Thursday, October 3, 2013

Septu Cometh

       Five thwacks sounded against the thin sheet rock wall, just outside of the skeletal office where Jumble hid. Cloudy plastic sheets rasped and billowed inward as the city wind howled along the face of the building. One of them skimmed the nape of his neck, causing him to leap headlong into the stack of cardboard boxes he'd hid behind. A box at the bottom of the pile, packed solid with ceiling panels, lay waiting for his descending jaw. He came down with a meaty click, molars sinking into the side of his tongue.

       "Ah, glod-!"

       Three more thwacks beat along the wall, nearing the doorless entrance to the room less than six feet away to his right. He scrambled backwards on his ass and palms, oscillating his head side to side, looking for something useful. A weapon, if he was lucky--something top-heavy he could grip onto. Whoever had been working on the forty-second floor had been tidy, though. All that remained from their toils were boxes and two sawhorses, standing parallel by a far, open window.


       He wormed a hairy hand into the neck of his bleach-spotted green t-shirt and felt for the necklace. For a moment, there was nothing--his chest had become slick and slimy, coating the thin metal chain so that it was hard to differentiate from flesh. Scraping with his nails, he skinned a mole just below his collarbone and yelped, yanking forward. The necklace had come away with his hand, hooked in a salami finger.

       Another thwack resounded, just at the threshold.

       "Go away! Monstrosity, that's what you are! You're filth!"

       He pulled the necklace out of his shirt and lowered its orb-shaped pendant into his wrinkled palm. It was covered in a patchwork of sooty smudges. Beneath them was an opalescent film which housed a miniscule creature. It spun around in unpredictable gyroscopic circles and, through the barrier in which it hung suspended, a muted squeal murmured up at him. It sounded something like, "Screeeeeee!"

       "Crooshti! Something's coming for me, I-"

       The Follower had come through the door. Jumble refused to look up, afraid of seeing something which might forever upset his world. The sounds it made as it moved toward him caused his gorge to rise. It sounded and smelled like a mop that had been dunked in melted mayonnaise being slathered across the floor. This was punctuated by the rhythmic thwack from before. An acidic sample of vomit slithered up his esophagus.

       "Cuh-mon, cuh-MONNN, Crooshti. What do I do?"

       The creature in the orb stopped immediately. It was orb-like, itself, with feathery antennae coming out of its yellow hide, speckled with purple dots. It's face was a congregation of eyes. Each one had its own set of lids, angled at random, which never blinked. It sent its thoughts to his mind.

       "The one that comes is a gundo. You have done wrong, indeed, sweaty man. Sweaty goom-bah! I do not think help is in my power, but continue not to look. You should maybe jump out, actually."

       These thoughts were accompanied with images that flashed brutally upon his brain, leaving negative afterimages. The first was a vague suggestion of the thing that Crooshti had described as a "gundo". It looked somewhat like an octopus, but with much thinner arms--almost the width of spaghetti. The head was hollowed out like a spoon and a fluted stalk dangled over it an arc. At the end of that was a round sucker with an uncountable number of needle teeth.

      "Buh why's it comin' after me, 'uh?"

       He shut his eyes slowly and strained to lock them closed by the lashes. The olive skin around them deepened into a sickly murk as he took minor steps backwards toward a naked support beam. The plastic sheets blew inward from the south wall with a staunch gust from outside. A momentary band of noonlight streaked through the office.

       "It's of my worrrrrrld!" said Crooshti. "It is my kin--it is of meeee!"

       Steadily, the thwack-swish of the gundo grew wetter and louder as it brought itself closer. Jumble could hear the sound of miniature liquid streams splattering the ground in front of it, laying out a path. It had given him a horrendous chase earlier, up the side of the building. He had nearly suffered heart failure pulling himself onto the construction lift and riding it up at the highest speed. Sparks had flown from the cables and he just wouldn't look down. Now, the thing chose to move slowly. To stalk him almost complacently.

       Another image from Crooshti came cork-screwing through his head, this one more vague than the first, but certainly worse. Vague outlines of skyscrapers at a high elevation so that cars, streets, blocks with pathetic curb-trees were out of the frame. Something organic growing upon itself exponentially. Glistening orange flesh, reddish brown cross-hatching like capillaries. Crawling, with cousins climbing like rampant ivy on the buildings, themselves.

       "Is it after you, Crooshti?"

       The gundo was within a foot of Jumble's black sneakers. It stopped, began to soak them with its discharge.

       "Oh! It's pissin' on me!"

       "The gundo," said Crooshti, "has only come to a party. He is a, how you say, guest, hee hee. Screeeee!"

       Then a bulky shadow swept over the face of the building, momentarily blacking out the sunlight. Something gargantuan lurched outside. An impossible conglomeration of meat, muscle, and cartilage had shifted somewhere in the gusty metropolitan sky.

       "Hey! What'sa matter? I thought you were helpin' me out, here. I helped you, di'n' I? Got you outta that safe? Back at the pawn shop?"

       He chanced peeling his eyes open again, aiming them straight into his palm. There, Crooshti stared up at him with all of its thirteen eyes. One of its antennae was whirling and spasming; sometimes it would crumple in on itself and disappear into a dense ball. A smudgy shadow sat quivering on the floor beyond the tips of his fingers. The stalk coming out of its head calmly glided in circles like a charmed cobra.

       His foot began to feel warm, then to itch, then to sting.

       "You did this. You did," said Crooshti. "You knew of my value, however. Your personal interests were involved. Screh-screee! I have not been helping you, only I have been guiding you. I steer you here. You are above the mouth now."

       A hissing rose from below him and he smelled something that made his stomach rumble. Something sweet: Mmm! A hamb'ger on a sourdough bun with mozzarella! A sudden searing pain dove deep through his flesh into his toe bones. As he shrieked and backed into the iron beam, columns of thick grey smoke streamed up from his foot and eddied in little clouds around his hand.

      "Mmph! The mouth?! What mouth?!"

      "The Septu family mouth. It feeds us all. You ought to jump out now."

      The sheet to his left burst inward again, the wind howling through the spartan guts of the high-rise. His eyes involuntarily flickered outward and he saw mountains. Mountains in the far distance, blue and washed out and lurching. Something yawned below him. He drew himself back and gasped, shuddering.

       "Jum?" said Crooshti.

       "Oh my frick-kin' GOD! Mother Maria! I'm gonna die!"


       "All for a score! A lousy, two-bit score! I left the game, got up outta my easy chair... my son was playing wid 'is blocks..."

       "Hey, Jum?"

       "Whad, you fuck?!" he said, strands of spittle dangling like fishing line from his glistening, purple lips and dropping into his palm. Whaddaya want? Whaddaya want from me? Got you outta there! All for nothin'!"

       "You should maybe jump out."

       Jumble's eyes widened for a second and started to bulge. Then something shuttered down over them as if the air had whisked all of their moisture away. His shadowed eyelids drooped. The stubbly creases on either side of his mouth softened. He gently plucked the chain out of his palm with his large fingers and placed it around his neck, taking care to tuck Crooshti back into his shirt.

       Turning dreamily, he drew back the plastic sheet and gazed straight ahead, not seeming to see anything. There were no honking horns below anymore, only a deep rumbling. His knee buckled slightly as the gundo sunk its teeth into his calf and began to pull itself up onto him. Jumble simply stood, each plunge of its sucker causing him to jerk forward. A wan, sublime smile spread over his limp face.

       "Okay," he said.

       His toes shuffled over the edge of the window and began to point downward. The gundo's wiry tentacles whipped around his stomach and chest, cutting deep into his skin until it burst open in sections. He began to plummet, arms stretched out before him. Blood and yellow bits of fat fell along with him, encircling him like a planetary ring.

       His eyes began to widen again, but only a little, as the humid cloud of breath he rushed into created globules of moisture on his contorting face.




Wednesday, October 2, 2013

God's Buckeye

       An antique station wagon idled in the parking lot of the Warwick Falls lookout. A patch of frost was melting from the outside in on its periwinkle roof.  Mist rose from the gorge below and swirled around it, shrouding the tail lights, which looked like waspy red spirits. Its headlights beamed across the wet dirt road and painted dim yellow circles on a rock wall. Through the windshield, sluggish silhouettes ducked and swiveled their heads.
       The man behind the steering wheel reached under his seat and retrieved a nickel-plated .38 revolver. The woman next to him stared at it. The corners of her mouth turned down in a symphony of wrinkles.
       “How sure are you?” she asked.
       “’Bout what?” His eyes glimmered as if someone had recently added a coat of lacquer to them.
       “About them things in your shirt pocket.”
       “Well, if it was just me, I s’pose I wouldn’t be all that sure at all… but there’s you saw ‘em too.”
       “Yeah, I know I saw ‘em, but who’s to say I didn’t hear something different from what you heard?”
       “Did you?”
       A lone tear grew fat in the corner of her left eye and spooled down a groove in her cheek. It nestled itself in a crease in her chin.
       “They’re Tommy Boy’s buckeyes and you know it. Here,” he said, fishing them out of his breast pocket and displaying them on a flat, trembling hand. The buckeyes had a polished gleam from ritual handling. The beige circles on the tops of them were both tilted towards her as if they were studying her. “You see that little cross-shaped nick on the one? He used to say that it was God’s buckeye. He’d put it on the table at the last hand of every poker game and roll it towards the pot.”
      The woman chuckled painfully, her face twisted up like a tree knot.
       “Yep. He sure did… I don’t remember him ever losing, neither. I just don’t feel right about ‘em. We were both there at the funeral. He was buried with ‘em, folded up in his hand. It doesn’t seem well that they ended up on your nightstand all suddenly.”
       “One of ‘em’s God’s buckeye. That’s what he always used to say. I think it was God what left ‘em with us, Carole.”
       “Mayhap he did.”
       He brought his spotted hand up to her cheek and fingered her ear ring. It swung like a pendulum for a long time. He watched it—watched her. Then he returned his palm to the weapon in his lap.
       Carole leaned over herself and rummaged through her purse. The seatbelt cut into her floral dress, underlining a plump ridge of skin which drooped over the one already hanging from her waistline. Sitting back up, she brought a cell phone with her and stared at it for a minute or two. With a shaking finger, she swiped the gray band at the bottom of the screen. Nothing happened. With her second try, the lock icon twitched toward her yellowed nail and then settled back into place.
       “Do you know how to work this thing, darlin’?” she asked.
       “You gotta plant your finger directly on the lock and drag it to the right.”
       She nodded with a flimsy smile and, moving as precisely as a watch maker, lowered her finger once more onto the lock. This time, she managed to draw it completely to the right. A brightly colored background picture appeared behind a number of application icons. It was of Carole and her husband standing on either side of a young woman in a forest green sweater with big white letters, MSU, stamped on the chest.
       “Evelyn…” she said. “I don’t know that I can do a thing like this, Nick. What do you think she would say? Lord, what might she tell her little boys?”
       “She can’t tell what she don’t know,” said a voice like river rocks falling into a tin bucket, coming from the console—the spot where Nick had placed the buckeyes. “No one ain’t never gonna find out. You mark me good, Carole. You’ve got some business needs attendin’, and you ought not to shrug of attendin’ it on account of it’s God’s work. The both of you ha’ been chosen.”
       Carole froze, blinking rapidly at Nick who was twisting the chamber of the revolver with his thumb and gazing at the rock wall across the road.
       “…Did you hear ‘im, hon’?” he asked without moving.
       Her eyes shot down to the buckeyes. They were resting on a mound of pennies, shining dully in the grey light.
       “I sure think I did.”
       “Well, I think that solves it. Let’s not be too ceremonious about all this,” he said, popping his door open and setting his foot on the gravel outside. “I’ll go’n and get the car ready—you call the tow man. Remember how Evelyn set it up for you? Just press the green phone-shaped button on the bottom-left ‘n’ press the word, ‘roadside’. Then, all you gotta do is say you and your husband done popped a tire out on route 43, you’re parked out by the falls, and ain’t any spares in the trunk. Okay?”
       “Okay,” she said, eyes wide.
       Nick nodded and pulled himself onto his feet, briskly shutting the door once he was all the way out. She heard his crunching footsteps trail around to the trunk, then a mechanical pop and a rusty squeal. A flicker down in the console caught her attention. One of the buckeyes—the one with the cross-shaped nick—had tumbled away from its brother.
       “Who’s in there? Is that you, Tommy Boy?” she asked.
       There was no answer for several minutes. Then the trunk slammed shut. She flinched and the phone slipped from her hands into the narrow space between her seat and the passenger door.
       “Hell!” she grunted, looking through the back window at Nick.
       He was holding a bowie knife with a brown leather handle close to his chest and peering around the car at the back left tire.
       “Call the tow man, Carole,” said the buckeyes. There was a touch of anger in the voice. The pennies rattled.
       The voice made her go rigid, jowls quivering, and before she’d heard the last word, Carole had jammed her hand down past the seat cushion and scrabbled around, sweat sprouting along her burgundy hairline. At last, her plastic nails ticked against it. She yanked it out and held it up to her face. With her thumb, she brought up the home screen once more and pressed the green phone icon. “Roadside” was the third number on the list, below the words, “Ev” and “Home”.
       She tapped it and held the phone to her ear, looking dazedly at the buckeyes which now sat nestled in individual divots, surrounded by respective calderas of pennies. A far away ringing purred in her ears until a click sounded and a young man answered on the other end.
       “Plateau Towing. How can I help you?”
       “Hi,” she said, throat crackling as if it were made of dry leaves. “Me and my husband just popped ourselves a tire out on 43 by the falls and we don’t have any spares. Do you think you could send out a truck to help us?”
       “Well, sure we can, ma’am. That’s not a problem at all. I’ll come out, myself. How’s that sound?”
       To her rear, there was a meaty thud followed by a slow hissing sound. The car began to tilt and sag towards the place where her husband was helping himself back to his feet.
       “Uh… that sounds just fine. When can we expect you?”
       “Our shop is actually only fifteen minutes away from there. You just sit tight and I’ll be up in no time. We’ll get your car hooked up and have her back down here before nine.”
       “Alright, then. We’ll be waitin’ for you.”
      “Good deal,” he said. “I’m hopping into the truck as we speak. See you in a bit.”
       Carole’s throat began to close. She swallowed and cupped her palm around the drapes of skin under her neck.
       “Hey, son? Mind if I ask you a question real quick?”
       “Sure. Whatcha got? Shoot.”
       “What’s your name?”
       Outside, Nick was panting and swatting at the knees of his khakis. The overcast sky combined with the swirling cloud constantly spuming up from the falls caused deep shadows to fall over his brow, making his eye sockets look empty.
       “My folks dubbed me Martin. You can call me Reds, though. That’s what everyone calls me.”
       “And why’s that?” she said, continuing to watch her husband.
       He had taken a few steps away from the car toward the railing that sat just above the falls. The upstream breeze blasting out of the gorge tousled the thin band of cotton still clinging to his scalp. And the leather handle of the knife jutted through the slit in the back of his tan tweed jacket.
       “Oh, well I’m a little embarrassed to say…” Reds mumbled.
       “Go on,” Carole said, her voice jittering.
       “Well, it’s just a name that stuck with me. I used to have a chain-smoking habit—two packs a day; cowboy killers—and one night, I was drinking heavy at this party I wasn’t supposed to be at. My mom caught wind and came out looking for me. She had just found the house I was at and was coming in to give me a piece of her mind when I made the stupid mistake of lighting a cigarette backwards and taking a power-drag. Let’s just say that it didn’t end well for anyone involved and I had to buy my mom a new blouse afterwards.”
       “My word. Well, I guess we all end up bein’ infamous for somethin’ or another,” she said.
       Over the phone, she heard the tow truck’s engine grumble and huff as it began its trip up into the mountains.
       “Yeah. I don’t mind it too much, though. I kind of like the name. It seems to suit me. Anyway, I should get off the phone before I wreck this thing but, before I do, what’s your name? I don’t think I caught it.”
       “Oh, me?” she asked, raising her penciled-on eyebrows. “I’m Carole, sweetie.”

       The tow truck rattled, navigating the beaten dirt roads up the mountain. Reds, leaning over his steering wheel, struggled messily with the wiper switch so that he could rid himself of the sheet of fog that had plastered itself across the windshield. The old blades whined on their servos, doing little to improve visibility and painting streaks of dirt in a familiar arc.
       He rocked away into his seat, smacked his skull against the back window.
       “Fuck!” he growled, reaching blindly toward the console. He plucked the receiver of the CB radio out of its holster and whipped it toward his face. “You should’ve washed Josie-May when you were done yesterday, Daniel… dunno how in the hell you expected me to drive her like this, knowing the fogs were coming. By the way, remind me why you took the headrest out of here?”
       A slushy, Alabamian drawl crackled out of his hand.
       “Take ‘er eathy, Redth. I’ll make it up to yuh, bah y’ a thix-pack.”
       “Kiss my ass, pumpkin. If I make it back down, I’ll hold you to that.”
       “Alraht, mayn. Be thafe up thur. And dontchu be cawlin’ me punkin.”
       Reds smirked, swaying side to side as the truck rocked over damp roots and kicked-up clods of dirt.
       “You want me to call you Fiddlesticks, then?”
       “Over ‘n’ out, jackath.”
       There was a momentary shriek of static as the radio cut off and then the cabin was quiet. Reds leaned forward again to replace the receiver. As he leaned back, he snuck a hand into his pocket and removed a cigarillo with a blonde wooden tip and a golden foil label wrapped around it. He gripped a loose piece of its cellophane packaging between his teeth and liberated it with a careless sideways jerk. Tucked into the seat by his belt buckle was a grimy yellow lighter which he easily found and flicked alight under his new fare. His fat red lips, looking like the split back of a jumbo shrimp, levered the cigarillo as he stoked it.
       Squinting through roiling ribbons of smoke, he found himself coming up on a black wooden sign. Just a few meters beyond it, he saw the gravel lot and the couple’s old station wagon. The husband was tall and pale, his jacket swaying from his sharp, bony shoulders as he took a few ambling steps away from the edge of the lookout. As Reds backed up to their rear bumper, the man suddenly appeared panicked. He jerked the driver door open ducked his head down into the car. When he stood back up, he was dropping something into his shirt pocket, patting it with a gnarled hand.
       “Alright, Carole. Let’s get this over with,” Reds said to himself, killing the engine with a punctuated flick of his wrist. He took a long, slow drag from the cigarillo; the glowing tip brightened to a nuclear yellow.
       As he hopped out of the cabin, the sound of the falls bore down on him. Their vomitous din was amplified against the rock wall, causing the noise to wash over him from both sides. Evergreens hung forlornly above him, deep and lush green, sacrificing none of their hue to the miasma of cold spray and fog.
       “Hey, glad you made it,” the old man said, his face twitching a couple of times before pulling itself up into a crinkled smile.
       “I’m glad I made it, too.” He chuckled and held his hand out. “I’m Reds.”
       At first, the old man stood still, looking sullenly at his shoes, hands tucked into his pockets. Then, as if receiving a delayed transmission from a distant satellite, he jerked forward and clasped Reds’ hand just as he started pulling it back. The senior’s palm was raspy and loose as if it would shed at any moment.
        “Name’s Nicholas,” he said, barking the first syllable out as if he were coughing.
        “Nice to meet you, Nicholas. I take it that’s Carole in the car?”
       Again, the Nicholas seemed not to register what he had said. He simply stood and gazed at him, eyes like glittering pits. The sun had begun to rise but the burly grey clouds all but obscured it. Where it hung in the sky, it seemed like someone had taken a giant eraser and scrubbed in a circle slightly brighter than its surroundings.
       “Sir?” Reds said
       “Huh? Oh. Yeah, that’s my wife, Carole.” The old man shambled around and bent over, signaling with his hand for her to get out of the car.
       Carole stood slowly, looking somberly from Nick to Reds. Her lips were pressed so tightly against each other that they seemed to disappear into a bloodless horizontal line.
       “Hello, ma’am,” Reds said.
       “Hi,” she said. The word seemed to whistle out of her throat.
       The skirt of her dress swishing between her legs, she trudged to a spot just behind her husband and placed a lizard hand on his shoulder. Nick’s head drifted minutely in her direction and then came back to Reds.
       “So how’re we gonna do this?” he asked.
       “All I’ve gotta do is hook your wagon up to the back of my rig and then you two can ride up front with me. It’ll only take a few moments.”
       “Well, is there any way I c’n help you?” As Nick spoke, his skin stretched thin over his cheekbones, drawing in dark hollows below them. Fat, winding veins had popped out on the sides of his forehead. A slick sheen stood out on his skin.
       “No, I can handle it. Why don’t you two stand back and enjoy the falls a bit while I string her up?”
       Nick nodded and smiled appreciatively.
       Reds rubbed the back of his neck and shot a quick glance behind him, pulling the cigarillo out of his mouth so that a delicate arc of curly smoke followed in its wake. When he looked back, he staggered, gasping.
         Nick had leveled the revolver at his head.
         “Hey, man, what’s… what are you doing with that thing?”
         “Beg pardon, son,” Nick said, sighing. His eyebrows bunched in a lax sort of despair. “We’ve been chosen and so’ve you, I’m afraid. It’s god’s work, what’s gettin’ done this morning. Now why don’tcha just get on down to your knees ‘n’ close your eyes. I’m gon’ hafta kill you now.”
       Reds gaped at him, his lips trembling like pink epileptic worms. Shadows seemed to shift like spiders over the old man’s face. He tilted his head and motioned downward with the barrel of the .38.
       “Sir, why don’t we just put the gun down? You don’t need to kill me. I’m sure this is just all a misunderst--“
        “On your KNEES!” the old man screamed, spraying him with specks of saliva. He cocked the hammer back with a trembling thumb.
        Reds dropped immediately, grimacing as a sharp piece of gravel dug into his knee cap.
        “Okay, okay. I’m on my knees. Let’s just slow down and talk.”
       “Sorry, boy. There won’t be any variety of speech gonna save you. I’m afraid it’s outta all our hands.” He reached into his shirt pocket and brought out the two buckeyes. Holding them out for Reds to see, he continued. “These here belonged to an old friend of mine. His spirit is alive in them—I’ve heard his voice comin’ directly out of ‘em. He says he’s thirsty.”
       Reds looked over Nick’s shoulder at Carole, his eyes round with shock. She frowned at him and looked away toward the falls.
       “Carole…” he said. “You seemed like a nice woman earlier on the phone. Don’t let him do this.”
       “Don’t you say another word t’ my wife, hear?” Nick said evenly, rattling the buckeyes.
       She turned back and looked down at Reds. Her eyes were red-rimmed and wet, but her face was slack, emotionless. Nick held the buckeyes out to her while keeping his eyes and the gun trained on Reds.
       “Go on and take ‘em, dear. I think Tommy-boy’s got somethin’ t’ tell you.”
       Carole cupped her hands under her husband’s. The latter loosened his ashy fingers and let them fall through. Eyes rolling upwards, she held them up to her ear. Occasionally, she nodded and mumbled assent.
       “What’s he saying?” her husband asked. The arm he held the gun with was shaking so badly that his fist began to bounce.
        She brought her hand away from her ear and dropped the buckeyes. They skittered across the gravel, one bouncing and skipping until it thudded into Reds’ leg. He looked down and noticed that it had a small cross-like shape carved into it. Nick twisted around, mouth hanging open.
        “What in th’ hell’d you do that for, Carole?!”
        “I was just doin’ our lord’s work,” she said raggedly, eyelids drooping.
Nick veered violently forward and clipped his wife, then fell to the ground with her. She writhed sluggishly under him like a drugged insect, pulling on his shoulders to see over him. The bowie knife was buried so deeply in his back that only its handle was visible. Reds dashed toward them and, planting a knee in the old man’s back, reached out for the gun which had fallen right next to Carole’s head.
       With a speed that he wasn’t expecting, she snatched it and jammed it against his skull. Between them, her husband lay still, eyes half-open and unblinking. The pupils had blotted out his hazel irises entirely.
       “Get up ‘n’ drag him off me. By the ankles,” she said.
       Reds, moving as carefully as he could manage, obeyed her and crawled backwards until he was hovering on his haunches. He took one of Nick’s ankles in each hand and duck-walked backwards, tugging in short bursts. A maroon patch had begun to seep through the old man’s blazer and bloom outward from the brown, segmented handle that stood like a monument between his shoulder blades. When he had completely freed Carole of her spouse, she sat up and gazed at him. He stood straight and gazed back.
       “Are you going to let me live?” he said.
       “I think so.”
       “Can I have the gun, then?”
        She peered dreamily down at it, hefted it in her blue-crossed palm. The fog had thinned and the clouds had broken, allowing spokes of ocher sunlight to dart down through the mist wafting over and through the lookout railing behind her. Prismatic rings danced around her head.
        “I can’t give it to you.”
        “Sure you can, Carole. I promise, I’ll just take it and put it somewhere safe. We’ll get your husband into the truck and go straight to a hospital.”
        “That’s not gonna work, hun. I’ve still got God’s work to do.”
        “You think God would want you to do anything with that gun?” he asked, taking a step toward her.
        She closed her eyes and cleared her throat.
        Reds took two steps closer.
        Carole’s eyes snapped open and she shoved the gun into her mouth, the barrel clicking against her molars. He froze and held his hands up, palms out.
       “Don’t do it, Carole. You just need he--,” he said as she pulled the trigger.
       A confetti of grey matter and blood spread out like a plume on the gravel behind her. The force of the bullet had laid her on her back, her dress hiked up over the red-striped mound of her stomach. Reds’ knees gave and he slumped onto his side, barely supporting himself with his left arm. He surveyed the scene numbly, letting his eyes drift over every detail, feeling almost calm somehow.
       He heard something skitter across the gravel to his right.
       The buckeyes lay nestled together only a few feet away. Reds stood up abruptly and knelt over them, scooped them into his palms. They were bigger than they had been moments before. There was a smear of blood on one of them. He studied it for a long time. Then he looked back at his truck, began to walk toward it.
       He climbed back into the cabin and placed the buckeyes on the seat next to him. In the side mirror, he could still see Carole’s body, arms and legs splayed out to the four corners. He heard a faint crackling sound, followed by a familiar voice.
       “Redth, what’th taykin’ yuh tho lowng?”
       “Oh my god,” he said, suddenly looking wildly about him. He leaned over and pulled the receiver up to his mouth. “Something horrible has just happened. I need you to call the police right now.”
       “Yew thound a kahnda bad, buddeh. What’th goin’ own up thar?”
       “The people that called us are dead. One of them almost killed me. Look, I don’t think I can fucking go into it right now. Can you just get the cops?”
        “Thay no more, mayn. Ahm callin’ ‘em raght naow.”
        “Okay,” Reds said.
        He replaced the receiver and ran a hand through his bristly hair. Through the windshield, he saw a white rabbit scampering down the road along the rock wall. Up the way, a series of tree branches snapped, a ways into the woods. The radio crackled to life again.
       “Hay, Redth?”
       He grabbed the receiver again and depressed the white button on its side with a shivering index finger.
       “What, Daniel?”
       “Yew thould turn yer radio awn b’fore yuh thart hayvin’ converthathions wiv’ folkth awn it.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"...Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds."

       Well, fine.

       The time has come once again and, though my bones and soul ache, I am here to carry on with what has, for me, become a sacred tradition. As for how it bodes with the other two, I'm not of the knowledge to say.

       I don't want to be ceremonious about this... well, ceremonious in the wrong way, I mean. Let me just say words. Don't consider these paragraphs to be written in any particular order, alright?

       Fine. The number, three, has some significance I think, for it's been three years since Terror Keyboard came into being. It was a gathering of three haunted souls. Three of the damned and disillusioned. Three close friends. I think we had better senses of humor back then. Some hope for our respective futures had remained intact after high school, but it's safe to say that the real world has proved more terrifying than any of the stories you'll find here. It's okay. It's fine.

       Three is about continuity. It's a number from a place outside of time. Instead of one long reel of film, think of time as a three-dimensional organization of temporal locations. It should be assumed that there is some sort of enclosure that keeps these places in time organized and static. Well, outside of that, there's three. Three is more than a number. Three is company. Three is the key to magic.

       Some updates: Peetoes is having a little boy named Sweep this month. Boulshed is trying to get sloppy with some ladies. He's been working out and working on an education. I have, too, up here in Pennsylvania, but I'm actually trying to do the opposite of what he's doing. I've been getting sloppy for too long as it is. I've forgotten the old way.

       I bear this most hallowed of ghoulish tasks because of the number, three. When you count to three, you find yourself at the beginning. 2013. 2010. I look at my current situation in life, and I find that I am right where I started: I'm alone, far away from home, and I'm provided for in this faceless and inhuman way that makes my comforts torturous (though I'll be the last to complain). This is a condition, an environment, that comes into alignment like nefarious stars and allows me to channel a gift or power from out of time. To splatter the minds of the generous who come to fill their October cups with the gruesome, the absurd, the ancient.

       Let me see... Look back into the past. Follow the pattern. It was exactly like this. Think of our stories. There is a feeling to be had from them and it is not horror. It comes from the time of druids and magick; smoky clouds of silt mixed with ash, smeared across the bark of frostbitten trees. People had clear enough heads to intuit the secrets back then, before the churches invaded.

       So I will take up this lone charge--let it be a call to the damaged ears that choose to hear. Experience the terror story. The three have not disbanded. The old ways are being remembered.


October 1st, 2013