Kissing – a Creepy Christmas Tale

Kissing

When I was a little kid Christmas was the most important thing in my life. I loved everything about it. I loved the music, the lights, the church service, spending time with my family, spending time with my friends, like I said, I loved all of it. Christmas, with its mythology, and its mystery was what the magic of childhood was all about for me. Sure, my birthday was always nice but there was something about Christmas that was different. I suppose that something was Santa. The fact that there was a man that watched us, that judged us, kept track of what we did, and who rewarded us or punished us out there somewhere and no one stopped him fascinated me. Don’t get me wrong, I believed in him, I sorta had to or else, according to my older sister who insisted that once you stopped believing that you stopped getting presents, but the idea that this man, this god, existed was incredible. Any questions I had were answered with kiddie books, television specials, or old songs and nothing else. It was as if he existed above and beyond anything but God Himself. So, there I was, a seven-year-old just a few weeks shy of eight and as excited by Santa as I was just as frightened by him. That fascination ruled my childhood, until I was seven and then that fateful Christmas Eve came and changed everything, for all of us.

 

We were not a rich family, not by a long shot, but dad had a good job and mom did some floral work for a funeral home and they did OK. We weren’t rich but me and sis never wanted for anything and mom and dad seemed happy as far as I could tell. Christmas meant a lot to our family. We weren’t really religious, going to church on Easter, on Christmas Eve, and a couple times in the summer, but mom and dad drove into us that this was a time of year for giving and of honoring the sacrifice of the Savior. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that Savior guy but they told me that Santa served the Savior and I figured, well, if that was the case then he must be a pretty good guy. Late at night sometimes though I have to admit that the idea that the man that watched and judged me was serving someone else, well, that gave me the creeps because it meant someone was watching him watch me. It was a lot for a little kid to worry about so I tried to push all of that out of my head to focus on the good things about the holiday. Every Christmas there were presents under the tree and we’d all go out together and pick out and buy something for a family from town that weren’t doing as well as we were and that was part of the joy of the season for us. Christmas Eve night, after the midnight service, we came home, said a prayer, and then went to bed with Christmas music playing on the radio all night and the tree left on as well. I would lay in bed listening to that faded holiday music, staring out my bedroom door at the glow of the lights and slowly I’d drift off, wondering whether Santa would think I’d been a good boy or not that year.

 

There had been no plan to stay up to see Santa the night I did. I had been lying in bed, thinking, my mind bouncing between thoughts of presents and thoughts of coal – or worse – when I noticed someone go past my door and out towards the living room, where the tree was. None of us put presents out before Christmas Day, mom saying that the time between Midnight and seven were Jesus’ and that our presents could wait. I didn’t know what that meant but I went along with it because so long as I stayed in bed until seven in the morning there were presents out there waiting. One year my sister had gotten up early, when I was still really little, and because of that there’d been no presents until noon that day. We didn’t get up early after that. My first thought was that Paula was out there, snooping for some reason, and so I was up immediately, wanting to make sure she didn’t get us both punished. I got up and out of bed as quietly as I could and slowly padded out of my room and down the hall. The closer I got to the living room the brighter and louder things got, the hall lit up in a rainbow of warm colors and sounds from the tree and radio. Even then, knowing I was risking trouble I couldn’t stop the lightning that I felt in my heart and hands as I approached the living room.

There was carpet through the house which softened my steps but I felt like there were eyes on me just the same. A chill ran through me as I thought of Santa watching me then, wherever he was, and knowing I was awake during Jesus’ time. Knowing and judging. But I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop moving. It was as if someone else was in control of me and driving me forward. In two more steps I was at the end of the hallway and I finally got control of myself and stopped, looked around, then leaned my head forward and started to speak when I saw that my sister wasn’t alone. My mouth dropped open as my eyes adjusted to the blinking lights of the large tree that sat in the far corner of the room and I saw who the two figures were.

Mom.

Santa.

Santa?

I closed my eyes and shook my head like I had seen people do in the movies.

I opened them and looked again.

Santa.

It was him.

A large man, taller than dad, which put him close to seven feet tall. He wasn’t fat and jolly but looked stocky and thick, his stance wide. Sitting on the floor beside him was a worn black sack. I watched as he approached my mom, removing a sequined green glove, and held his hand out to her. His hand looked strong in the dim light and as her own small hand took it a shiver ran through me. Mom wasn’t a tall woman, barely standing over five feet, but he dwarfed her, making her look like a child. I closed my eyes again and shook my head. I had to be wrong.

I suddenly remembered that silly old song about Mama kissing Santa Claus and realized that this was just dad. Dressed up and playing. I hadn’t seen right because of how dark it was and how much nervous energy I had. Dad. Geez. I opened my eyes and smiled at how stupid I had been. My smile dropped as I looked again and saw mom kiss the back of the large man’s hand.

It wasn’t dad.

It wasn’t Paula.

It was my mom and a stranger.

It was mom and Santa.

The cold reality of the full scene poured into my brain – Santa was real.

He was real and he was here and he was trying to kiss my mother.

I felt a scream well up in my throat but before it could get free, I was grabbed from behind and pulled back into the hall. I turned, horrified into silence, and saw my father, the rumor of scruff on his face and his eyes bloodshot and ringed in darkness.

 

“No. No. You can’t see that. You’re not meant to see that.” Dad whispered.

 

I opened my mouth to speak but dad pushed his hand against my mouth to stop me.

 

“No. Come with me, into your room. I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you everything.”

 

Saying that dad turned and headed for my room, stopping only for a moment to look over his shoulder, not at me but towards the living room, before disappearing into darkness. I turned and looked into the living room and saw the large man embracing my mother as he leaned down towards her, eyes closed. He had a hand on her side and his right hand I couldn’t see but knew it was on her hip. Or lower. I saw mom turn her gaze to me and watched as a tear ran down her face then I retreated into the hallway and into my room.

Dad was waiting for me.

 

“Paula doesn’t know, and I beg you not to tell her. I know you have questions but please, just listen. OK.”

I nodded.

 

“I found out about Santa when I was your age. All I had wanted in the world was proof that my brother, your uncle, was wrong, and that Santa was real. I waited behind the tree, hidden by presents, for him to come. I was asleep when I heard the sound of bells jingling. I looked out between the branches of our tree, all lit up in red, and saw the man in the suit. It was the best moment in my life. It was proof. Proof that the story was real. I started to step out from behind the presents and tree, to speak to him, when I saw my mom. She looked like she was in a dream, her hair in curlers, her tattered blue robe open revealing something red and silk that showed more skin than I had ever seen before. I felt myself blush. She went to Santa and he held his hand out to her and she kissed it and he grabbed her, rough, like he owned her. I watched them kiss, watched him grab and hold her in a way I had never seen dad do and then I closed my eyes. I had seen to much. Too much. I heard the bells again and they seemed to get louder, louder, louder and then I felt hot breath on me and I opened my eyes and looked up and there he was, as large as god, bent and staring at me with dead eyes, empty eyes. As if he saw something but not me. ‘Shhhhhh,’ he told me, then reached towards me but my mom grabbed him and begged him ‘no!’ and he stopped and turned and left me and I watched as he put an arm around her waist, put a finger to his nose and then they were gone. Just gone. That’s why you never met your Gramma Ann. She’s, she’s just gone, son. Gone. With him. One of his…brides.”

 

Dad was crying. Shaking. He took a breath and continued.

 

“Santa is real. Christ I wish he wasn’t, but he is. I dunno what he is, what he really is, but he’s real. How many people know he’s real I can’t tell you but it’s not everyone. He doesn’t come see everyone. Not anymore. Maybe there was a time when he could, thousands of years ago, but he can’t anymore. Heck, maybe he can. I dunno. I think I have met three people in my life that knew he existed and they were other kids whose mothers disappeared at Christmas just like mine had. They knew. I think, I suspect he takes a new bride every year. When he visits your home he leaves presents, special presents. When he leaves with a bride, he leaves something…else.” I opened my mouth to ask him what it was but dad shook his head in response.

 

“I don’t know what he leaves, if that’s what you were going to ask. I saw the present, clear as day, but dad opened it that Christmas and it disappeared afterwards without me ever seeing what was in it. I just don’t know. We knew he was coming this year because your mom started having the dreams. Dreams of him. Dreams just of him watching her and over the last month he got closer in the dreams until tonight. Tonight, he came. She told me about the dreams and I knew what it meant. What it means. I never told her about my mother. Never. And I never told her what might happen tonight. I don’t think I needed to. I think…I think she knew.” He grew silent.

 

“But…is he going to take her?”

 

“I don’t know, son. I just don’t know. I know enough not to try to stop him. There are stories, if you look for them, about disappearances and deaths on Christmas Eve. Stories passed down in families and in the news. Stories that tell you that you shouldn’t try to stop him. You just pray that he doesn’t decide to take your, your…” He sobbed then clamped his hand over his mouth quickly.

 

In a moment he spoke again.

 

“We just pray, son. We pray that he takes his kiss, what he usually comes for, that Christmas kiss, and nothing else. This is his holiday, we are his, and if we don’t do as he wants, as he demands then…” He grew silent again and we sat in the dark, sitting on my bed and waited silently.

 

Five, ten, twenty minutes went by and then we heard the sound of bells jingling and getting closer, and closer, and closer, then we heard them next door, in Paula’s room. Dad grabbed my hand. We held our breath and then heard the bells again and heavy strides moving down the hall. We heard mom scream and dad was up and out the door before I knew it. He ran down the hall and I sat on the bed, staring out into the hallway as the lights of the tree cycled through their colors. I sat listening to mom and dad as they screamed and moaned, the lights flashing red, purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, and trying not to think of anything at all. Santa’s face forced itself into my mind. The long, thick beard, matted and yellow. His calloused hands. The one thick gray brow that crossed his forehead. The leering smile. The way he had looked at my mother, as if she was a thing. A possession. I thought of these things and I suddenly thought of Paula, my sister, and I started to cry.

 

My sister disappeared on Christmas Day when I was seven years old. We don’t know what happened. She was thirteen and headstrong and dad told the police that she had been upset about not getting something for Christmas that she really wanted and had threatened to run away because of it. I didn’t remember things that way but the more time has passed the more it sounds about right. The truer it becomes. It’s been twenty years since that night, dad is gone, mom is in an elderly home. We never celebrated another Christmas after that year. We put the decorations up. We shopped for a donation present. We went through the motions, but we never celebrated. Never gave or got gifts in the family. And we never went to church again. We did what we had to, and that was all. Because he was watching. He was always watching.

I never married. I never dated seriously. I never got close to anyone. Not women. I can’t tell you why. I just didn’t want to. I keep to myself, mostly. I go to see mom when I can but the later in the year it gets the quieter and more distant she gets. When Christmas finally comes these days I take time off of work, I hole up in my house with some liquor and a gun and I wait, and I wait, and I wait for a sign that Santa’s on his way.

 

 

RoadKill – a novel

A million years ago, back when I was still a kid that had never even thought about writing more than occasionally and certainly never had thought about putting a book out, I wrote a story called Roadkill. In my mind it was a novella but in reality it was probably just a long short story. I was in my mid-teens and had handwritten the story in a spiral-bound notebook. I thought I had written a great story. It was about two friends who had a bad habit of running animals down with a car. Things escalated when things with the boys went awry and the end was a bit of comeuppance from Mother Nature.

Ah, but that book was never meant to be.

I still remember my foolish mistake when I, carrying the notebook around with me after the story had been completed, put it on top of my mom’s car and forgot about it.

Poof.

Gone.

I was heartbroken at the loss of that story and for about thirty years I have been wanting to revisit that story, to re-visit and re-write the story. I even planned a sequel and started working on it. As I started writing more regularly, and doing shows though, I never seriously sat down to write that story. It slowly evoloved over time and I started to think about it but never wanted to write it. I just didn’t have an interest in writing a novel, let alone THAT novel. It was sort of the same mentality I have with video games – if I get stuck I just sorta shrug and move on. I dunno if it’s me giving up or if its me deciding that the frustration isn’t worth it. The fact was though that I was heartbroken to have lost that book and hated the thought of re-writing it from scratch. Maybe that was silly but it was how I felt.

WHen I started putting books out I started working through the stories I had been sititing on as well as putting together new stories. Over the last few years I have been working to clear the books, as it were – trying to finish projects tha I had started but never completed. That lead to the completion of A SHADOW OVER EVER and CEMETERY EARTH, as well as the conclusion of the Meep Sheep trilogy. I just wanted to get these stories that had been sitting around for a while off my mind and conscience. Because it felt like something to do with conscience – that I HAD to get these stories written and out. As if it had been a pact I had taken on with myself.

That brings us to ROADKILL.

I am of two minds with my writing –

On one hand I don’t want tp keep putting books out that very few people are interested in or buying. It just seems silly. I love writing, I’ll always write, but I don’t want to become a joke.

Then there’s the part of me that wants to keep writing and producing stories, which means putting them out. I don’t want to chase markets and try to get published in a magazine or something like that because I did that before and it was nothing less than frustrating. Would I love to get published traditionally? OF COURSE! But I just don’t want to change my focus to that because as many markets as there are, there are still ten times more authors than that and man, I just wanna write stories. That’s all.

Over the last couple of years I have started wanting to get back to this story and to finally tackle it. I fully admit though that this was the story, the book, that has haunted me for a while because it’s lingered for so long that it started to freak me out. Do I try to re-do that exact story or write something new?

Slowly I started to take notes to try to get the story down in my mind. I knew it was still a story about two friends. I knew it was dark. Very dark. And I knew it happened in Munsonville, my made up Michigan town where SHADOW takes places as well as some of my other stories. Then it became a matter of – OK, I need to write this. Another slow process where I’d write a little here and there. I knew how it started. I knew how it ended. The rest? Yikes.

Over the course of 2018 I have worked on and off on the book with a need to get it done but no drive to do the work. When I lost my job in October suddenly a lot of time opened up and the excuses had run out – It was time to finish the book.

I wasn’t sure where it was going.

I wasn’t sure what it was about.

I wasn’t sure how to get where I needed to be.

So I did what I do – jumped in and just started writing, letting the story and characters make their own direction. The book changed, a lot, from what I had been thinking. The ending was close to what I had been thinking but what it meant and how I got there changed. I also discovered some answers to mysteries I hadn’t even known existed. As I wrote the story got clearer and clearer and finally I had found the heart of the book and drove right through it.

I finished the book a week ago today and it still feels weird.

It’s been the longest gestating of my books and I hope that is a good thing.

I hope it’s good.

Heck, I hope it’s great.

I just know it is what it is.

And what it is, is DONE!

Well, sorta.

There’s a lot of work to do, editing, revising, and fleshing out, but it’s written and honestly, the rest is the easier part and to some degrees the part that is more fun because it means I get to start making this thing work better. What I have after that, well, we’ll see. I don’t see it being something a lot of people will want to read because, as I said, it’s dark, and it’s just weird.

It’s all so new still so I am thinking of things to add, things to flesh out, and that will keep happening. My plan is to let the book sit for a month or two and then dive back into it and then we’ll see what we see.

For now though, it’s good to have it done, my strange story of two friends on a dark path.

I loved revisiting these people and this town, and it’ll be ineresting to see what comes next.

…c…

The Line – a story

Creepy story about one-sided infatuation of the nastiest kind. Fair warning if that’s a trigger for you. 

 

The Line

 

It was her smile.

That was what first drew me to her.

That partial smile that seemed to say more than words could ever hope to.

It was a moment.

An instant.

It was enough.

Enough to carve itself into my heart.

And here we are.

Me standing on her doorstep, ready to make a fool of myself.

 

We met at the grocery store. I was there to pick up some dinner when she got in line behind me. I wasn’t in a hurry and stepped aside to let her go ahead of me. She had more items but for me, chivalry never died. She was short, blonde, I guess you’d say a little chubby, though I liked ladies with a little health on their bones, it makes them look like real women, ya know? She had tattoos down her arms and while I don’t really care for tattoos her smile won me over, starting in her brown eyes and pouring down over her face until it pooled at her lips. I smiled back and nodded and let the kid at the register ring her up. I resisted the urge to stare at the short skirt and what it barely hid and instead looked at the left bra strap that stuck out bright and red from her white tank top. I felt a smile form and it remained when I got up to the register jockey, who was also smiling. He nodded towards the young woman and smiled as he started nodding.

 

“Damn. Am I right?” His smile widened and as his grew, mine shrank. I put the microwave dinner down on the conveyor belt and looked around and, seeing no one, leaned towards the kid, who couldn’t have been eighteen.

I smiled.

I reached forward and grabbed the kid’s hand in my own and started squeezing, and squeezing, and squeezing and the harder I squeezed the wider my smile got until he cried out. Once he did that the girl that was supposed to be register jockeying at the next register over stopped doting on the asshole kid standing in line and rushed over and I quit the scene and beat it out of there, content that I had made my point.

Manners matter.

I didn’t go back into the grocery store.

I didn’t like their lax hiring practices and rudeness.

I started parking in their parking lot just the same though, taking my work breaks and lunches there and even my off hours and making a point to keep an eye on things just because.

I am a bachelor, my last, uh, relationship, having ended abruptly a few weeks earlier and I needed a hobby so the young lady became that hobby, I suppose. That smile, that smile she gave me meant something. I knew it did so I wanted to make sure that we met again. There was one night I decided to follow the register jockey home just to, you know, see that he got home safely. Wed had a conversation about manners.

I’ll leave it at that.

Then it was back to her.

The young lady had been on my mind since I saw her that first time. She was with me like an infection and no matter how hard I itched at it, closing my eyes at night and thinking of her, concentrating on her as if she were a piece of my furniture to be possessed, but it wasn’t the same.

Her.

I wanted her.

I saw her again three weeks after that first time. I was halfway through a beer, listening to talk radio and laughing to myself every time I saw that loud mouth kid hobble out for a smoke break in his leg cast. Accidents. Shame they happen so often.

Accidents.

She looked different this time, not done up, more like beat up. Scrubby. Wearing those goddamn yoga pants that too many women wear these days and a half shirt and covered in sweat. She had walked there and she was only in long enough to grab a water from what I could tell and then she was out again, earbuds in and walking off down the street.

My hands got itchy on seeing her.

My heart started to race.

I started my car and decided to follow her, to make sure she got home safely.

There’d been some nasty business a few weeks back with a girl, a teenager, just a few blocks from the girl’s home.

Nasty business.

I didn’t want to see the same happen to this one.

No.

Not this one.

The sun was setting and traffic was light so I slow-rolled it to keep up with her without her seeing. No reason to spook her. Besides, dad always told me that a good deed that hit the air carried the scent of an old turd. So low and slow, like good cooking, that was how I let this trail simmer.

When she went into a familiar apartment building I peeled off and headed for home. I had taken the last of my vacation keeping an eye on the store and needed the job so I went home and went right to bed. I thought of her as I started nodding off, the faint smile fading as I thought about how she had looked today.

It wasn’t going to cut it.

No.

I didn’t get a chance to see her for several days. Work was calling me early and keeping me late, though I did keep tabs on her. I worry, as I said, for a young woman such as her. Another local girl had been picked up, well, about eight months ago and had disappeared. Just gone. There was fear that she wasn’t the only one and that there was trafficking in the area. I wasn’t sure about all that, just that there were sharks out there and if a young woman didn’t have someone looking out for her that they might just disappear into the deep, deep waters of the night.

When I did get a chance to see her I saw her with someone, a man, older than her, and dressing to impress. Trying to hard if you asked me. I didn’t like the look of him so I followed them from her apartment to a bar, then a restaurant, then the movies. The bar was a dive. The restaurant was too expensive. The movie was stupid. I saw what he was doing and knew she was probably still buzzed. I saw how his hand moved from her shoulder, to her hip, then lower. Her laughter and smile had dried up by the time they returned to her apartment building and when he tried to make a move and she slapped him he grabbed her wrist for a moment, just a moment, but she raised her hand again and he let her go and she left in a hurry and went inside.

Good girl.

The man stayed in his car, parked at the curb for about twenty minutes after that before he finally put it into gear and started to drive away.

He didn’t live far.

Not far at all.

And he left his door unlocked when he got home.

He should be more careful.

There’re sharks out and he had swum out a little too deep.

 

The next day I called in sick and went by her apartment early and followed her to her job. An office job. Nothing special but work was work. Nobody knew that better than me. I stayed through to her lunch, which she took in her car, on her phone tap-tap-tapping away and not eating.
She should eat.

She could use some weight on her.

All that running she does has slimmed her up.

Her bones don’t look good on her.

When she went back in I left to run an errand and made sure I had dropped the flowers onto her doorstep before she would be home. I hid in the stairwell and watched as she got them, frowning, dropping them onto the hall floor before slamming her door.

I guess she didn’t like flowers much.

The infection that she was was starting to get out of control.

She was all I thought about.

I liked her all made up for work.

She was pretty.

Like I had seen her that first time.

When she was home, just home by herself, she was a slob.

I had seen her go out for snacks or take out and it disgusted me.

She could be so pretty if she’d try.

I would have to set her straight.

I looked at the calendar back at the house and circled a date.

That was the day I’d introduce myself.

That day.

I practiced what I’d say.

I picked out what I’d wear.

I got my supplies together into a plastic bag.

I even went to her apartment a few times to get over the nerves.

It was the night before I was going to go finally make her mine when something happened.

I was at the movies just wasting time, watching something to get my mind off of her and the counter girl was so nice, so sweet, and she looked so, I dunno how to say it, fresh, that it was as if I had never seen the other girl.

It was as if the infection was gone, the fever dream had cleared and I saw the other woman as the disgusting slob she was.

She was nothing like this girl.

This…Wendy.

No.

Wendy was different.

You could tell. She even gave me a large pop without charging, a wry wink shared between us when she did.

She was a little young, that’s what they’d say, but age means nothing to the heart.

I know that it may not work, that she may not feel the same but, that’s love.

It’s about making a fool of yourself.

It’s about deciding if you are ready to cross that line and when you do, knowing that whatever happens next is up to you.

Standing on someone’s doorstep, heart in hand, and making a fool of yourself.

After that…it’s up to fate.

I suppose I should break it to the other girl easy, let her know I have moved on.

Then, well then, I suppose I’d have to circle a date on the calendar and pick out what I was going to say to Miss Wendy.

Love.

It really does do the heart good, doesn’t it?

…c…

 

Wanderer – a story

This is a wee tale. First draft. Very rough. Me working out some ideas and seeing what is there. There’s the seed for another story planted here if I ever have time to swing back to it. We shall see. 

He wasn’t sure when his choice had become his fate.

He wasn’t sure when the distant hum in his head became a voice and then a chorus.

He wasn’t sure when the bottle stopped being a party and became a sentence.

He wasn’t sure of much anymore, just that some days it felt as if the fog had cleared from his head and he found himself in a place he didn’t recall and he wasn’t sure where he had been, where he had come from, and how he had come to be where he was.

And it shook him.

To his core.

To his faith.

To the bottom of himself

To sobriety.

But it never lasted.

The fog came back.
The voices returned.

And both seemed to be at the bottom of the bottle.

And they helped, the smiling faces, the nodding heads, and the open wallets.

Helped as much as they could.

But he wasn’t able to return their gestures.

Unable to repay their kindness with the truth because the truth was a sea he had not sailed in how many days, or weeks, or months, or even years.

He couldn’t even remember his age.

So he’d lie.

He lost his job.

He lost his family.

He lost his love.

He tuned out, he gave up, he walked on.

It was different every time, his earnest responses met with a pat on his shoulder and a knowing nod.

On and on and on he went, never sure where he was going, just that it was forward.

He has always seen himself cast in the part of victim in this play, as the man slighted by god, by society, and by his fellow man.

The truth of that lie though was revealed to him one day when the clouds cleared for him as he lay next to the bodies of two dead teenagers.

They couldn’t have been older than fifteen.

They could have been his children.

His daughter and son.

Their heads had been caved in, presumably with the shattered cinder block he was holding in his hand, their blood thick and sticky on his hands and face.

Their wallets were still on them.

There were no drugs around that he could find, and no booze.

The only clue he had was the change that was scattered around the bodies.

He looked around and saw that he was at the end of an alley full of piles of trash and burned out lights.

He wept beside them as he it slowly dawned on him that this probably wasn’t the first time he’d hurt someone.

He just couldn’t remember.

His left arm was itching and he looked down and saw there were two fresh cuts in the skin that were red and inflamed.

Two fresh cuts to go with four other cuts that were scarred over.

He took the boy’s wallet and the cash from the girl and covered them up with some boxes, the best burial he could offer them.

It wasn’t fair.

This wasn’t fair.

But if there was someone who understood how unfair this world was it was him, so maybe it was fitting that he was the one to usher them into the darkness.

And the clarity would fade, and the voices would get louder and they would drive him forward, telling him where to go and what to do as he slept deep within.

Trapped within the madness.

Trapped within his cage.

But as he shambled out of the alley and down the darkened city sidewalk a chilling thought came to him, a question that asked if these moments of clarity were not his true personality, his true face.

The face of the killer.

The face of the monster.

The voices were the lie, the sweet whispers to lull him back to sleep to keep him safe.

To keep him buried.

To keep him dead.

 

…c…

DOORS – a story

I had been looking for the first door since I was ten, and watched my aunt walk through a black door in the field before her house. This was only a month after my uncle had killed himself. Auntie Kelly and Uncle Rowan had been inseparable and when his lifelong depression lead him to an old gun that misfired and took half of his head off, leaving him alive for two weeks after his attempt, the whole world collapsed beneath Aunt Kelly’s feet.

I think as soon as the flat line sounded on that monitor at the hospital her mind was made up – she wouldn’t live without him.

How she found the black door, or rather summoned it, I can’t say.

I have my theories.

There are books that correspond with the doors, the books acting as keys when an actual, physical key was not found. You needed a key to open the door and enter, and words and phrases could work just as well as some small piece of strange wood or metal. Should you try or worse should you succeed in forcing the door open then friend, the horrors you would find I can only guess at.

When my aunt walked through that tall, wide black door that stood glowing in the middle of her field, she turned to me and gave a sad wave, tears in her eyes as she learned what lay beyond that frame. She walked through and as she did the door stood open for a moment and I ran forward in the hope of catching a glimpse within and managed to see a shape that looked like her within the darkness within the door as she embraced another form that could have been my uncle, then the door slammed shut on me, the glow faded and the door fell backward onto the ground where wheat had once stood. The door then sank into the ground as if into water and I ran to it and grabbed the doorknob and pulled it in the vain hope of stopping it from sinking further but the knob burned my hand and I let go as quickly as I had grabbed it and in a moment it was gone.

I dug in the dirt for a few moments afterward but it was gone as if it had never existed at all.

She followed my uncle into death, having read from The Book of Sighs. Had she used the key the door would have remained, open and calling to all who dare come to it. With a key the door would remain open until it was closed and if it was never closed, well, then you find areas like Whippoorwill, Arkansas, a place better left forgotten.

A place better left in the past.

I know of Whipporwill only because of something I found while revisiting the past.

 

I had spent years and years searching for doors.

I was consumed by it.

I loved my aunt and uncle, yes, but I wasn’t looking to join them. I wanted to find them. To find what they had entered.

It was an itch I could not scratch.

That needing to know.

That needing to see.

There was a world there, beyond the door, a world I wasn’t meant to see and dammit I wanted to see it.

I needed to see it.

So I looked.

I spent untold hours looking for information as I bounced from foster home to foster home, never lasting and finally booted from the system at eighteen when I went off to college.

Books were full of self help nonsense and information on how to get ahead in life but it wasn’t that sort of door which I sought.

No.

Not at all.

I finally found something in a children’s book I found at a library set up at the bus stop in the city where my school was. The book was poking out a bit from an alcove beneath the bench so I pulled it out, drawn in by the green cover.

My Green Door was the name of the book and it was the story of a little girl who was running away from a witch of a mother and she found a small green door on a nearby beach and went through it into a whole new world. The story ended with the entry into that world but the last lines haunted me and added to the mystery.

She found something…wonderful.

But what?

And then six months later there was a poetry book that had a poem called Red Door, Red Door, What Do You Hide? The poem was short but hinted that if you were to enter the red door that you would find a way to get back at someone who wronged you. I looked for the author of both books but found none, just as there was no other printing information. It was as if they appeared.

I searched the internet and found others like me talking about books that people talked about that would take you to doors and some books that told you about them and some that served as keys and others that served as spell books to summon others through the doors.

No one had found the books though.

It was all bullshit speculation.

All guesswork.

All smoke.

I had found books.

Two.

I found the third when I went out to my aunt’s farm. I had been sitting on the property, having inherited it, despite the urging of many locals to sell it.

I couldn’t sell it though because what if, what if the door was still there?

Hiding?

Waiting?

I was desperate for money and had decided to give up and sell but wanted to go through the place one last time before I turned things over to Flatston Falls Shrug and Haul, the local moving company. I wanted to see if there was anything worth keeping and, Christ, worth finding.

I had been right.

It was hiding in plain sight.

One book, black, sitting next to her bedside.

It wasn’t the book of sighs though.

This was another children’s book.

So it seemed that The Book Of Sighs was how one summoned the door, this was merely something that warned you.

I thumbed through it and saw it was different than the other book. This was first person and followed you as you grieved for a lost grandfather and how you sought to find him again and that you found a book that opened a black door.

Oh, but you had to be careful because if you didn’t have your loved one’s face in mind clearly you could call to one of the ‘lost’, someone that no one loved and who haunted the realm of the black door. And if one of those found you, well, I don’t know. The book’s last few pages were torn out. Whatever auntie had found, she didn’t want others finding it.

I looked all over and didn’t find the other book.

It was gone, probably with the door.

I did find an article though about a small town in Arkansas called Whipporwill. It was one of those ‘ghost’ towns you read about. The article talked about how one day everyone disappeared and all that was left was an open yellow door. Eventually weeds grew from near that door and the weeds devoured the town. Fire wouldn’t kill them nor would pesticide. The government had been called but before further action could be taken the door and its weeds disappeared.

My guess was someone had called a door, opened it, and had left it open.

The town was gone, the houses and barns and even the streets had been consumed by the weeds and when the weeds were gone so were those things.

I left the house and went home by train.

I had a thought in mind.

What if you made your own door?

What if you made your own door to somewhere else?

What would happen?

I wondered.

 

I didn’t have any books.

I also didn’t have any people.

Nor connections.

I had no place in mind, I just wanted to go somewhere else.

I had been drawn to the strange and different since seeing that door and this was what I had always dreamed about – finding new places to explore.

If I could make a door into one world perhaps I’d find another door there, another and another into infinity.

That was my dream.

My fantasy.

Every place must be connected and these doors were one connection.

I just needed to my door.

 

I didn’t have a key or a guide but I had a dream that showed me what to do and how to do it and it seemed so obvious.

So clear.

I had never been attached to people.

I had never been close to anyone.

Not even god.

It was natural that it would take the very thing I wanted to be free of to get what I needed most.

 

I wasn’t sure how many I would need.

It was all guesswork so I did the best I could.

I took all three from school.

One was a townie and the other two were part of the physics program, a joke I couldn’t resist.

I wasn’t sure if they’d be missed or not.

I was beyond caring.

It was now or never.

If this didn’t work then I was out of options. I had gone too far down this road to find just a dead end.

There were answers.

There had to be.

Maybe they just weren’t for me.

 

As I cut the patterns seemed to develop, the door began to take shape and I realized what all artists do, that the art is within the materials and if you let it speak to you then it will tell you how to proceed.

It was long work.

Tiring work.

By the end I was soaked through with blood but the work was done.

The pieces were cut.

I would have my door.

I cut free the meat from discarded parts and used pieces of bone as my nails and constructed the door, driving spikes into the ground and stretching out the intestines to hold it in place.

I made the doorknob out of the skull of the townie and it was done.

I made no lock.

There would be no lock for this door.

Whomever dared enter was welcome.

There would be no secrets with this door.

Whomever dared desire it would have it.

This was the door to the end.

The end of all things.

And from the end you would work your way backwards.

I would work my way backwards until I found the first door and the beginning.

And there I would find whatever had made these doors. Whatever god, or devil, or thing beyond made these things, these dreams and nightmares, I would find them I would and they would see what I have done in tribute, in defiance, and they would sit me beside them.

And if they wouldn’t…all gods must die.

The bones said this.

The bodies said this.

The blood said this.

And I said this.

Gods needed us more than we needed them.

They could make all the doors they wanted but without us to go through them they were just doors.

We were what gave them meaning.

We were what gave them power.

I stand naked and covered in blood before my door and as it swings open before me I can see the world beyond and it is beautiful and terrible and it was mine.

So soon would it all be.

All of it.

…c…

 

SO MUCH FORGOTTEN

The snake that winds through me is generations long, its tail now buried within the dust of my ancestors, sprung from one of them like the demigod it is. Child of a god, come to slither its way through my family tree. Strangling the roots and killing us one by one until one day I woke with a darkness over me, a shadow over my mind, and I knew.

I knew.

I knew it had finally come for me.

I went to the doctors and she didn’t find anything so I went to another and another and another and none of them could see it, see it for what it was.

Of the five doctors I went to each gave me a new reason as to why I was going through what I was going through and what ailment they thought I might be facing.

It hid in plain sight from them.

Coiled around a half dozen symptoms and slithering out of view just as they seem to get close to it.

It was there though, and I knew it and as the fog settled in thicker and thicker I knew it was just a matter of time until the moments there was fog were more frequent than the moments of clarity.

When the shadow finally found me in full, the snake sinking its teeth into my chest until its poison was drained, it had been three years since I first guessed it had found me.

I had gone to sleep at ten in the evening, lying alone in my bed and staring up at the white sky of my ceiling.

I woke on my back, strapped to a gurney in a hospital scream, scream, screaming for my mother who was long dead.

The snake had taken my mother as it had taken her mother and her mother and on and on, striking down the women of our family and only managing to skip sisters, taking only one, its singular act of kindness.

My sister was there to sit with me and calm me as she explained that I had been found walking down the center of a highway three miles from my apartment.

More testing and the tests lead to medications and to assurances that we had caught it, whatever it was that was eating away at me.

After the third time I had been found my sister held my hand and said nothing as the doctor’s whispered to one another. She knew the snake, maybe not as well as I did but she knew it, and she knew it had come for me.

It was why neither of us had married.

It was why neither of us had had children.

Because the only way to kill the snake would be to starve it, even if it meant the end of us.

My sister got me out of the hospital with the promise she would look after me and get me the help and treatment I needed but it was a lie, only one of the many we had both told in our lives, this one woven out of love though, and for that I was grateful.

We spent the last hours of light on her porch, holding hands and looking at pictures from when we were kids. As we sat there the children in the photos became strange and unfamiliar and I suppose that was when my sister knew it was time.

When I came to again it was night and I was scared and cried for some time before I was clear enough to remember where I must be and why I was there.

And now it’s just me and the snake as it feasts on me but I know soon, very soon, it will starve.

It will starve and I will laugh at it as it does.

Laugh until the vomit comes, until the black clouds settle, and until I am long, long gone.

That was the last gift my sister gave me, as she settled me here in the grass of the woods where we used to play.

Three little pills that would let me choose darkness over the gray.

And when I was finally gone she would have me collected, and buried, and with me would be buried the snake, our inheritance, and the last of our family curse.

I lived not a great life.

I lived not a bad life.

I lived a life.

A life that was far too short for how very long it was.

So much I knew that was gone.

So much forgotten. .

Once my sister was gone there would be no one left to remember me and it was a black, bitter thing that life is its own sort of snake, that strangles the memories from all of us and all of those we love, strangling the world itself until there is nothing left of any of us but dust and forgotten dreams.

…c…

Dancing In Their Heads

Consider this a late Christmas gift. It is rough around the edges and unedited, but there’s a little coal within, as well as a small gift, it’s up to you to decide which is which. 

 

“You’re not the REAL Santa, you know.”

“Oh, is that the case?” The man with the long white beard pushed the fur trimmed read hat further up on his head and turned away from the mall’s window and towards the little girl speaking to him.

“Yup! You’re a fake. A, a, a ‘poster!”

The old man laughed.

“Well then, it seems you have me pegged, don’t you, little lady? Well then, so who do you suppose I am if I am not Saint Nick?” The man had bent down and had his hands on his knees as he spoke to the little girl in the blue jeans, t-shirt, and cowboy hat.

“You’re some, oh, I dunno, some guy name Mack, or Joe, or Bub. You’re just a, uh, you know fella, an employee. You just work here. You aren’t the real thing.”

“Well little girl, why can’t I work in a store like this one? Or the one across the street, or anywhere in the world? Why can’t I?”

“Mister, that’d be IMPASTA-BOWL! He can’t be everyone at once. He can’t do this job AND make toys and all that. He just can’t. And besides, you just don’t even LOOK like him!”

The old man laughed and stood up straight as a bell chimed in the distance.

Continue reading “Dancing In Their Heads”