterson.”
Something in his voice gave her pause and Chief’s mother resumed her seat seat, never taking her piercing glare off the mousey teacher. When Rutherford saw her relax, he leaned back and cleared his throat. When he spoke again, his voice was softer, more subdued.
“I understand that you and your son have suffered a great loss. I only wonder if perhaps Chief doesn’t need some extra help dealing with that loss. Losing a father is…”
“Let me stop you right there,” Betty interrupted. “Dont’ tell me how to raise my son, Mr. Rutherford.”
It was clear from her tone that she would brook no further argument.
“Is he passing this class, Mr. Peterson?”
“Y-y-yes,” stammered the teacher, taken aback once more by the woman's aggressive response. “He is.”
“Is he turning in all his homework?”
“Well, yes, but the last weeks have seen…”
“Does he have a passing grade?” Ms. Rutherford pushed again, planting her hands on the desk and rinching toward the cowering man. “Is he paassing this class?”
Rutherford's cheeks turned red and his jaw dropped in shock. He stammered something that Chief could not make out and reared back, as if trying to disappear.
“That’s good enough for me,” Betty Rutherford snapped, standing up and beckoning for Chief to get beside her. Mother and son stood beside one another like shadows, staring up down at Rutherford with blank gazes that said nothing and everything.
“Don’t call me again until his grades drop to a ‘fail’,” Chief's mother snapped as they made their way to the door. “And don’t you ever presume to tell me how to manage my son’s grief. You didn’t know his father and you sure as hell don’t know me.”
They ate chicken from a bucket that night and his mother didn’t even bother putting the box of biscuits in the oven.
Chief ate alone at the table as she paced the kitchen floor, the kinky pink wire of the telephone stretching in a frantic pulse across the narrow space of the kitchen as his mother snapped at her friend over the line.
“I’m not sending him back there, Charlene. That man is an idiot. He doesn’t know anything and he couldn’t find his head if his nose was sticking out of his ass.”
Chief bit down on another ear of corn and struggled to swallow the yellow mash. After a few more bites, he cleaned up and carried the leftovers to the kitchen island where he left them for his mother and her matching Tupperware containers. Chief dipped beneath the telephone wire and made his way down the hall to the quiet sanctuary of his room.
He still loved his bedroom despite the nightmares. The walls were painted blue and bordered with pictures of cowboys in all states of wild and frenzied action. A couple small posters of his favorite superheroes hung from the walls, and his bed lay perfectly made in the middle of it like a welcoming embrace. In the daylight, it was perfect. Only the shadows brought trouble.
Chief called Rodger in and shut the door behind them both, crawling up onto the bed beside the dog and settling down with a new book — a tale about pirates and the open sea.
When Chief woke, the room was dark. His mother's voice had gone quiet, but Rodger was still sleeping soundly at the foot of the bed. Chief lifted the book from his chest and reached for the bedside table, his brain filled with a fog.
He felt eyes before he saw anything else. The hair on his arms stood on end and his belly went cold. Rodger sat up and growled as his fur began to bristle.
“Mom? Mom!” Chief called out. He did not turn around. He couldn’t. He was frozen, one hand extended over the edge of the bed, the other clutching the book he had just placed on the bedside table.
A chill ran up his spine and the dog began to bark wildly.
Chief turned just in time to see the clown rushing at him, the knife wielded high in his fist. It fell over him in a flurry of stained striped silk. Rodger moved for the clown but was battered away. The knife plunged into Chief's chest over and over again as the blood gargled in his lungs and he struggled for air.
He tried to defend himself, but it was no use. Chief ripped and tore at the clown, but he was no match for his size and weight. Empty black holes stared down at him and smiling crimson lips split into an impossible chasm of hellfire above. Chief could feel his life slipping away as the clown stabbed him over and over again.
Somehow, in the chaos of it all, the knife slipped in the clown’s grasp and Chief felt his own small hand close around the handle. Without realizing, he began slashing at the clown, using every last bit of his strength to send his attacker back.
There was a scream, and the hot rush of blood and Chief felt the weight of the attacker disappear. There was another loud scream and a whine and Chief’s eyes flickered open.
The room was flooded in light and his mother was standing beside the bed, her eyes full of shock, gore splattered across the front of her nightgown. Chief felt something warm and looked down to see that he was kneeling on the bed in a pool of sticky red.
Rodger was beside him, twitching, a red hole gleaming bright and wide in his belly. Glancing down, Chief realized his hand was still clenched tightly around a bloody butcher knife. It was one of his mother’s knives, the red one with the silver handle.
“Oh my God, what have you done?” Betty Peterson whispered, looking at the scene in horror. “What have you done, Chief?”
Chief began to retch over the side of the bed. The clown was nowhere to be seen.
Chief and his mother stayed home the next day to clean up the mess.
He sat in the living room with an untouched bowl of cereal and watched the morning cartoons as his mother wrapped up the old border collie and hid him in a the shed behind the house. When it was dark, they would bury him in the yard, but until then his mother didn’t want the neighbors to see anything that might lead to questions.
When Rodger was dealt with, Chief's mother stripped down the bed once more and threw the bloodied linens into a large black bag. This bag she took out to the trunk of her car and locked away without saying so much as a word to her son.
Chief stared into the television screen. His brain was clogged, foggy. A feeling of sickness descended over him that he couldn't shake. The cheerful crackle of his cereal sounded absurd against the backdrop of horror that had become his life.
His mother showered and freshened herself up before coming to sit beside him in the living room.
“Well, kid. We’re going to have to make some plans.”
Chief looked up at his mother and his eyes were strange.
“Why don’t we start by you telling me what happened last night?”
Chief frowned. It had all been so real. He could still smell the blood and feel the weight and the heat of the clown on him. He could hear his breathing and feel the knife plunging into his body. Chief’s skin began to burn and tingle as he remembered the wounds, the wounds which had mysteriously disappeared. Chief began to cry, shaking all over with grief and terror.
“Shh. Shh. It’s going to be okay,” his mother said, reaching out and taking him in her arms. “We’re going to figure this out. Just tell me what happened. Why’d you take the knife into your room?”
“I didn’t!” Chief objected. “I promise that I didn’t! I was in my room reading and then the next thing I know…well, the clown was there and he was on top of me and stabbing me -- just like all the other times!”
His mother frowned and a dark shadow crossed over her. She suddenly looked very tired.
“Listen, baby. I know things have been hard since your dad passed away, but this has to stop. Why did you do that to Rodger? You can tell me. I love you, kid.”
She didn’t believe him.
Chief shook his head and let the cries come a little louder.
“Mom, it’s like I told you!”
His mother looked sadder than Chief had seen her since his father’s funeral. She let go of him, sinking back into the faded floral print of the couch. Her face him that she wished herself anywhere but that living room in that moment. She reached for the clicker and clicked the old television set off, filling the room with silence. They sat like that for a long moment before his mother gathered her thoughts and rose from the sofa.
“I want you to go pack a few things for a sleepover,” she told him, staring off with a strange look. “Get your coat and your toothbrush too. Hurry up. Go.”
It was an order.
Chief didn’t question his mother. Thirty minutes later, the two of them were making for the door with their bags in hand.
They climbed into the old Ford stations wagon and ambled out of the driveway, making their way down Brunswick Lane and onto the main road that led out of town. Chief’s mother didn’t speak a word as they passed through the town square or past the squat shape of the school. He was too tired and too scared to ask any questions, so they rode in silence. When they were clear of the town, his mother reached for the radio and flicked it over to the easy listening station.
The Cromville town sign appeared ahead, it’s yellow and blue paint bright in the afternoon sun. As they neared it, a truck pulled out behind them from a nearby service road, dark brown in color with a long white stripe that ran down both sides. It sped up behind them as they neared the sign, and when they were close enough to read the motto, it nudged them.
Chief’s mother lost control of the car, and the long wood-paneled station wagon spun onto the shoulder and then down into the darkness of the trees that lined the road on either side. Chief screwed his eyes shut. There was nothing but chaos as the sound of exploding metal and busting glass field his ears. He heard his mother scream and felt the car jolt back and forth as it tumbled down into the darkness of the forest floor. His skin burst as jagged splinters of wood and steel bored into him, and he felt the burn of the seatbelt as it tore into his neck.
The last thing Chief knew was a blast of heat and the sound of his mother’s voice as darkness overcame him.
We’re dead, he thought.
When Chief woke, he was in his bedroom. Everything was dark, and there was no noise except for the gentle clicking of the clock that sat on his bedside table.
Chief sat up, and winced as a shock of pain went lashing through his side. A loud giggle of glee split the silence, and Chief froze as he realized he was not alone.
“Poor little boy,” an icy voice whispered. “Poor little boy whose mommy doesn’t love him.”
He looked everywhere for the source of the voice, but he saw nothing but shadow. A numbing terror washed over him and Chief felt the sticky warmth of piss spread down his thighs. It was the clown. He knew it was the clown before he ever saw him.
The hulking shape came slinking out of the shadows, the knife wielded in his right hand and the same black-eyed mask with wild red hair stretched across his face. The monster cocked its head from one side to the other as it slowly approached the bed, giggles the only sound of its approach.
“Did you think you would get away, little boy? Did you think that you would leave me behind? You can’t leave Mr. Happy. You can’t leave Cromville.”
Chief tried to cry out, but the words were frozen in his throat. He threw up his hands, whether to signal for help or protect himself, he did not know. His bare arms were covered in dark bruises, welts and scrapes. The last thing he remembered was the spinning of the car and the sound of broken glass.
“And your mother’s screams. I’m sure you remember those too,” the clown giggled, as if reading his thoughts. “She’s dead, you know. I killed her first, this time. Left her in the kitchen. But not before I got what I wanted…”
The clown stopped a few feet from Chief’s bed and stared down. It raised the bloody knife to its lips and licked along the serrated edge. There was nowhere for Chief to go, no where for him to run. He was cornered. Behind him, there was nothing but wall and the clown stood between him and the only door. His eyes grew wide and terrified in the dark.
Chief looked wildly around the room in a desperate search for anything that might save him. He thought of Rodger and a surge of madness filled his chest. His brain stuttered back into gear and he found his voice as he unleashed an explosion of screams. Had the clown said this time?
“No crying here, little boy. It’s too late for that. Did you think you would leave this town? Did you think you would leave me?”
The clown dropped the knife, and as he did so a splatter of blood shot up the leg of his striped trousers. One white, shriveled hand reached for the mask and began to tug at the pallid white flesh of the eerie facade. Slowly, the macabre face folded away to reveal the real monster that was waiting underneath.
The bile came up in Chief’s throat and he retched violently all over the wrinkled top of his blankets. Images flooded his mind and the blood roared in his ears as his pulse raced.
Mr. Rutherford smiled wickedly and laughed so hard that his head fell back on his shoulders. He looked down at the young boy with a mad look, and pieces of memory began to fall into place.
The Mad Clown Murders the papers had called it forty-five years ago. It was the summer of 1954. Teacher kills 35, including himself, all in one night. It might have been drugs, they found a lot of them in his house, but mostly they think it was just the nerves. He was such a nervous man. Always twitchy around the kids he taught. No one ever expected him to do something like that, though. No one ever expects something like that. Slinking into houses in the middle of the night and slaying entire families? No. No one ever thinks of things like that.
Chief screamed over and over again as the memories came back to him. Mr. Rutherford laughed. Uncontrollable shaking came over him. No. No. No.
They had just finished dinner; Chief, his mother, his father and his two little brothers — George and Rodger they were called. One had blonde hair and the other red, just like their father’s. Mother had made Chicken Parmesan, her specialty, and father had joked about the local football team. They had all been smiling and mother had been wearing her rollers. What had Father been wearing? He couldn’t remember.
Chief had gone to bed that night but he hadn’t expected the clown to be there, waiting in the darkness with the knife. His child's brain had not been able to comprehend what was happening as the man in the mask had crawled up onto the bed and slit his little boy throat as easily as one sliced butter. Chief certainly hadn’t recognized Mr. Rutherford then, just as he hadn’t in the nightmares, as the madman had laughed and giggled with glee; his knife sliding in and out of the little boy’s corpse over and over again.
Chief screamed as the memories of his death flooded him, and a violent sobbing overtook him. Nineteen fifty-four. You’ve been dead for forty-five years.
“Cry, little boy. Cry,” Rutherford taunted, slithering closer. He picked up the knife again, but the mask was discarded and there was an evil look on his face. “Cry all you want, but it won’t do you any good. I’m your worst nightmare…for eternity!”
Chief looked up in horror as the shadow overcame him and the knife plunged into this throat.
“Mommy,” he whimpered. “Mommy, please. Help me.”
Lucky (Part 2)
“1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”
I breathe out. I’m still here laying in blood that’s not my own. I close my eyes trying to remember when I stopped feeling pain. But to my surprise, I don’t remember ever feeling pain.
I don’t remember even being a kid. When was I born? Have I had a birthday party? Have I ever lost a baby tooth? I can’t answer any of these questions I ask myself.
The only thing I remember is existing. Just the concept of being. I wasn’t… then one day I was.
I haven’t felt heartbreak from a boy next door, or fear from the dentist bringing a strange, unknown tool towards my mouth. I haven’t felt regret. I’ve heard people say regret is the worse. Regret and guilt. That they can decay a living body. I wonder how many of these people around me have felt regret and guilt. Maybe they stole their parents’ car without asking or didn’t say goodnight to a loved one because they were mad. Maybe they bullied someone in their past and never said sorry, or didn’t hug someone who really needed it.
Suddenly while thinking of all these memories and feelings that I didn’t have, I felt a pull in my stomach. But that didn’t stop me.
I kept thinking, now about the people I’ve killed. Did they have kids? Kids who are going to miss their parents reading them bedtime stories and watching them do their homework after school.
Did they have a spouse? One who is now going to lay in a bed that seems too big for one person.What about their parents? Their parents who will probably feel like a piece of their heart died with their child.
I feel warm streams on my cheek. My eyes shaking and my body shivering, I sit up in this puddle of blood. I bend my knees towards my chest and let my head fall back. I feel like I’m shattering just like the glass around me. I feel like my skin is peeling and my bones are being grated into dust.
I start to feel sorrow, joy, rage and my blood is heating up, boiling, my skin is turning red in hives and rashes. I’m burning but yet shivering from the cold actions I’ve taken. My nails turning shades of brown and green and my toes rot but then numb like they’re not there.
I hug myself tightly, smiling through the pain.
Then it hits me... regret and guilt. They build up from my stomach and work there way into my mind. I see the scared faces of those whose lives I took. I begin to scream,
“I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY!”
I’m weeping just barely alive now. Feeling every possible emotion and all the pain from my past scars, bruises, and cuts.
The only thing in my mind is..
“I feel it.”
“I feel it now.”
I sulk and my body falls flat, weak, and broken. The sweet escape of death just seconds away. I close my eyes and wait. I take a deep breath in and count to five.
“1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”
How lucky are the fallen?
Link to last week’s entry: https://theprose.com/post/237839/20-days
The door opens and someone walks in, probably a colourless and I listen as they walk into the room and open another door before closing it. Safe they didn’t notice me, yet I still have to stand in this tight space, alone as the colourless are very sensitive to movements and will notice if I move even an inch.
Standing still I suddenly notice how cold it is in here, like icy chills travelling painfully slowly from the tips of my toes all the way up, until it seeps into my skull. I explain this feeling away as just nerves and stay still hoping, praying that I’ll make it through, that my last breath will not be taken so far away from home.
My body is starting to burn from standing so still, I don’t know how long I’ve been here but I’m not sure how much longer I can stand for, it’s suffocating in here, and then I hear it. The glorious sound of the front door opening and then closing again and I’m about to move when I realise that it could just be another colourless that’s randomly strolled in, feeling defeated in my over cautiousness I decide force myself to wait until the colourless go to bed before sneaking out.
I was settled on the plan when I became aware of just how close the footsteps had gotten to my closet. I was panicking internally as I watched the closet door open just a crack, letting in the blinding light from outside before it was thust open with a sudden force revealing a colourless boy standing before me.
If you thought I was standing still before then I was frozen now not even the hairs on my back dared to stand up as I stared at the colourless boy, fearing that he would be the one to curse me for eternity....“Blink” The boy said in a monotone voice, the same voice as every other colourless.
“Blink!” He said louder this time and that woke me up as I blinked and that’s when I saw it, his skin suddenly had colour, I blinked again and he returned to looking like a white sheet. Were me eyes deceiving me?, have I begun to halucin- “You see?” he said interrupting my thoughts.
I was confused. Is he colourless or is he like me a player?, he looks colourless now but he didn’t after I blinked following his instructions.
“Follow” the boy said after a few minutes of awkward silence and I shake my head refusing to willingly walk to my death no matter whether he is colourless or not there is still another person here that is without a doubt, colourless.
“I can hide colour” The boy said as if sensing my fears, although I don’t know what he’s saying, does he mean he can hide my coloured skin?, I don’t know, he speaks like them.
I still don’t want to move so he starts to drag me along as I cling to the bars of the closet. “let go” the boy says harshly pulling with increased force and stinging my hands as they were ripped off the bars. With great efforts the boy managed to drag us out the door and towards the lake before he pauses and looks and me. It’s as if he’s analyzing me, a few seconds go by and then he drags us into the lake.
I start protesting struggling to get free but he doesn’t speak, just tightens his grip on my arm and continues to pull us further down until my head is under and I can’t breathe.
Slowly I open my eyes and blink repeatedly before the image of a boy appears above me, the boy who dragged me here, he has colour this time and it didn’t disappear when I blinked, so my eyes aren’t deceiving me.
“You!” I say pointing at him my eyes going wide with rage and fear “Calm yourself, you blacked out, you’re a few miles underwater now so there’s no point escaping” The boy said his face still remaining emotionless
“It’s your 17th day, now get up” he said. The 17th day wait but when I blacked out it had only been the 7th day. I’ve been out for 10 days, that’s terrifying information; I could have had my soul taken and I won’t even be awake to realise it.
Suddenly I was dragged off whatever I had been lying on. “Come on” the boy said looking irritated and I reluctantly followed. We walked in silence as I realised that asking questions won’t get me any answers from him.
We walked for hours before I heard the faint sound of a massive conversation. I remained silent until we got closer and the voices suddenly sounded distressed and I realised that this boy, he probable dragged them all here like he’d dragged me here.
“Who are you?” I asked suddenly becoming very aware that he probable wasn’t a player
“Quit talking” and it was back to silence again until we arrived at the source of the noise and the boy opened the door making everyone go quiet. “Go in” he said and I hesitantly walked in, not wanting to be dragged again. The door shuts behind me and then the floor and ceiling becomes transparent and I see people, players below and above us crammed together and I realise that this place, it wasn’t a game at all, this is a farm, A human farm and we’ve all been put into the slaughter machine.
I realised too late as I watch everyone’s eyes grow distant and the colour from their skins fading, I feel a tug as if someone’s pulling something out of me. The boy, he is the farmer, and he’s harvesting our souls. There is no escape everyone who isn’t captured up there gets taken here before their 20 days are up.
The tugging sensation stops and I feel nothing.
Three Knocks (Part Two)
If you’d like to read the first portion of my short horror story, Three Knocks, please visit:
Here is the ending...
Wide, unblinking eyes stared at him, sending a sense of urgency up his spine. But Colt didn’t move when the eyes glowed red. Bile crept to his throat as he watched the sinister blackness surrounding those eyes morph into an endless series of human faces.
King groaned and whined, but he didn’t leave Colt’s side.
Body thrumming with adrenaline, Colt stared into the wicked glass for who knows how long until the darkness and eyes gave way to Colt’s everyday reflection.
And all was as it should be.
Colt looked down at King who was eyeing the mirror with his head cocked as if questioning what they’d just seen.
Colt chuckled even though it didn’t feel right. “Hey there boy.” The feeble nature of his voice disgusted him, so he patted the side of King’s chest in an attempt to reassure both of them. “To be honest, I’d never been so scared in my life. I think I better get some carbon monoxide detectors or maybe get the property checked for radon. Must be gases messing with our heads.”
King stayed close when Colt stepped forward to pick up the blanket.
But as he was about to cover the mirror, three cold, dead knocks vibrated the room.
Colt’s heart beat harder than ever while King’s long, painful whine twisted his insides.
Foreboding pressed on the room, so Colt dropped the blanket and, without removing his gaze from the mirror, bent down and felt for his gun.
Weapon in hand once more, he stood and watched, frozen with horror, as letters carved themselves, one at a time, into the surface of the mirror. Colt’s ears would bleed from the pain of the etching sound that was amplified through what seemed to be every crevice in this hellish space he called home.
When the noise subsided, he beheld the words…
When the words disappeared, Colt snapped. Fear driving him full force, he jabbed the mirror with butt of his gun.
It didn’t crack.
It didn’t crack.
But on the third try, Colt wished he had run while he was ahead. The hairline fracture he’d managed to make in the blasted thing was now releasing a blackish sand that crawled down the wall toward King.
Confusion pulled Colt in so many directions, he didn’t move. Again, he stood there and watched as this nightmare unfolded before him.
Too fast and too evil.
There was no escaping.
King, consumed by the entity, turned menacing red eyes on his master.
Colt stepped back and shouldered his gun.
Livid growls and teeth advanced.
Fright forced Colt to do the unthinkable.
He pulled the trigger.
Daylight glowed in the window, but Colt was cold—a deep, aching chill burned inside him.
He had to get to the window.
Away from this frozen darkness.
The light would be warm.
Would take away the pain.
Groggy and needful, he made his way to the glass and peered out.
King’s remains lay on the basement floor.
But that wasn’t all.
Colt’s own body, whole and unharmed, stepped over what was left of King and approached the other side of the glass with the blanket at the ready.
Frigid and in terror, he watched his own smiling eyes glow red while three wretched words carved themselves into the glass before him.
Alone in the woods, part 2
It had been 350 years of anguish for Pow Pow’s remains, particles of bone, hair and dust all conspiring like an army of underdogs unwilling to quit. Explaining how his copious notes were deciphered without eyes to read them, without a brain to interpret them was a moot point. Does a foreign sapling have to explain its origin, before our eyes can accept we see it emerge from the earth? “What remains, do not fail me,” were his last words as he lay dying, withering with the flox in the frost. “Go to the earth, use it’s heat, it’s irrefutable energy, and call me back to life to avenge my people.” And after three centuries and a half, his command to them was finally fulfilled, so he thought.
“This woman and animal before me, still, with the warmth of spring all around us could not be my intended victims! Why great spirit do you continue to torment with this cruel trick?” Pow Pow’s spirit, lifted from death, had no power to reckon as he loomed over these two seemingly harmless beings. The hatchet he held in his own hand felt alien and unexpected. “And where is my anger, my rage?” He bellowed looking up towards the heavens, angry that he felt no animosity towards them, when suddenly like a curtain had pulled on a Broadway play, the carnage was all around them. He was sure the others of the triangle could see what he wished he didn’t have to witness again but was at a loss as to how to stop the show. Their panicked eyes let him know they saw and smelled it too....
....The razor-edged cheek bones reassembling shrunken heads, black moons under tearless sunken eyes, and bloody cracked lips, with limbs so thin, they appeared as skin on bone. The skin of babies, children, men and women covered with various lesions and spots, including large black bursting boils oozing puss. Rotting flesh on live bodies, emanating the ordor of impending death, summoning the tired, satiated buzzards before their necessity. Dead humans, some piled and set ablaze. The acrid coppery metallic stench of their meat and singed hair wretch worthy, eventually turning to ash blowing casually alongside butterflies and feathers off the bones, before settling and composting the earth. Others, left like trash, pressure cookers of gas and brown muck, a maggots feeding frenzy as their final purpose...
And then the show was over, again. Pow Pow searched for guidance from the voice of the great spirit and got no answer, when he realized there didn’t have to be an answer. Nothing could change what happened. No act of violence could avenge the holocaust. His powdery eyes rested on the hidden kindness and strength of the woman and animal in front of him as he dropped the hatchet. “Life is for the living,” he thought. “It is time for my soul to rest. Vengence serves no purpose, for who am I if I choose to harm the innocent?” No, he would not harm them. It was time to join his people on the other side in peace. 350 years of unrest melted with the sun’s afternoon rays dappling through the high oaks. He was ready to accept his fate.
The park police were first on the scene and asked Judith for a description of the perpetrator. Political correctness notwithstanding, she said with trepidation, “Native American looking. In feature and dress. Black long hair, darkish reddish skin, high cheekbones. It was as if he was dressed for a Thanksgiving play and got lost in the woods. He said nothing to me, only searched me and Rocco with his eyes, then he looked up abruptly, so I looked up too, and when I looked back down, he was gone; the hatchet he was holding left right here on the ground where he stood. Rocco started wagging his tail, as if the coast was clear and that’s when I dialed 911. It’s kind of odd. For some reason I never really felt threatened. It really felt like I was at a play and he was the star, trying to teach me something. If it wasn’t for the hatchet on the ground, I’d be the first to say I made the whole thing up. Maybe I did, like some sort of lucid dream, because for some bizzare reason I feel nothing but empathy for the guy, and the details of what transpired other than what I told you are sketchy, yet for obvious reasons I thought it best to dial 911.”
“Listen ma’am, you really should be careful walking alone in the woods. Although this is the first report like yours we’ve gotten, let’s just say I’m happy for both of us, that there was no attack. And maybe you should see a doctor, umm, ya know, and just tell your doc what you just told me, to make sure everything’s okay up there.” He pointed towards his own head. Judith did not take the suggestion as an insult. “I’ll suggest the county police dust the hatchet for finger prints and I’m sure they will let you know if they come up with anything. Expect a follow up call from them. Be careful ma’am. Please?” Something about her told him to say the word please questioningly.
Judith never did see a doctor after that day and decided to keep what happened to herself. Walking the trails daily with Rocco, assuredly, fearlessly, when she gets deep into the woods at the clearing, she stops momentarily, and remembers the day when she was at the crossroad of fear and tolerance. Not much remains in her memory from that day other than the anguish in Pow Pow’s eyes, the pain in suffering all over his face. Whether or not what happened was real is irrelevant to her and does not cause her to question her sanity. The ground she walks on is just as solid and pungent as it was before her time, and all that came before her. Rocco isn’t as sure, because he never walks past that spot, without lowering his tail, until the scent of the earth lets him know they are on safe ground.
Suddenly I was the one looking up at my body from my existence on the paper. I watched as the me before me, the me that was so much prettier and completely flawless, smiled a pretty smile, picked up the pencil that was in MY hand mere minutes ago, and slashed it across my flat face in one perfect line, top right to bottom left.
I screamed. The pain was horrible. But not as much as when the eraser rubbed, chaffed, carved into my skin to hide a mark that could not truly be hidden.
"The eyes are the windows to the soul," the bodied-me said. She smiled. "And when you add some magic to them," her hand tenderly picked up the crystal on the necklace, "the windows open for anyone to pass through." Her eyes flashed black at me. I would have shivered if I had had a body to shiver.
She crumpled me and threw me in the recycling bin. I hurt. And I could not do a thing about it.
I have been thrown away. I have been picked up by someone who loved me, uncrumpled, and hung on a wall. I have been stolen and been etched on with pen marks that bleed my soul. And now I am here. Inside you.
Thank you, dear reader, for unknowingly placing that magical amulet on me. Thank you for coloring me in with those pretty colored pencils you have. Thank you for the body that you gave me, your body which is so healthy and pliable. I'll use it well. But most of all, thank you for repairing my eyes with that beautiful royal blue pencil, so I could pass into yours.
I think I'll be using your pencils a lot. They're truly wonderful.
I appreciate all you've done for me. But now it's time for you to
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters
It was a longtime desire to spend a weekend at the lighthouse keeper’s quarters. Although the nearby lighthouse still served the coast as a functional light, it is fully automated now. It has been for decades. Three old houses stand a few hundred yards from the lighthouse. The grand, white, two story structure with four fireplaces and eleven rooms served as the lighthouse keeper and assistant lighthouse keeper’s quarters. The grounds keeper’s quarters is much smaller and sits about ninety feet away. The smallest house is more like a cottage and was supposedly built by one of the light keeper’s for his wife’s mother and father in 1890.
The sinister legend or myth about the lighthouse properties started with this small, unassuming looking house that sat on the outside edge of the grass knoll on which all of the homes had been constructed. For some reason, it sits farther from the light keeper’s house than all other buildings except for a fairly elaborate tool shed. Maybe the light keeper didn’t like his in-laws. Maybe it was because it was close to the garden, or maybe it was just the best piece of ground to build the little three room abode.
The owners who manage the lighthouse properties and grounds provide a small booklet covering the history of the lighthouse as well as some of the lighthouse keepers who lived in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters. Included in the booklet were excerpts from several diary pages. One of the stories discussed the unusual events at the “in-law cottage”one October in 1893. I found the story particularly interesting since we were spending the weekend at the original light keeper’s house in October 1993, one hundred years later.
As the story goes, the light keeper’s wife was startled awake late one night by what she recorded in her diary as a horrifying sound “much like that of a pig being slaughtered by a ravenous wolf.” She added it was followed by a loud crack which reminded her of a gun shot. She jumped from bed and looked out the nearest bedroom window which happened to face the small house where her parents were living. She wrote in the diary seeing a lamp burning in the house suddenly snuffed out and then seeing, “the shadows of three very large creatures through a light fog near the tool shed.” She turned and hollered downstairs to her husband. When she looked outside again, the shadows had disappeared.
Eventually the light keeper made his way upstairs to bed. Despite his wife’s concern for something she saw in the fog, he had been waiting on a signal from the assistant lighthouse keeper that he had arrived at the light and all was well. At 11:01 pm the assistant lighthouse keeper’s lantern could be seen swinging back and forth from the top of the lighthouse signaling all was well. He wrote in his diary he saw the lantern about fifteen minutes after his wife had beckoned him.
When he shuffled into the bedroom he noted his wife was sleeping but mumbling something he couldn’t understand. He parted the curtains and glanced out towards the small house. It was now barely visible, “being engulfed in a fog encroaching from the trees beyond the property.” He also wrote seeing, “shadows moving through the fog from north to south in front of the tool barn.” He clarified that he thought the shadowy figures were most likely elk from the forest herd.
He wrote that he laid in bed restless, not because of the fog or the sound his wife claimed to hear, but because they were expecting visitors the next day from the government. A regular visit to see that things were being kept in order. During the time he laid there staring at the ceiling, he must have noticed the fog drifting past their window along with a shadowy effect of some kind that he said moved from the east window across the ceiling to the north window and was gone. He briefly mentioned it in his morning diary entry, then added, “the elk must have been in his yard eating the black gooseberries.”
Sometime after the morning household chores and before he needed to relieve the assistant light keeper, his wife came to him alarmed. She reported her mother and father were nowhere to be found and the carriage and horse were gone. The door of the small barn was left open and unfortunately the mule was also nowhere to be found.
He explained to her they had probably gotten up early and made the six mile trip to town. They’d managed not to close the barn door so the mule was out wandering around somewhere but wouldn’t be far away. He then wrote he instructed the grounds keeper to spend some time looking for the mule.
After that, the day went from bad to worse. The grounds keeper had found the mule dead, tangled in the brush behind the tool shed with, “it’s head twisted around backward”. The grounds keeper had made the trek to the lighthouse to dispense the bad news around 2:00 pm, according to his diary. To which he added the light keeper, “shook his head and said they’d throw the animal in the sea before dark.”
By 5:00 pm the in-laws were still not home. The sun was getting low on the horizon. They had just rolled the old mule, “with it’s head barely attached”, down the steep southern slope. The grounds keeper also wrote, “he was sloshing around grotesquely in the tide below.”
It was at this time the light keeper and his wife and the grounds keeper decided to go into the little cottage to look around. Just inside the front door was mud. Everywhere. The floor was covered in mud, still partially wet. Also there was, “a terrible stench like something had died and was rotting.” Two sets of footprints led across the room into the bedroom. No one was in the bedroom though. There was mud on the window sill. The in-laws had left the little cottage through the window. Something had scared them bad enough they ran from their front door and crawled out a window.
The barn with the carriage was forty feet from the bedroom window. The grounds keeper’s house was over ninety feet away so they must have taken refuge in the small barn. Then at some point, for some reason, they fled the property in the carriage. They were nowhere to be found and wherever they went they had yet to return. Before leaving the house, the light keeper’s distraught wife noticed a hand like print smudged above the door. They also noticed what they thought was, “a dark red blood splatter” on the ceiling above the doorway. The light keeper mentioned in his diary, “It looked like pigs had wallowed inside the front door and the old guy took a shot at whatever it was.”
The light keeper asked the grounds keeper if he had seen or heard anything to which he said, “I slept soundly through the night, except briefly when I thought I heard an elk bugle nearby.”
There were no more diary entries for a few days then, “The horse returned with the carriage, but in-laws were not with it. They have not been seen in town either. Maybe they went back to Portland. We’ve not heard anything from them. Wherever they are, they obviously are not coming back, although they left behind a great deal of belongings. -JR Fuller, Light Keeper.”
Then the next evening from the light keeper’s wife, “I assume my mother and father are back in Portland. I have stowed their belongings in the upstairs bedroom for now. While collecting their belongings in the cottage yesterday, I had to open all windows and leave the door open. The stench is still overwhelming. Whatever was in the cottage was not human. It was not pig, nor was it elk regardless of what my husband and grounds keeper think. There was a menace here and I still feel it looking at us from deep within the trees. I’m terrified. I pray my parents are okay.”
For the next several days, most of the diary entries are those typical of operating the lighthouse, “John allowed light oil in primary can to drop below half. Will remind him to watch more closely. -JR”
“Beautiful clear day, can see for miles across the ocean. -John Slade, Assist Keeper”
“John and I polished glass for six hours this morning. -JR”
“Painted and repaired carriage wheels, several spokes cracked. -Cal Steele, Grounds Keeper”
“Picked blackberries for preserves early this morning. Reedgrass wet with morning dew. Did not venture past the property edge. -Janie Fuller”
Then one entry from John Slade dated, “1893 10 October. Saw a large creature walking the outside perimeter by the road to town whilst wiping down the handholds around the gallery atop the lighthouse. The animal was on four legs but it stood when it went into the trees. I call it a creature, perhaps it was a bear. I’ve never in my life seen a wild bear here. It’s going to make me anxious walking to work tonight. I will walk back here well armed.”
The next day an entry from Janie Fuller, “Early this morning a small deer was snatched from in front of the tool shed by a large animal which was certainly not a bear. It was a hideous creature which dispatched the deer quickly with a large stick. JR and Cal went armed to the area. They reported a large amount of blood sprayed across the shed wall. JR has ordered John to begin his shift at the lighthouse today before dark, armed with the shotgun and spend the night in the oil house with the door barred until they could determine if a dangerous bear was prowling about. I assured JR it was no bear. Bears do not swing sticks. He looked at me perplexed.”
The diary entries pretty much ended there but the story continued, explaining that John Slade moved south to a North California lighthouse two weeks later. The Fuller’s also moved south, all the way to San Diego, California a week after Slade had moved. JR Fuller and John Slade were replaced without problem by a lighthouse keeper and assistant lighthouse keeper from the Great Lakes area. JR Fuller did not leave his post until the new crew had moved in. For one week he and Cal Steele, who acted temporarily as an assistant light keeper, carried on the lighthouse duties.
Cal Steele stayed another year after JR Fuller left and wrote one final diary entry about his post, “What I saw last night at the edge of the trees was no bear or elk. Large creatures glared at me. Was it the dreaded ‘Lycan’ of mythology and lore passed down by local native people? Bloodthirsty wolf like, ape creatures that roam the night, killing. I believed the happenings over the past year to be nothing but wildlife, elk and bear. Now, I believe I have been wrong. I clearly saw evil creatures staring back at me. I slept with the doors and windows locked and the shotgun in my lap as I listened to them rap on the side of my house and click their long nails on my windows. God help the next crew to work this light and the grounds around it.”
Two days later, Cal Steele moved inland to Denver, Colorado. Apparently, he never said anything about the incident to the new grounds keeper.
I put the booklet down and glanced over at my wife. She was reading by the window. The old Light Keeper’s Quarters have been wonderfully restored and was well lit with modern lighting. We had the big house to ourselves so far this weekend so we chose to stay in the big bedroom upstairs. We had been relaxing by the fire, reading for quite awhile.
I got up from the big comfortable antique chair, crossed the old creaky wood floor to the front door and made sure it was locked. I looked out the living room window. A white Ford Explorer was parked in front of the Grounds Keeper’s house. We had a neighbor and at 11:00 pm their lights were still on.
I went into the kitchen. Out the window facing west, the top half of the majestic old lighthouse was visible. The automated light pulsed it’s assigned sequence so nearby ships recognized where and how far from the coast they were. The bushes to the south were moving briskly in the breeze. Looking out the living room window again, the outside lights were now on at the Grounds Keeper’s House so I turned ours on. Immediately, I saw movement.
Something ran into the trees about thirty yards away. The animal was moving directly away from the house. Probably a deer, but a big deer. The porch light must have scared it. My wife was still reading. I told her, “I’m going to bed. Leave the kitchen light on. I’d hate to fall down the stairs in the middle of the night.”
“Yep, I’m coming up too”, she yawned. So we left the light on and climbed the creaky, beautiful old stairs to the upstairs bedroom.
The house was full of history. Almost one hundred and fifty years old and full of charm. And at close to midnight, it was making noises. Just the kind of noises old wooden houses make as they settle in for the night but unsettling type noises. Spooky noises.
The reflection of the lighthouse light pulsing, traveled through some of the upstairs windows, down the hall and into our room. I opened a window to let the cool ocean breeze in. The upstairs bedroom fireplace which we had lit earlier was glowing and the fresh air gave it life and it flamed up again.
The bed was cold but had a luxurious new mattress covered with soft cotton sheets and a colorful, handmade looking quilt. We turned the night stand lights off leaving the room glowing from the fire in the fireplace. The downstairs kitchen light was softly filtering upstairs to the outside hallway. I turned over. My wife was already asleep. I closed my eyes listening to the fire crackle and the old house settle.
At 2:00 am I was awakened by a dog barking. A big dog. The people staying in the grounds keeper’s house must have brought a dog. The dog was persistent. The barking muffled, he was inside their house for sure. I got up and looked out the window toward the house just as a couple of lights came on. There was movement by their car. Something was there. Something that wasn’t running away. It was in the shadows. I couldn’t see it clearly. But for sure it wasn’t running, it seemed to be looking at the house, listening to the dog.
Surely, my eyes were playing tricks on me. The old story and diary pages were messing with me. I looked at my wife and she was asleep. I looked back to the neighbors car and whatever had been there, was gone. The dog stopped barking and the neighbor stepped out the front door with a black collie dog on a leash. I thought about hollering at him, “Get back inside, get back inside,” but I didn’t. Then after what felt like too long, he and the dog calmly turned and went back inside. All the lights went back off except one.
I laid back down. Trying to be rational, I was just about asleep when a stench began drifting through the window. I heard scratching and clicking like sharp nails on stone coming from the south side of the house. I quietly got out of bed and moved to the empty bedroom across the hall. I looked out the window and saw three shadowy forms, one on all fours and two standing but stooped over. They appeared to be digging where the clearing ended, just inside the trees. A light fog had drifted in and it was hard to make out was happening. But one thing was certain, I wasn’t looking at a bear or elk. One of them turned to the house as if it were looking right at me. It’s eyes seemed to glow red or reflect red in whatever dim lighting was coming from the grounds keeper’s house.
Then, it turned back and continued with the others to rip at the ground and dig at the earth. The fog was getting denser. It was harder to see the disturbing commotion less than fifty feet from the house. But I could hear them. They were grunting and huffing and making a sound reminiscent of slurping. Were they eating something? The hair on my arms stood up.
A cold chill was suddenly upon me as I realized I was no longer in the empty bedroom alone. In the dark room, a form was standing at the other window to my right. “Did you see those animals out by trees?” It was my wife. I was breathing hard. I was terrified.
“I did, I panted. I think they’re gone. Let’s go back to bed.” But they were not gone. They were just obscured by the dense fog. Surprisingly, she seemed more intrigued than scared.
As we crossed the hall, I heard a scratching, clicking type sound, like something was tapping on a downstairs window. The big dog started barking again next door. We went into our bedroom, shut the door and stoked the fire, adding another log. Somehow, I managed to fall asleep until the early morning sun filtered into the bedroom window.
I smelled coffee downstairs. My wife was already making coffee. Despite the cool ocean breeze coming through the window, my hair and pillow was soaked with sweat. I ambled down the beautiful creaky stairs as she was pouring me a cup of fresh brewed Pacific Northwest blend. Out the kitchen window the proprietors of the on property gift shop were standing over by the trees pointing at the ground and shaking their heads. One of them had a shovel.
I walked out the front door and across the damp lawn to where they stood. “It’s a mess here, the woman warned as I got near. Happens, couple times a year. Deer, torn apart. All that’s left are legs and it’s head. I apologize you had to see this. Cougar or a bear I guess. I’ll call the Sheriff and Forest Service. They’ll send someone out.”
Amazingly, there wasn’t nearly as much blood as I expected. “It wasn’t a bear or cougar”, I told her.
“What do you mean?’’
“We watched them. They stood on two legs.”
“The myth about Sasquatch is highly exaggerated”, she said with a half smile.
“Sasquatch never crossed my mind ”, I told her, taking my last drink of coffee.
“I understand. You saw some ‘thing’, huh? Read the booklet? The October account about Janie Fuller and her parents? You know a year after the Fullers and the others left, a hunting posse was called out to track what the new light keeper referred to as a large rouge wolf. And they killed one. Was seven foot long from nose to tail. The biggest and only wolf ever taken in this part of the state. What we have here is probably a couple of cougars. Which means we’re going to have to close the vacation homes for awhile. Least ’til they’re trapped and moved out. What a shame.”
“Yes it is, I answered. This is a beautiful place.”
I stepped briskly back into the house and into the kitchen. My wife was drinking coffee. “How about we pack up go on to the big civilized city of Astoria?”I asked.
“More than ready”, she nodded.
I’m not sure what we saw or what happened that night. But, whatever creatures visited the lighthouse properties in 1893, are still there, I’m sure of it.
A few weeks later, the local newspaper reported that three cougars were trapped and moved to Montana. Maybe so. But we didn’t see any cougars.
Hundreds of people have stayed at the property without an encounter. Local people always have an answer. After all, no one has been killed that they know of.