She watched as the blood collected at the end of her fingertip and then the tip of her long nail. It grew in its small size as more blood made its way to the glistening half formed globular mass. It seemed to hang there on the tip of her nail quivering before releasing its hold on her nail forming the telltale shape of a drop of liquid and falling gracefully to the ground in front of her feet just missing the toe of her shoe. She watched another moment as another began to from as the other had and then as if seeming to lose interest in the whole process shook her hand sending drops of blood in every direction.
Bending over she grabbed the man’s body by its belt buckle and began dragging it alongside her as if it were nothing more than a garbage bag full of feathers. About a hundred feet from where she had taken the man’s life was the bluff that overlooked the swollen body of water that was the Mississippi River. When she reached the edge of the river she lifted the dead weight and tossed it into the fast current and watched as it first bobbed up and down before being swirled around in the water and then started its journey down river. She wished the body a happy farewell and safe passage all the way to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico beyond but knew the chances of it making it that far were slim to none. Some poor fool would probably catch it in a fishing line and get the scare of their life long before it reached the next state line. For some reason this struck her as funny and she let out a blood curdling laugh.
She suddenly remembered that her intention had been to get the man to the edge of the bluff before killing him but her anger and blood lust had gotten the best of her before she had reached her goal. If he had just kept his mouth shut for a few more seconds it might not have gotten quite so messy. Oh well, patience and temperance had never been her strong suite. For some reason this too struck her as funny and again the demonic laugh escaped from her mouth as she made her way back to her car.
Her car…damn that posed a problem. She was a bloody mess and she didn’t want or need to get that all in that expensive little toy. She noticed a boat ramp only a few hundred feet from where she was and turned in that direction.
She had only barely made it into the water when she noticed the boat trying to make its way to the ramp under manpower and oars. The two people inside the boat were fighting the current with everything they had but from the way it looked they could very well make it ashore before she got all the evidence from her body and could get away without them seeing or hearing something. Even if it were only the tail lights of her car that they caught it was still too much for her to chance.
Slipping under the water she swam under the boat and gave it a hard shove back toward the middle of the river and heard as well as felt it when it flipped and both the people in the boat hit the water. They had been thrown from the boat much closer to the middle and in the worst part of the current but there wasn’t much that could be done about that now. The only thought she gave the two was that she hoped they were good swimmers and she quickly turned back the way she had come and back to her car. Striping the wet clothes from her body she put on the wrap around dress she kept in her car for just this sort of occasion. Looking back toward the ramp she could see no signs of the two people she had just dumped into the fast moving water. Again the hope that they were good swimmers crossed her mind but that was all it was, a passing thought. Getting into her car she started it up and headed back toward town. It was a long ride and she was ready to be home and in her bed.
During the long drive she thought about the man she had just killed. He had been a real piece of work. Right now there were several charges against him regarding crimes against women but the judicial system didn’t always work the way it should. One of his victims had realized this and decided to go another route in seeking justice. She had found out about Felicity and come to her. That’s what Felicity did. She took care of the things that the courts didn’t and in a much more permanent way. A much more violent way. She wasn’t however usually quite as violent with her form of justice as she had been with this one, or quite so quick. They had barely stepped from the car before he had grabbed her and tried to shove her up on the hood telling her what he intended to do to her. The goon had found she wasn’t the one to try that with. She had reacted quickly and with such deadly force the man had really no time to realize just how bad it was. Felicity had turned from innocent little beauty to full on demon in a flash and ripped his heart out of his chest and tore his throat open in seconds. She had meant to take her time with him but that was the way it went sometimes.
Felicity thought about the nice little paycheck that had come with this job and decided she wasn’t that upset. She wondered if she should take the money and move to another location but Memphis was such a hotbed for crime right now and people were always needing her services. No she would stay where she was for a time and enjoy the local culture. Business was booming and for the most part she like the type of people she met, desperate.
Karen was a little late leaving work and it was already dark when she unlocked her car and settled inside for the drive home. She had felt a little uneasy while walking to her car because hers was the only car left in the parking lot. The parking area seemed to have an eerie sense of quiet stillness that she had never noticed before. She guessed she shouldn’t be real surprised that everyone had already gone home, after all it was Halloween.
The eeriness of the night only seemed to grow as she traveled the streets and roads to her house. At first she had seen one or two cars along the way but now fifteen minutes into her forty minute drive home there didn’t seem to be any cars on the road. Living as far out as she did you didn’t expect to see a lot of other people but you did expect to see some. There was no one. It dawned on her that when she had driven through the couple of neighborhoods that she had to navigate through after leaving work she hadn’t seen one trick-or-treater out either. The unease she had felt earlier managed to take a tighter grip on her now.
Karen began to notice that there were no lights on in any of the houses she passed, no lit up Halloween decorations, no movement anywhere. She felt like she was suddenly in some bad end-of-days movie where all the people had disappeared except her. She turned on her radio hoping the background noise would help calm her now very rattled nerves.
What the Hell was going on here? Pressing the little buttons on her steering wheel she tried to find a station she could pick up. Nothing. It was all the same.
She breathed a sigh of relief as she finally pulled into her drive but that was short lived. Why wasn’t her front porch light on? She distinctly remembered leaving it on this morning before she had left the house. She did, didn’t she?
Unlocking the front door she stepped inside to find nothing but darkness. One thing she did know she always left a light on in the hall and in the kitchen when she left for work. She lived alone now and rarely were those two lights turned off. She reached over to turn on the lamp close to the door but when she tried to turn it on nothing happened. When she tried the light switch by the door hoping to get a better reaction it only resulted in the same thing, dashing those hopes and her spirit. Nothing.
Was it possible there had been some major power outage in the area while she was at work and she hadn’t heard about it? She had been the last one to leave today with most people trying to get out of there to either take their kids tick-or-treating, make it to a party, or just simply trying to beat the mad rush of what was to come.
She sat her things down and pulled her phone from her purse. Pushing the one button that should connect her to her daughter who lived over two hundred miles away she placed the phone next to her ear. All she got for her efforts was a strange beeping sound that served to set her even more on edge.
Karen hadn’t realized she had left the front door open until she heard the low guttural growl behind her. At least now she knew she wasn’t alone. It was the last thing she knew.
It was a balmy night this year as the little girl made her way with her family down the street. She was so excited because she had been looking forward to this all day. They were going trick or treating.
The small girl walked up to each door anticipating the wonderful excitement of screaming boo at the poor unsuspecting adult who would answer her knock. Then the adult would drop handfuls of sweet tasty treats into her bag in appreciation for how frightening she was. She didn’t understand why adults rewarded you for scaring them on this night because normally when an adult told you that you had scared them it meant you were in trouble. Of course to the little girl’s way of thinking not much of what adults did made any scene to her. Like tonight, her mom and dad had insisted she and her little brothers wear a coat even though it wasn’t cold and on top of that they hadn’t worn a coat themselves. Maybe adults were afraid of kids more when they didn’t have something hiding part of their costumes.
The more the little girl thought of this she figured her and her little brothers were scarier than she thought and it might have been a good idea for them to wear the offending overly warm garment. After all she didn’t want to scare people so bad that they wouldn’t get the candy when they screamed boo. Maybe they could even give an old person a heart attack. She remembered her mom saying more than once that she or one of her brothers and even her dad had scared her nearly to death. Maybe she should cut back on the boo part a little, she certainly didn’t want to give an old person a heart attack. She definitely didn’t know what a heart attack was but it didn’t sound like it would be a lot of fun.
The little girl was so caught up in her own thoughts she had stopped paying attention to her surroundings. The long high hedge that she was about to pass didn’t even register in her mind as she drew near.
The poor child was suddenly catapulted back to reality when something horrible jumped out from behind the hedge and stood with its arms stretched over its head growling at her. She looked up into the face of the horrible monster that would soon devour her. The little girl screamed letting out all the fear in her in one piercing howl and dropped her bag of treats. She did the only thing she knew to do and that was to run. She knew she had no chance of outrunning the hideous beast and she could hear her parent’s cries of anguish as well as the heavy footsteps of someone right on her heels. The child put everything she had into a last desperate attempt to outrun the monster.
When the thing reached and jerked her up into his massive arms she fought for everything it was worth. She kicked and screamed, she struck out with her tiny arms and hands and clawed at the beast. She was going to fight until her last breath.
“Cathy, stop it now. It’s your dad honey. I got you. Nothing is going to hurt you.” Cathy’s dad tried to restrain his frightened child but it was taking all he had.
When her father was finally able to get through to her she wrapped her arms around the strong shoulder of her father and buried her head into his neck crying. It broke the man’s heart to see his brave little girl so broken at this moment. He wanted to go back and hit the man who had scared Cathy so bad. He knew however that he couldn’t do that. He knew that his little girl had to face her fears or she would never love Halloween again. She would never go trick or treating again. So with a heavy heart he took his child back to the house with the man who had caused Cathy to run away.
When he stepped up on the porch of the house the man lived in he had taken off his mask and did everything he could to help calm her. He gave her the mask he had been wearing for her to examine. Once she realized what had happened she got mad at herself
Then the greatest thing happened. The man and his wife started pouring things into her bag as fast as they could. They nearly emptied all of their candy into Cathy’s bag. They even gave her a Coke. Man this was great Cathy thought. All this because I got a good scare and then there it was, her mom’s favorite thing to say.
“Cathy, baby you nearly scared me to death.”
All Cathy could do was think I scared you? If this was what it meant to really scare someone she might need to rethink the scaring part of Halloween.
Soon the little girl was eager to get back to trick or treating. Now she knew how this worked. Oh yes she was going to make an even bigger haul than she already had. She was ready to go. She had some old people to give heart attacks to tonight.
"Oh, I bought a tractor.” My husband said as he stepped out the front door of his family’s place.
"You did what?” I was flabbergasted.
"I bought a tractor."
"Because I wanted one.” Buddy's reply was delivered with a sheepish grin on his face?
"When?” I'm still trying to take this all in.
At present the place we are visiting is a farm but we live about three hundred miles away. We live in a fairly large city in a smallish house that sits on a very small piece of land. There isn't enough room to turn a tractor around little on be able to use one of those darn things.
"Where?” I saw all kinds of logistic issues with this right off the bat.
"In Cape.” At this point you can see the look of confusion on Buddy's face at my lack of enthusiasm.
"I suppose we now have to pick up said tractor and haul it home?"
"Yes.” Buddy's confusion was increasing by the minute now.
"And just how do you propose we do that pray tell?” I realize that my confusion must be as apparent as Buddy's at this point.
"We'll just put it in the back of the truck."
"Are you saying it will fit in the back of the truck?"
"Well yes, of course it will."
A little light of comprehension comes on in my brain. "Oh you bought a riding lawn mower?"
"No, I bought a tractor.” Buddy appeared to be insulted by my label of his new toy.
Now you might think the story should be about over and not much more to convey at this point. Oh no, no, no, no, no.
After breakfast we head off in pursuit of this, God only know what, and the adventure begins.
I now know why men get lost and why they don't stop and ask for directions. They neither know how to follow or how to give them, but I digress.
Trying to follow this guy’s directions, or Buddy's way of writing and or verbally recounting them, was less than helpful.
Anyway, after searching high and low for this guy’s house we finally locate the elusive place way out in the middle of nowhere and we arrive at our destination. Here again you would think that the story would be pretty much over. Absolutely not.
After all the male bonding and exchange of funds we now own a glorified riding lawn mower. Actually it is a John Deer and Buddy says it's a lawn tractor. If he wants to continue to call it a tractor then so be it, I'm not about to take his fun away. Turns out the guy who had this, don’t tell Buddy I’m calling it this, tinker toy tractor also owns a whole lot of them, all shapes, all sizes. We spent over an hour there with my husband wondering around Tractor Land and I’m grateful Buddy didn’t buy another one.
Now it's the end of the story, right? NO.
We load the lawn mower/tractor into the back of the truck and head back to the farm three hundred miles away from our home. No, there weren't any incidents on the way back. We got back to the farm safe and sound with no incidents what so ever. Now this is where the story really begins.
Buddy decided he is going to take this piece of machinery for a run around the yard. No biggie. The yard around the house itself there on the farm would set you back more than a million where we live. Yes it’s that big. He gets the ramps out, for some reason he puts the hood up on the truck at this point but I haven't had the nerve to ask why, and hops up into the bed of the pickup. He cranks that little bad boy up and starts backing it down. This next part I will never understand.
I'm sitting on the front porch at this point and from where I'm sitting I can only see the top of the cab of the truck and the raised hood. You'll understand why this is important to the story shortly.
About half way down one of the ramps breaks in half, right smack dab in the center. Now this should have caused, at this point I’ll just call it the tractor, to go tumbling off the back of the truck right? Again no.
Now for the good part. When that ramp broke the front of the truck went skyward while the tail gate of the damn thing made contact with the ground. The moment that the tractor was firmly on the ground the front end of the truck fell back to earth with a resounding thud and the hood came crashing down. Instead of the blasted thing tumbling over and pinning Buddy underneath he somehow manages to get that damn thing to land on all four wheels just like a cat landing on its four feet. Needless to say it scared the crap out of me and left Buddy visibly shaken.
After I managed to put all my nerves back where they belonged I called a friend. You would think her first concern would have been is Buddy OK, did it damage anything, or are you all right. Once more I must answer you with a resounding no. Her major response was did you get it on video.
Do what? No I didn't get it on video because the last thing I expected was for Buddy to manage to put his Dodge Ram Hemi with mega cab on its ass and its nose turned skyward. Note to self, in future be sure to always carry a camera and have it ready to go anytime Buddy decides to do something that might result in some similar situation. Oh crap, I'll be carrying a camera all the time.
Later it occurred to me that the man damn near gave me a heart attack on our anniversary trip. Happy Anniversary Sweetheart, here's a heart attack.
Dedicated to my husband and whose story of his childhood inspired this one.
The young boy pulled the rifle close to his shoulder and looked down the barrel as he led the bird in the sights, the bird making its path across the distant sky unaware of the boy or his gun. His little finger carefully tightened on the trigger and took his shot. The bird stopped mid-flight and tumbled to the earth. The little boy watched this as if it were in slow motion. He did it, he had brought down his first kill. The boy turned and looked up at his father as if expecting to get praise for what he had just done but his father was silent.
The man had stood behind his son watching him take the shot. Now he looked down into the face of his small son and knew what had to come next. This young eight year old child was about to be taught the hardest lesson in his young life. The rustling of the brush made by the dog sounded like the deep haunting toll of some far away bell. The man took a deep breath as the dog returned with the bird in its mouth.
The boy wondered why his father hadn’t said anything. Had he done something wrong? Now it was him watching as his father picked up the lifeless bird that the dog had dropped at his feet.
The man took a deep breath. “Son how do you fix this?”
“I don’t understand.” The confusion of the child evident all over his young face.
“How do you fix this? How do you make this bird well and make it fly again?” The man tried to keep the tears from breaking through as he looked at the child.
“I can’t.” The boy now felt like he had done something wrong.
“That’s the point Son. When you pick up a gun and pull the trigger you can never take it back. You can never fix it when you take a life. That’s what you have to remember. Never aim that gun or any gun at something you don’t mean to kill. Life is precious son, all life. Even this bird. This bird will feed us tonight but never kill just for the sake of killing. Someday Son you might even have to pick up a gun to protect your life, your family, even your country but be sure that if you do that you have no other choice. Most important, make sure you can live with what you’ve done afterwards. Do you understand?”
Unlike his father the boy wasn’t as successful at holding back the tears that now burned a streak down his tiny little face.
“Let’s go home Son.”
The man whistled for the dog who had been exploring the surrounding area and turned toward the house. Placing his hand on the boy’s shoulder the man lifted his head skyward while one lone tear managed break loose and slip down his face.
Although this story is fictional it is based on what my husband’s father did the first time Buddy made his first kill and yes he was about eight years old. Buddy’s father may have been a hunter but he knew the value of life. In everything Buddy’s father taught him he taught him well. He also served in WWII and was a navigator and gunner on a B17 bomber. I know he carried the pain of what he had to do in that war with him the rest of his life.
I was never fortunate enough to meet this remarkable man because he died a couple of years before Buddy and I met. I think he and I would have liked one another. I know not meeting him was my loss. This is dedicated to Mr. Matthews. Thank you for raising the wonderful man I married. I also thank my husband for trying to instill in our girls what his father taught him. So far I think he has managed to do a fairly good job of that.
Dedicated to William Gross
Billy sat alone at his desk looking at the screen of his computer. He lived in a world apart from others. He left his tower of solitude every two weeks and only because he like everyone else had errands and he had no desire to die of starvation or do without the day to day necessities of life. Billy might live alone and rarely ever mingled with others but he still had to live with himself and like all other people he had a nose and he didn’t want to offend his own senses any more than he wanted to offend others.
Of course when Billy went out it was on four wheels instead of two legs but that wasn’t the reason he kept himself separated from the rest of the physical world. Yes he had lost his legs in a horrible accident many years before but the real pain that he carried with him was the loss of the woman he had loved since high school. Billy had lost her the same day he had lost the use of his legs. Of course the biggest loss had been the loss of the sweet little girl who had been the result of his love for his lady. That sweet little angel that had been the center of his and his wife’s world and his whole world had crumbled and vanished as if it had all been a beautiful dream. He had awaken to a cold hard reality that he had never been able to face. Billy had retreated into his own little prison more and more as time went on.
As he looked at the screen in front of him he felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time. Billy felt the stirrings of something warm in his heart. He had become someone who lived through social media where he could keep people at a safe distance without them truly touching the softest parts of his soul. Oh he cared about several of the people he talked with regularly but without the personal contact with them he managed to keep his emotions in check and his delicate heart protected.
Now something new had been added, a small child. Over the past several months Billy had looked at the photos of that sweet little face and thought what a beautiful child. A small tiny little girl way too small for her years who somehow seemed to always be smiling. The little girl’s grandmother had told him that she was pretty much that way all the time. It didn’t seem to affect her that she had been born with certain physical problems, she continued to smile and never seemed to understand there were things she couldn’t do. Like him this little girl was in a wheelchair but she still found so much in life to laugh at and explore.
Her grandmother had posted a new video of this precious child. The child’s mother was holding her in her arms and spinning her around and around under a blooming tulip poplar tree. Well to be honest it was a purple magnolia but it didn’t really matter what you called it. The tree was in bloom and the sun was shining on it in a way that it gave the tree a bright golden glow as if it were lite from within the branches and looked almost otherworldly. The petals of the blooms were falling as if by some wind that was coming straight down from the heavens above were making it look as if the purple petals of the blooms were in fact raining down. The soft delicate petals appeared to dance in the air around the mother and child as the woman continued to turn with the small girl in her arms. The child had her arms held straight our and had her head thrown back letting the delicate material fall on her face and then float off appearing to dance around her little head. She laughed as her mother continued to spin and the sound was a soft musical sound that reminded him of the most delicate bells you could imagine.
The more and more he had watched the video the more the petals had looked less and less like the parts of dying flowers and more and more like the fluttering wings of fairies and they were paying homage to the child as if she was their little queen. Toward the end of the video Billy would have sworn the mother disappeared and the little girl looked like she was floating in air suspended by all the little purple winged fairies that were her loyal subjects. The golden glow from the sun reflecting off the tree appeared to grow even brighter. The effect of the sunlight made the little queen looked as if she were dressed in flowing golden robes that spiraled and fluttered in the air as the girl continued her midair ballet. Her long dark hair was animated by her mother spinning her but the force that was driving the petals down caused the child’s hair to fan out as if too were being played with by a gentle breeze.
When he had watched the video the first time he had imagined he saw something that he knew wasn’t possible. Billy had to watch it again to see if his mind would pick up the same whimsical images and somehow knowing that he would. After he had viewed it the second time he had slammed the top shut on his laptop not believing what he had just see. If possible it had taken on an even more surreal appearance as the mother disappeared even quicker the second time he watched it and the petals from the flowers appeared to pair up and tiny little bodies had formed and joined the two. The golden glow looked as if it now showered the child in golden fairy dust that clung to the child’s skin, hair, and her shimmering golden garments. The third time the mother disappeared almost from the beginning and everything else that he knew couldn’t be there became more pronounced.
The man had watch that video now more times than he could count and every time the magical world he saw became more defined and more real than anything he had ever seen in the real world. The first time he had watched it was two days ago and the past two nights when he had fallen asleep he had dreamed of that child who now ran through open fields and danced in the wind. She always seemed to be calling to him to come and run and play with her. When Billy would wake in the morning it had been with regret and he felt an even bigger loss than he had ever felt before. The sadness of losing the feeling of the wind on his face as he followed the little fairy queen into her world of magic, wonder, and freedom was like falling back to earth and landing with a bone jarring thud. Finding himself back in his utilitarian apartment would make him feel like his heart was being ripped from his chest as he opened his eyes. This morning he had awakened to a new pain. A pain that was physical and was centered in his shoulder blades and left him almost paralyzed by the sheer force of it.
Now Billy sat in his wheelchair looking at his bed and was torn between returning to the magical world of the video and his dreams and fearing what new agony might accompany his waking in the morning. He wanted to go back to that land of dreams where he would run and fly and follow his little queen with all her other subjects but he was also afraid. Was he losing his mind and what did he do in his sleep that was causing him even more pain than he normally endured. Billy realized the pain, no matter how severe it was, was worth those hours of freedom and joy he experienced in his sleep.
He moved himself into position to relocate himself from his chair to his bed and settled in. He wanted to go to sleep. He wanted that other world even if it were just a dream. That dream world had become his heaven, his idea of the total separation from the cold world he lived in and the cruelty of his memories. Billy closed his eyes and soon was asleep and almost immediately he was first running and then flying through the air in pursuit of his golden clad queen as she led him and all the others through the beautiful world they occupied. He ran farther and faster than he had before and when he took flight he flew higher. Sometime somewhere he thought he heard something in the far off distance but he paid no attention to it. Billy continued to run and fly. He laughed and played and realized he was nothing more than a small boy himself. He decided he would stay here forever and never go back to that other place.
They didn’t find the man’s body for several days because he didn’t go out much and he didn’t interact with many people. Billy had lain in his bed undisturbed until his landlord hadn’t heard anything from his apartment in almost a week and became worried about his quiet tenant. When he was found he was lying on his back with his arms outstretched as if he were flying and there was still evident a look of total peace and almost happiness on his face even though his body had become bloated from death and was showing the advanced stages of decomposition.
In memory to an awesome brother and a tribute to one of my best friends.
I stand by your bedside holding your hand. You had always said I would be the one standing by your side when this day came. You even said I would be the one holding your hand. Well here we are and yes I’m holding your hand. I look at your short stocky fingers limp within mine and then my gaze goes to your face.
Your face, even though it has been ravage by the disease, still holds its charm. I wish I could look into your eyes one more time. If only you would open them and I could see that sparkle that had always been there. I could not imagine it not being present even as you came to the end of your journey. What I wouldn’t give to see that Elvis quirk on your lip when you smiled. I used to tease you about how women would chase you. A short stocky man with a badly balding head and still women flocked to you. I would give you such a hard time over that but I have to tell you, I did get it. You were capable of charming a bird out of a tree and you had a magnetism few had. Yes I got it, I simply would never tell you that because your head was big enough.
I can’t help but think about all the years we shared. Our dad passing away when we were so young and you trying to take his place. Oh how I hated you at times. You were determined you were going to play dad and I was just as determined that you weren’t. We fought like cats and dogs. You poor thing, you carried my marks on you more than once when we locked horns. Well if nothing else big brother you taught me to stand my ground and defend myself so that one is on you. Never once though did you ever lay a hand on me in anger. Well there was that one time you turned me over your knee and I totally deserved it. Funny thing was you ended up crying harder than me over that one. Anyway all I can say about all of it is, you must have had the patience of Job.
When we got older we still fought on occasion but never as we had when we were young. We mellowed with age I guess. We also became more than brother and sister. We became friends. We shared our darkest secrets with one another. Oh you were still a pain in my side but I wouldn’t change that. Some of my very best arguments I had with you. You were so funny when you got mad. Absolute reasoning wasn’t your strong suit. I loved the way you would huff and puff and draw up your shoulders when you stomped away. Even now the image makes me smile.
How long have I stood here? I don’t even know. I look at your face for some sign that you are still inside that body and there is nothing. Oh you still breathe but it is a slow, shallow, labored breathing. There’s no movement in your facial muscles, no twitching of your eyelids. I wonder if you know I’m even here.
Suddenly your mouth opens and I think you’re are about to say something but that isn’t it. It has come. The end. You take your last final breath and everything is still.
For some reason I look up and you’re standing there facing the door. You cock your head toward me and it drops a little the way you always did when you were up to something. I see you standing there in your uniform and you’re smiling at me. I can see through you but there is that smile and those big blue eyes with all their sparkle. I see you. Suddenly you straighten up as if you have come to attention and turn your face back toward the door. For some reason you light up and then as if you take a deep breath and an even bigger smile crosses your face, you exit the room.
I walked out of your room and out onto a large upper veranda there at the hospital and as soon as I’m out the door I fall to my knees screaming your name. I cry until there is nothing left inside me. Not even when our parents died did I cry like this. You are gone and nothing will ever take your place my brother, my friend.
It has been over five years since that day and every now and again in the quiet moments I will catch the scent of your cologne. You are with me still.
Have you ever sat somewhere and watched the vehicles pass by? Did you wonder about the people in those speeding machine and what their stories might be? Some are on vacation, others trying to get to family members after a loved one has died, for some it might be business requiring a long drive to get to a meeting. There would be those who had jumped and run to get to someone in trouble or maybe they were just taking a long drive to the next town to shop or see a doctor of one type or the other. Some would make their way to their destination safely but a few wouldn’t. Regardless they drove. Even at night an interstate can be a busy place.
The girl sat in the car in the far corner of the visitor’s center. The nondescript black vehicle blending into the background. She had parked under the cover of a thick stand of trees that on this moonless night enveloped the car in a swath of impenetrable darkness.
The girl watched the vehicles speed past one after the other, some going one way others going in the opposite direction. She didn’t wonder about those people. It wasn’t that she wasn’t a thinker but about most of the people on the road tonight, she simply didn’t care. No she was interested in only one. The order on this one had come down from the very top, well the top may not be the right way to put it but when the boss told you to get it done, you got it done. Failing was tantamount to self-destruction and when you self-destructed in her business saying it wasn’t pretty didn’t begin to cover it.
Now most would ask how she could possibly pick out one vehicle from another with them going this fast and especially this late at night. The girl was equipped with a nice little sensor that would alert her when the target got within a certain range. She didn’t know what this one had done but he had made the wrong person take notice of him. Whatever it was, it was enough to get him crossways with someone you didn’t even want to give cause to raise an eyebrow. This thought actually made the girl smile a bit.
The little sensor delivered its first indication that the target had come into range. The girl had no problem figuring out how long it would take this poor bastard to be in her sights so she took her time starting the car. The moment the engine turned over the car seemed to slightly shimmer. Slowly she turned the car toward the entrance ramp to the interstate.
The sensor was now indicating that the target was almost up even with her so the car started pulling forward. Again the car seemed to shimmer a bit but unless someone was paying really close attention they wouldn’t have noticed. When the target passed her as she entered the interstate her sensor was beeping so fast the girl felt like it might explode. Immediately she accelerate. Suddenly the car really began to glisten and sparkle as starting at the very front bumper the color started changing. The shining deep red that replaced the flat black seemed to caress the car as it spread from front to back. The color wasn’t the only thing to change. Where before it had appeared almost boxy now as the red supplanted the black the car took on the appearance of a fine sleek racing machine that any race car driver would sell their souls for. The top had seemed to peel back as quickly as the red moved along the body of the car. By the time she was only a few car lengths behind the target the car bore no resemblance to what it had before.
As the top detached from the car the girl’s raven hair took flight. Her long dark tresses whirled about her head and face like ebony snakes in a macabre dance trying to escape the confines of the girl’s scalp. The wind played with the black strands erratically blowing them one moment in long streamers flying out behind her and the next whipping them around to first slap then cover her face in silk like ribbons. The girl seemed to be unbothered by the gyrations that would have caused others to have taken action to keep at bay, what to them, would have been a distraction while they drove. The girl never removed her hand from the steering wheel to try and stop the attack to her face. She was solely concentrating on her target. The girl smiled for the second time that night.
After reaching one hundred and twenty miles an hour the girl maintained the exact distance between her and the target for several miles before he evidently noticed he was being followed. He must have pushed harder on the gas pedal of his car because it seemed to jump slightly and began to pull away. She never took her glowing eyes off the target. She allowed her speed to match the man in front of her never allowing the distance to grow between them.
The smile on her face became more obvious. If someone had been asked to give a description of her they might have described her as beautiful, ethereal, even magical maybe. That of course would have been the first impression. The glowing red eyes and the three inch black talons that adorned the ends of her long slender pale fingers would have made them have to reconsider their original imagery of her.
Her almost snow white skin would have been enough to make you look twice but paired with the long raven tresses and the ruby red of her lips against that skin was both captivating and spine-chilling. When her eyes weren’t glowing red they took on a color so dark that it was hard to determine their actual color. You certainly didn’t want to look too deeply into those eyes though it would seem you were almost compelled to do just that. Many a person had died gazing into those dark, endless pools of night.
The smile on those ruby red lips widened as she watched the car in front of her shudder. It had tried to generate another burst of speed but the effort was more than even the high performance car the target was driving could handle. It had put out just about all it had. The girl saw the overturned semi up ahead blocking the entire westbound portion of the interstate. The target must have been concentrating on what was behind him instead of in front and he didn’t see it in time. At the speed they were traveling he never had a chance to take any action to change his forward momentum or speed. The girl did had time to notice the people standing on the side of the road taking in the mangled mess that lay dead ahead. With this entire side of the interstate blocked and everyone stuck where they were the rubberneckers had gotten out of their cars to take in the show. These people had no idea they were about to catch the second act up close and personal.
The target hit the undercarriage of the semi with such force it caused a violent explosion. The results of that blast sent blazing pieces of his car flying in every direction. One flaming sharp fragment flew through the air hitting one of the bystanders in the neck removing his head from his shoulders cauterizing the severed veins and arteries as it went. The carnage didn’t stop there. The man’s head flew from his shoulders bashing his wife in the side of her head so hard that it split open spraying other bystanders next to her with her blood and brains.
When the girl saw the collateral damage of her handy work her only response was, “oops” as she continued to travel in the same direction as the target had. She didn’t however hit the undercarriage of the semi, she didn’t burst into flames, and she didn’t even shatter into flaming piece. She slipped through the obstruction like it were no more than warm butter. Once on the other side of the wreckage, that she had helped add to, she brought her vehicle to a stop in the center of the west bound lanes of the interstate. No one took notice of her or the miraculous feat she had just pulled off. No, no one saw her at all.
The girl stepped from the car and stood in the center of the road as she watched a figure coming toward her from the opposite direction she had come. Her only thought was this could be bad as she watched the ground smolder and burn with each step the dark cloaked figure took. The noxious smoke and fumes that emanated from the figure would have choked and killed the people now running and screaming around the original wreckage if they had been able to breathe it in. When the figure was only a couple of feet away from the girl it stopped and remained silent for a moment.
“Well my dear, I see you have created a scene of total chaos.” The figure finally said in a deep sensual voice.
“Yes Ma’am, I did.” The girl didn’t bother to apologize, she knew better.
“Nice.” The figure let out a deep chuckle.
The girl kept any response she might have made to herself.
“Well I have something I want to retrieve. He really shouldn’t have pissed me off.” The figure continued to hover over the girl.
“Yes Ma’am.” The girl knew to keep her mouth shut as much as possible and to keep her mind clear.
“Good job Snow White.”
“Thank you Satan.” Snow White watched as her boss walked toward the mangled smoldering mess in the middle of the highway to remove the last remnants of what was left of the target, his soul.
Windy sat on the edge of the pier that ran out over the lake that bordered the property of her parent’s home. She had cried all the tears she had and now sat there looking at the moon’s reflection on the surface of the lake. The small waves being stirred up by the evening breeze caused the moon’s reflection to appear as if it danced across the water. Tonight the waves seemed tamed compared to what they usually were. Of course the little pier she sat on was set in a little cove from the main body of water. Out there on the main body the waves would be much larger.
Windy couldn’t imagine life getting any worse than it was at this moment. The man she loved, the one she had been engaged to for six months and been in a relationship with for the past two years had called her to tell her that he was ending the engagement. The ass hole hadn’t even been man enough to come home and face her. He had met someone else while traveling with his job and decided that he was in love with this other woman. Of course he had offered her all his regrets and apologies and ending with the bullshit statement that he was sure she would find someone worthy of her.
Really, worthy of her. If she was such an all fire prize why was he dumping her for someone else? How are you in love with someone one moment and the next, oops I made a mistake and I love this person over here? Windy felt the anger build inside as she sat there on that pier.
Below the surface something moved with silent and deadly intent. It too was angry but for different reasons. It had been asleep for a long time but something had called it. Something had needed its services and it didn’t like having to do the biding of another. It was old, as old as time itself. It would rest for hundreds of years and then wake up and bring havoc only to return to its’ long slumbers when it was bored with the creatures that walked the face of the earth The last time he had been called it had been about a hundred years ago He had not had enough rest. Now the same one had called him back but she no longer breathed air. She had ceased to breathe just before he had returned to his slumber or he would have ended up taking her himself. He had been denied that satisfaction when she had called him before but he would not be denied this time. He would claim her when this was finished. He didn’t know how she could again be calling him but she was and this time it would be different.
He was distracted by the two tiny female feet dangling in the water. They were so small and delicate he thought. It made him wonder what the person was like that those tiny little appendages were attached to. He would find out.
Windy continued to stare out at the water. The silence of the night was broken by the sound of a fairly large motor boat that cut through the water toward the middle of the lake. The sound seemed to irritate her more than it should have especially when she heard the trailing sound of a woman’s laughter that has been caught on the breeze and blown in her direction. She couldn’t have told you whether it was the sound of the boat that had disturbed her self-absorbed misery or the fact that it was a woman laughing but right now she hated nearly every one of her sex outside of her mother and her sister.
She would have to start sending out notifications tomorrow regarding the wedding being called off. It was in three months. No it was supposed to have been in three months but now it wouldn’t happen at all. Mindy closed her eyes and tried to shut out the thought of the embarrassment that came with cancelling a wedding. What was she supposed to say? I was engaged to a low life son-of-a bitch who started cheating on me then dumped me for his whore? She actually thought of putting exactly that on the cancellations especially on the ones that would go to his family. Wait, why should she be sending anything to his side. Shouldn’t that be his job? She thought about the money she and her parents were already out over this and she knew one thing she was going to do. She damn sure was sending that bastard a bill for the whole thing and if she had to she would sue his sorry ass.
He slipped under the pier and stopping just short of the tiny feet. He watched them as they seemed to become more agitated. He watched as the surface became choppier from something that had disturbed the surface. He thought the tiny feet would be pulled up out of the water but they remained as they were, kicking lazily in front of him.
He reached out a clawed digit and gently tapped one of the feet. It stopped its movement for a moment but didn’t withdraw from the water. If he had been able to smile he would have. People didn’t pay attention to warnings. He thought about repeating his action but decided he didn’t want to take a chance of the feet being removed. Oh he could take the person attached to those feet on land as easily as he could take her from where she was but he really didn’t like to leave the cover of his watery world. No it was much more fun to watch the look of surprise take over their faces under the surface rather than above. When you took them from above it usually involved them opening their mouths and harsh loud racket would escape from their air-breathing lips. No when you pulled them to you underneath then yes their mouths still opened widely but it only resulted in them expelling blast of bubbles as they drew air into their lungs. They really started fighting then and he liked it when they fought. It was so much more satisfying.
Mindy had become still when she felt something brush up against her foot. She knew there could be anything down there in the dark but she felt sure that it had been nothing more than a curious fish that had gotten too close to her. Her foot had probably scared it more than it had scared her. Her feet went back to their gentle movement as she continued to think of ways to hurt that ass the way he had hurt her.
All thoughts of the cheating fiancé were swept from her mind when she felt something take hold of her ankle. She was taken so much by surprise that she didn’t even scream when she felt something tug hard at her ankle pulling her to the very edge of the pier. She was fighting so hard to keep from falling into the water that her brain didn’t even think to scream as the second hard tug came and she was pulled into the water and jerked underneath. When she opened her eyes and saw the thing staring at her from eyes that glowed green with slits of black down the center it was the first time she thought of screaming. It was too late for it to bring help. Her voice was muffled by the water that she was now completely submerged in. The last thing she saw was this horrible thing open its mouth just before it pulled her toward that gaping maw and shove her head and shoulders inside. The last thing she felt was when its long sharp teeth clammed down on her severing her upper body from the rest.
He like all living things had started out small but had grown over the millenniums and continued to grow. He had no name really but he had been called many things by the humans. Once he had lived in the sea but he had been trapped in this body of water long before the first human was ever born. Some humans had learned how to call on him and get him to do their bidding but they always paid for their arrogance. This time this one would be no different. Of course his taking a member of her blood would serve till then and it would leave her thinking about what she had done.
He finished off the tasty little morsel before he went back to the area of the lake he reclined in. He had been around since the beginning of time. He knew there would be others before he caught the one who had called him. He would take her but he would feast on the bodies of others until that time.
An excerpt from Nightmare Express
Jude sat against the trunk of the dried-up disfigured tree. The gnarled interwoven branches seemed to be drawing in on themselves while appearing to reach out and ensnare you in its life sucking embrace. The dead tree stood at the peak of a sandy ridge. From where Jude sat, he could look out over the wasted barren land. What vegetation, or what passed as vegetation here, was like the tree he now leaned against. Everything was dark, foreboding, disfigured, and showed no sign of life.
Overhead the sky was filled with angry deep purple and grey clouds that appeared to be at war with one another. Each one shot out streaks of lightening that seemed to be deliberately aimed at the clouds around them as if each was trying to take control of the shadowy expanse overhead. The heavy hot air generated by this constant battle created a skin scorching heat that blew dust devils around everywhere you looked. The dull black sand that was swept up in the heat and wind was driven into swirls managed to add to the uninhabitable appearance of the place. No rain fell here, there was no water, no moisture at all. This place was dryer than any desert on any map in another place.
There was existence here, but you couldn’t call it life, at least not the type of life that would every make someone feel warm and fuzzy toward it. The things that lived here were as dark and ugly as this land itself. The creatures here were the things of nightmares for living breathing humans. They were as malformed and dark as the vegetation. He watched as a black slithering form reared back and struck at his prey and succeeded in catching the small creeping creature that had tried to escape its unending demise. He thought about how he almost felt sorry for the little monster that had just been devoured by the larger predator because he knew the damn thing would be back tomorrow. In a bit the larger creature would also be taken by an even larger predator and this would continue throughout the day. It was an endless succession of one creature after the other inflicting pain on something smaller. In this dark land the only things roaming here were the shadows of what once was and now only existed in this land of shadows born of nightmares. No, there was no life here. These abominable beings would be tormented day after day and there would be no end to this torment that would be repeated over and over.
Jude sat there watching the workings in the expanse before him and contemplated what his next move would be. If he decided to go rogue, he knew what the ultimate consequences of his actions would lead to. The trick for them was for them to find him and he had learned and learned well how to stay hidden.
His mind began to wonder to other things. He could be walking in places that were green and lush. Places where there was water and live trees, where thing were beautiful and alive. Hell, if he wanted, he could be walking on the top of a mountain that was clothed in a shimmering gown of pristine white that sparkled and glittered in the reflective rays of the sun that beat down on it. He could be looking out over someplace where the temperature would burn the flesh of a skin and bone being with a mind-numbing blast of cold polar air.
Jude’s attention was drawn back to the place where he now rested against that hideous excuse of a tree as a dust devil came close enough that the little bits of lava hot sand pelted his skin. He didn’t have to look down to survey the damage because he knew there wouldn’t be any. Oh, he felt the pain from the little beads of incendiary grains, he felt them to the bone, but no damage would be done. No, he couldn’t be damaged, but he could feel pain and oh had he felt pain ever since his transition.
He stood up and winced as he did. The pain was still there but not as bad as it had been and soon it would only be a distant murky memory. Jude looked back over his shoulder to more of the same as what was in front of him. The clouds continued their battles overhead while the dust devils spun along their routes twisting and turning and sometimes intertwining with one another, swelling up then breaking apart to resume their random staggering paths.
Turning back in the direction he had been focused on before he again leaned back against the tree. He hadn’t yet stepped so far over the edge that he might not get out of it, but he needed to make up his mind. Deep down inside he knew that he couldn’t continue this existence. The constant moving from one place to the other and never connecting to anyone except in that one moment at the end of another’s life. That moment when everything that had gone before only mattered in determining where you went next.
There was an exceptionally loud roar of thunder and he jerked to attention thinking he might have been found but remembered they were blind to him right now. It would have been hard for them to detect him in this place even if he wasn’t off the grid. Right now, unless he allowed it, they couldn’t see him anywhere he went. When they had come to him and told him he would no longer be a collector and would from that point on be a tracker he had tried to refuse. Of course, in this like in all things, for longer than he cared to think about, he hadn’t had any say in what he did or what happened. It finally was more than his mind could process. More than he could handle. More than his damaged, twisted, blackened soul could endure.
Now he was thinking about becoming that which he had been tapped to track. Others like him who had found they could no longer follow meekly and continue to be tied to those who controlled their existence. He had known they existed, but he had never known they could go so dark, so terrifying even to another reaper. He couldn’t do this anymore. He would, like them, no longer be bound by the tethers of his sins and a contract he had never wanted to enter into.
He like the others would take what he wanted and bring about as much chaos as he possibly could. He would leave a path of destruction that the Powers That Be would never recover from. He would no longer collect from their list, any list, but his own. Only he would have no list. The difference between him and the others who had gone before him was he would do it just for the sake of destruction. His would be to let things out that would affect the world in such a way that living beings could and would no longer be blind to the evil that existed. The people of the living world would no longer go blindly through their lives in ignorance.
Jude again looked out at this plane that existed between two others. They had made him a reaper of reapers and he would show them what a reaper was capable of.
He was death and now he was rogue.