Archive | March 2014

Homeless No More

It’s damned cold for late April! Torrential rains are taking a toll on Joe’s body. He’s not as spry as he once was, and his threadbare clothes don’t afford much protection from the elements. No raincoat or heavy jacket: nothing to protect and keep him dry and warm.

“Fucking weather!” he mutters.

Disabled from an old war wound inflicted in ‘Nam and homeless for ten years now, he has barely managed to stay ahead in the game of life. Some game. Death might be better than his existence, but he’s never been a quitter, even when the shit hit the fan. And it has, many times.

Up ahead looms a cemetery, the tombstones not doing much to lift his spirits. Peering at them through the veil of water falling from above distorts their image, making them appear even more ominous. It doesn’t help that the tree branches look like long fingers reaching out to grab him. The intermingling grays and blacks do nothing to lighten the ominous vista. His step quickens. He needs to leave this place, but… he sees something else though the rain.

“Holy shit,” he says. “Is that an open mausoleum?”

As scared as he might be of his surroundings, the open structure offers protection from the storm. He shoulders his pack a bit tighter, looks around to make sure no one is watching, and walks over to the building.

“This is all right! Out of the rain for me!”

Unable to see much at first, his eyes slowly begin to adjust to the darkness, nothing he observes discourages him from staying.  Yet something tears at his mind, telling him this place is not safe. The odor of the wet dirt is not all he smells, an un-Godly stench pervades the mausoleum both within and outside as well. The reek of decay and filth lies heavy in his nose and on his tongue.

The noise of crashing thunder against the crypt sends vibrations throughout his entire body. Startled, he jumps in fear.

“Damn, Joe, get your shit together! It’s just a fucking storm.”

He opens his pack and takes out his sleeping bag, what’s left of it anyway. Too many nights spent curled up in cement alley-ways has left his travel bed worn and as thin as his clothing. Worn or not, it’s the only bed he’s known since that night so long ago. Riding in the car with his wife and two young children, all of them as happy as can be until… until that fucking Dually crossed over the line and smashed into them head on. The lights of the approaching truck, the impact, and the horrible crunch of metal meeting metal reverberate nightly in his mind; his dreams have become nightmares of unending pain.

Tears form around the edges of his eyes as he shakes his head, trying to chase the memory away, but the recollection lingers.

“Jesus! At least wait ’til I’m asleep! I need some peace.”

He rummages through his pack searching for a left over chunk of Italian bread from lunch at the Salvation Army. Food might help to keep his mind occupied. Merely cursing at the stale piece of dough should distract him. It was pretty tasty before, but by now it will be a little worse for wear. Things tend to shift in his bag. With the storm raging, he doesn’t want to walk to the other side of town to get dinner at the shelter. They can only sleep a limited number of heads, but they can feed many more hungry mouths but it doesn’t look like his will be one of them tonight.

The good news is that the bread isn’t stale; the bad news is that it’s waterlogged. Kinda gives the old bread and water saying a whole new meaning. Joe stares at it sitting in his hand and laughs before he slowly starts eating. No rush. This is all he has. He might as well enjoy it.

His laughter stops when an assault of lightning and crashing thunder shake the crypt. Repeated bolts strike everywhere and the mausoleum lights up before his eyes displaying crumbling walls and a seeming shift in the way burial arrangements were originally intended. The projected ‘high-rise’ of bodies looks ready to tumble to the floor at any moment.

“Shit! I hope the storm doesn’t tear this place apart.”

He sits quietly for awhile, watching the illumination of the walls and the dancing shadows. The storm won’t be letting up any time soon, so like it or not, he’ll be staying for a while. Needing to take a leak before going to sleep, he starts outside but changes his mind. Too much rain. The last thing he needs is to get soaked before he drifts off to slumber-land. Feeling bad about doing it, he stands at the edge of the entryway and pisses out into the storm.

“Sorry if I piss on anyone,” he mumbles.

Retreating to the relative safety of his sleeping bag, he slides inside and listens to the sound of the falling rain. It actually soothes him now, and he falls asleep quickly.

The dreams will come. They always do.

***

The pouring rain washes the dirt out of his hair and he relishes the feeling. His consignment to the ground below isn’t conducive to cleanliness, but hey, he’s a Ghoul. Once he starts feeding, all pretense of neatness goes away. His food is messy. Delectable, but messy. He can wash up again after.

Hunger attacks once more. Damn, he’s always hungry. Yes, but now his food larder has been enlarged. Even if bodies stop showing up here, he will always have a fresh supply. These humans multiply like rabbits, the same as the ones he tried munching on before. They were delectable little critters, and he loved the way they wiggled and tried to bite him as he slowly devoured them, starting at the tips of their toes and working towards those cute long ears. Alas, tasty is good, but the damned things were not very filling.

Humans. Ah, tasty and filling, and they can put up a fine scrap. Nothing like a spunky dinner. Time to find one.

How lucky can I be?‘ he thinks. ‘In the graveyard . . . my supper waits for me. Oh, these foolish humans. They come right to me. I don’t even have to seek them out.

The unmistakable scent of fresh flesh pulsing with blood calls to him. He leaves the tombstone he’s sitting on and searches for the source. A beating heart whispers to him, partially drowned out by the sound of the storm, but there nonetheless. His body hair goes wild the closer he gets, zeroing in on his prey. This one is male. He would prefer a female so he can delight in other ways as well, but hunger is his main focus. Perhaps later a luscious lady will walk into his lair.

As he gets closer, he knows his dinner is inside one of the mausoleums in this section of the graveyard. Most of his prey’s kind would stay out of such a place at night for fear of the unknown, but not this one. From the way his heart is beating, the Ghoul knows his meal is asleep.

This is your last sleep as the living, my tasty critter. Don’t feel bad. By giving your flesh to me, you will be serving a greater purpose than your kind does in its short, mundane existence.

For a creature his size, the monster walks quietly and with an agility the human race could only marvel at. He is thousands of years old, having come to this land from far away seeking a new home. The ship he took unknown passage on arrived in this country with nary a living person left aboard. Bones and blood scattered about, the cargo hold looked like a war zone. It had been attacked by pirates who killed everyone on the ship. This was a sweet happening for the hairy one. He feasted well until the ship ran aground on the coast of Maine. Having slipped off still undetected, the graveyard became his home.

Old or not, the flesh of humans made him strong, and he knows the meat of live beings will make him even more powerful.

The door to the mausoleum is open a couple of feet when he arrives. Joe is still asleep and his nightmares have taken him over once again. The beast is intrigued. He senses the man’s inner torment but does not know the reason for such maddening nocturnal thoughts. As much as he would like to find out the cause of this distress, he is hungry and must eat.

***

Before the monster reaches him, Joe wakes. Unable to see well since his eyes haven’t had a chance to adjust to the dark, he senses something in the room with him. Shit! The stench! Whatever it is, it’s the same odor from earlier.

He backs up to get away from the presence but focuses on the entry. If there is need to escape, he wants to be ready.

Whatever this thing is follows him to the wall, the odor becoming unbearable. It looms over him, poised to strike. There is no question in Joe’s mind now. This entity intends him harm.

A bolt of lightning strikes revealing the monster. It is unlike anything Joe has ever laid eyes on before, and he’s seen a lot over the years; the horrors of war, the accident that killed his wife and children. What the hell is this thing?

The creature is so big that Joe knows he won’t be able to get around it. He’ll have to fight his way out. Reaching behind him, he finds a brick and readies it for the assault.

With amazing speed, the creature leaps at him and lashes out with long filth-ridden nails. It tears off chunks of his exposed face and neck, and shoves them into its mouth. Joe stumbles from the impact but retaliates with the brick, slamming it into the monster’s head repeatedly. Blood flows from both of them, but the creature’s wounds close rapidly, further befuddling Joe.

“Oh, you puny human, you are no match for me!” the demon shouts. “I cannot be killed. You can.”

“Fuck you, you bastard!” Joe hollers and renews his attack, refusing to quit.

The mismatched skirmish continues; the monster taking chunk after chunk out of Joe, relishing the battle as much as he enjoys his dinner, taking his time to prolong the encounter.

Something new begins happening to the Ghoul. With each bite, he gets a glimpse of this man’s life, his pains, his past. His head becomes filled with memories of life in the jungles of ‘Nam, being wounded, the incarceration. Placards waved by people with longer hair than him being shoved into his face as they taunt and accuse.

He wonders what’s going on. Is this because he’s eating living flesh, parts of a man still in possession of his soul? Are the two joining as one? This didn’t happen with the girl.

Then the creature realizes it’s this man’s will that is doing this. He knows he can’t win, but he refuses to quit.

The hospital stay, the pain, the mental anguish tears away at him. Still gripping the human, he slows his attack and tries to clear his head. This cannot be! He is the master. This human is puny and insignificant.

“Get out of my head!” the Ghoul hollers. “Leave me alone!”

Even though Joe is losing a lot of blood and feels his life slipping away, he rams the brick into his foe without stopping. He doesn’t understand that his life’s memories and pain are being transferred to the creature. His instinct for survival and his courage refuse to buckle to this thing.

Bright lights from the Dually blind the eyes of the beast. He stumbles around in confusion, dropping Joe, careening into the walls of the mausoleum. And then… then the truck rams into him, knocking him down. In his mind, bodies fly everywhere as the seat belts snap from the force of the collision.

The demon cowers on the floor, not knowing what to do. He is helpless. Such psychological terror is new to him. He has no understanding of it, no control over it.

Freed from the grasp of his tormentor, Joe crawls towards the crypt’s entry. His heart pounds against his chest; breathing is near impossible with his lungs slashed, and his wind-pipe torn and damaged. But he keeps moving, pulling himself along, trying to escape.

The voices and confusion within the monster’s head are too much for it to bear, it rages after Joe, biting deep into the base of his skull, killing him almost instantly, but not before the blood from the wound laps upon its tongue.

Blood, the sustainer of human life, has told the demon a story. Joe may have lost the battle, but he is in a better place, reunited with his wife and children.

He is homeless no more…

~ Blaze McRob

© Copyright 2014 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.

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Phantom Pain

Every part of my body hurts.

I open my bottle of Percodan and shake three pills out.

Damn. Only three left after these. I wish this stuff would actually take the pain away.

I’ve been frequenting this bar, the Rusty Dagger Pub according to the flashing sign out front, for the last five years. I’d like to say that I don’t know why I keep coming back here. The service is lackluster, the beer is almost room temperature and even the women, although plentiful, are nothing to write home about.

No, the reason I keep coming back here is to fight. The Rusty Dagger Pub has the reputation of being one of the toughest bars in Eastern Canada. At one point during the biker gang war between the Hell Haunts and the Desecrators in the mid-nineties the bar was averaging one murder every two weeks.

I’ve been in a lot of fights and brawls and in that time I guess I’ve built up quite a reputation as someone who can take a beating and walk away from it.

I can’t be killed.

No, let me rephrase that.

The truth is I can be killed, but for some reason I keep coming back.

I’ll get to that in a bit.

I’ve been watching these two bikers for the last hour and there’s no doubt in my mind that they’re talking about me.

The heavier set one seems to be the one who’s going to lead the charge. He’s getting very animated and has that look in his eye. That dark sparkle when someone gets the idea… the urge, to kill another human being. I’ve seen it many times over the years and it has usually been directed at me.

Tonight, I know he’s going to do it.

He’s going to kill me.

***

“There’s something I have to tell you,” Michael Canning said gulping the remainder of his beer and placing the empty bottle on the sticky table. “Actually, it’s something I have to do.”

He was sitting with his friend Garrett Anderson at their usual spot inside the Rusty Dagger Pub. Michael had just finished his fourth beer of the night while Garrett was nursing his second rum and Coke.

“Do? Do what?” Garrett asked.

“You see that guy in the corner?”

Garrett turned and looked into the corner where Michael was pointing. Through the dim lighting and thick clouds of cigarette smoke, he could make out a lone figure sitting at a table in the far corner of the bar. The man had a shaved head and although he had a large frame, he didn’t seem to be anything special.

“What about him?” Garrett asked.

“His name is Erwin Sterben and he’s been coming here for the last couple of years. I was talking to one of my buddies in the Hell Haunts and apparently that guy in the corner has been on the receiving end of many ass kickings.”

“So?”

“Not just any regular beat downs,” Michael said leaning in towards Garrett. “I’m talking about four and five guys stomping his head into the pavement. He should’ve died by now yet he always seems to show up back in the bar.” Michael looked over Garrett’s shoulder at Erwin and then back to his friend. “There’s something about that guy that isn’t right.”

“So he has a reputation for being able to take an ass kicking and keep on ticking. Leave it alone, Mike, and enjoy your night.”

The two sat without speaking for a few minutes listening to heavy blues guitar riffs blaring through the bar’s old speakers. Both were dressed in typical black-leather biker attire, with Michael wearing a leather vest that one day he hoped would proudly display the Hell Haunts logo.

“The Hell Haunts want him dead,” Michael said. “And they want me to do it.”

“Why?” Garret asked.

“I don’t know and I don’t care. I want my patch.”

***

I’ve seen him in the bar many times and usually he’s hanging out with the Hell Haunts biker gang. He’s not a full patched member though, probably just a ‘hang around’ or a prospect. I bet he thinks killing me will elevate him in the Hell Haunts to a full patched member.

Who knows, it might.

It looks like all he needs is the opportunity to get me alone. He won’t use a gun as it will arouse too much attention. I’m guessing he’s carrying a knife of some sort.

I have to piss.

I guess there’s no time like the present to set things in motion.

Let’s see if I’m right.

I’ll walk right by his table on my way to the bathroom. I’m guessing he’ll follow and if walking by isn’t enough, I’ll eyeball him.

***

“He’s getting up,” Michael said quietly.

“Is he leaving?” Garrett asked.

Michael shook his head but remained quiet as Erwin walked up to their table. Their eyes locked briefly and Erwin brushed him off. Seething, Michael watched as he made his way to the back and into the bathroom.

“That motherfucker,” Michael said. “He has the nerve to eyeball me? Let’s go and end this fucking guy.”

“No,” Garrett said.

“What do you mean ‘no’? I need you to watch the door to make sure no one comes in. Come on, once I’m a full patched member I can put a good word in for you and get you fast tracked to your patch.”

Garrett looked at him. “You mean that?”

“Man, you know when I say something I mean it. Now get the fuck up and follow me.”

Nodding, Garrett stood up and the two men walked towards the back. When they reached the bathroom door, they both looked around the bar to see if anyone was watching.

It wasn’t a busy night with only four other patrons inside. Michael nodded to Garrett and headed inside.

As he stepped through the door, Michael’s heart raced in excitement. Inside, the bathroom was small consisting of two seldom washed urinals and two stalls, one of which was missing a door. A single sink with a rusty drain sat on the wall with a cracked mirror above it.

Michael listened and heard the sound of urine hitting water. He crouched down peering underneath the stalls and saw that Erwin was in the stall with the door still attached. Reaching into his left pant pocket, Michael pulled out a knife and stood just to the side of the stall, waiting for Erwin to come out.

Almost immediately Michael wished he had had another drink to calm his nerves as he fidgeted with the knife.

The toilet flushed and the door opened up.

Michael’s body tensed up and time seemed to slow down as he waited for Erwin to exit the stall. He saw one foot step out and as soon as he saw Erwin’s body, he lunged.

He grabbed Erwin’s face, covering his mouth and began stabbing into his side with the knife. Michael felt Erwin’s hot and panicked breath on his hand trying to yell out. With each stab of the knife, Michael felt more and more powerful.

Killing Erwin for the Hell Haunts was an honor he wanted to remember every second of. He could feel Erwin weakening in his grasp so he slipped behind him.

“Let’s see you live through this, asshole,” Michael whispered in the Erwin’s ear.

With that he tilted Erwin’s head back and cut deep into his neck.

Erwin gurgled and blood gushed out. Michael held him for a few minutes, enjoying the feeling of taking another man’s life until Erwin went limp. The gurgling slowed and then went silent.

Working quickly but carefully, Michael positioned Erwin so that he appeared to be seated on the toilet. After a final look, he closed the stall door and walked over to the sink.

Michael quickly washed his hands and then wrapped the knife in paper towel. He tossed it into the garbage and headed back into the bar to join Garrett.

***

Gasping for that initial first breath and the shock the body feels when it is revived are terrible. I suppose it could be similar to how the body reacts to a defibrillator with everything being jolted to life again.

My fingers trace where not too long ago my throat had been slit. It kind of itches but the stab wounds on my side still sting.

How long has it been since that fucker killed me?

According to my watch it’s only been ten minutes.

You see, I can be killed and believe me it sucks every time.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve died; how many times I seen the light, reached out to accept its embrace only to be pulled back into this fucking existence so that I may die again.

I have felt the pain that the body goes through as each internal organ shuts down. I have felt my heart stop more times than I want to remember. My body has been stabbed, crushed, and shot many times yet somehow it always heals itself.

Not completely though.

The pain remains.

Phantom pain I think they call it.

Reaching into my jacket pocket, I pull out a small bottle of Percodan and pop the remaining three pills into my mouth. In an effort to deal with pain I’ve tried many drugs and as a result I’ve become addicted to painkillers. The shitty part is I have yet to find one that completely dulls the pain.

A year ago I shot myself in the head and I came back.

I can’t even kill myself.

I’ve been called a freak and a vampire. Hell, there have been times I’ve even been called a zombie. The thing is though I don’t really know what I am.

One of the worst things, besides the pain and resurrection of course, is the fact that I don’t really know who I am anymore. I just can’t remember. My long term memories have faded with each death.

I don’t even remember my parents. I know I had them but that memory, that part of my life, seems to be gone.

I stand up and take a few unsteady steps towards the bathroom door. Opening it a crack, I peer out and see that those two guys are still here. The one who stabbed me seems to be celebrating.

I think I’ll go join them for a drink.

And like the many before who tried to kill me, I’ll return the favor.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2014 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 6

name

Isolation
Dan Dillard

Bars on your windows, so old and ornate.
At your driveway’s end lies a chained and locked gate.
These both in attempt to circumvent fate.

Huddled … lonely inside your own tomb.
Your domicile morphs into some sort of womb.
You peek through the blinds hoping nothing might loom.

And the world spins around you, life goes on for most.
You should celebrate each day that comes with a toast.
But instead you hide praying you don’t give up the ghost.

The joke, Dear, is that there’s no hope for the dawn.
For wherever you are, Dear, death watches on.


Wrong Turn
Leslie Moon

Darknesses hollow whispers
death’s gripping fingers splayed
mind the path twisting, turns there
don’t divert well-lit ways
*
many drops of blood’s been spilt here
dagger’s sharpened, long caressed
sightless skulls aimed and leering
the spirit must of you assess
*
bodily theyr’e rendered lifeless
gather, on moonless eve
momentarily seek some solace
wander, they eternal grieve
*
seeking, mind if they see you
your retreat may never be
run swift rusting gates through
you again will not be free
*
darknesses claiming whisper
death’s fingers greedily splayed
mind the path, aims to trip dear
don’t divert from well-lit ways


Atomic Number 26
Joseph A. Pinto

And still you’ve no understanding of my stories lost before
you, words stripped of their most basic composition and
left to crumble in a fitting tribute of oxidation.  You’ll always

view me that way, nothing more than your atomic number 26
while the greater part of me flakes bit by bit over time.  I mourn the
days when my message rung true and beauty gleamed through my

imperfection.  Now I go unnoticed, a broken tale; a gate
through which nothing can ever pass again.  Such a wasted thing; left
here, your tainted breath corrupting every last line of my expression.


Insomnia
Thomas Brown

They say dreaming is dead, but I still dream. Clear skies. Cool breeze. A little sunlight on my face. I would like to walk somewhere with you, hand-in-hand, and not be alone. I choke to think of what could be: flesh and blood and bones that sing my name, my song, our song, rising into the wind. We should be so lucky.

They say dreaming is dead, but I still dream of a way out, an escape, a different life to that behind this iron gate; this tarnished prison, this nightmare in which we have trapped ourselves, furry with sharp-blood-rust.


The Other Side
Jon Olson

There it is. I cannot believe it is still standing. My body goes numb as I stare at the place that for many years I called home. The same black iron fence surrounds the property like it did when I lived there. Now the paint is peeling away exposing the rust underneath; reopening old wounds. How many times did I grip the fence wishing, praying that I could someday be on the other side? And now that I am on the outside I don’t feel free. I am still trapped within its grasp behind the padlocked gate, never to reopen.


Hush
Nina D’Arcangela

Been so many years, I don’t even remember the sun no more. I hear ‘em muttering, let ‘em talk. I’ll die in this box no doubt. I even heard they sealed it with the name. Trying to shame me I s’ppose. But I have my trophy; I pick my teeth with it every day. Wearin’ it down, but then it was so small to start with. Seems people dislike what I done, but that’s only ‘cause they don’t understan’ it. See, the sweet meat – it’s like veal, you gotta eat it when it’s supple, ‘fore it grows and loses the flavor.


What Lies Within
Blaze McRob

The rusted chain and lock cannot possibly hold this unholy gate in place much longer. Do I dare attempt to break the obstacles and venture within? I must; I have to know!

A well placed kick and the fragile metal breaks. I walk down the stone reinforced tunnel and get closer to the impenetrable darkness. The scent of sweet musk tickles my nostrils, and I smile.

“Lord Azazel, what you long for resides within.”

A torch is lit and I see my prize. Upon an altar she lies, and her glories call out to me.

She screams at my touch…


His to bring…
Zack Kullis

He looked at his charred body. The thugs had chained his security gate moments before they threw the Molotov cocktail through his window.

His fingers still gripped the old iron. The flesh was black like charcoal, and flaked away like the burned paint of the gate. Lips, hair, skin, and anything identifiable had been burned away, leaving a macabre grimace. Death had taken him hours ago.

Fury and lust for revenge damned his soul to this place like the chains had damned him to the fire. He was a wraith, and he welcomed the damnation. Hell was his to bring.


Claiming the Condemned
Tyr Kieran

The end came faster than anyone anticipated and all the prophecies were wrong. It wasn’t failed science gone viral or a cleansing trial to better mankind; it was Hell claiming the condemned—every last one of us. It began with a tortuous plague the turned the sick into blood crazed cadavers. They were the lucky ones. They didn’t suffer the tenuous and futile existence that was always moments away from being torn into a million bite-sized morsels by rancid insatiable teeth. I was the last, eaten alive behind safe gates as I clung expectantly to my wife’s once still corpse.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent.
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Owls

It was 4:00 am when I woke from heartburn, or maybe it was back pain. There are so many things that wake a man of my age in the middle of the night. I shifted my position and then got up to relieve myself. While I was in the bathroom, I heard something odd, something I didn’t recognize—not at first, but then it came to me. Wh-h-h-who. An owl.

It called, and it was close, close enough that I heard it clearly in the bathroom. I walked back into the bedroom.

“You okay?” my wife asked sleepily.

“Yeah. Had to pee,” I said. “Did you hear that?”

“I did. I’ve been listening to it for a few minutes.”

“It’s an owl.”

“Uh huh,” she said.

I walked to the window and peered through the slats in the closed blinds. In the January darkness, I could make out the trees, void of leaves against the sky, but I saw no bird.

Wh-h-h-who.

Wh-h-who.

Was that another one? Wh-h-who-who. A third? Three distinct pitches and if I wasn’t mistaken, coming from three different directions.

“There’s more than one,” I said and turned to see my wife.

She was backed up, sitting against the headboard and holding her knees to her chest. Even in the dark room, I could see her eyes were round and full of fear.

“Honey? What is it?”

She laughed and shook her head. “Nothing.”

“Really? You don’t look like it’s nothing.”

“It’s silly, really…something my grandmother used to tell us when we were little. A poem, or a song. I don’t remember all of it.”

I peeked back out the window. A dark shape perched on one of the branches in the largest maple tree that stood between the sidewalk and the road. A car drove by. Who is out at 4:00 am?

“Well?” I said.

I heard her sigh and turned to her again.

“Something…something like this:

When the witching hour draws near its end,

hide, if you’re awake my friend.

Before the dead wake up to roam,

the owls will come to take them home.”

I waited a moment to see if she had any more to add and when she was silent, I said, “Wow.”

“Yeah, wow.”

“What does that mean exactly?”

She hugged her knees again and I sat down on the bed.

“Like I said, I don’t remember the rest, but I do recall her telling us a story about the owls. She told us they came when someone was about to die and sought that person out. The hooting brings the reaper.”

The reaper?”

“Yes.”

“Your grandmother told you that? That’s a little intense isn’t it?”

Wh-h-h-who one owl called. The other two answered. Each from a different direction and in their slightly different pitch. It occurred to me then that they were triangulating a position. A silly idea.

“It is intense. She wasn’t joking either. I can still see her face grow pale whenever we heard one of those birds hooting in the night at that old farmhouse. I thought we were far enough out of the country to avoid them.”

“You mean you believe that old tale? It’s just a poem.”

“Is it?”

I peeked out the window again, looking for the dark spot in the tree, but it was gone. When the birds hooted again, it was further away, but still close.

“Don’t,” she said.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t look.”

I stared at her and it was as if we were children and she was trying to scare me…she was believing in a nightmare and I was a few years older telling her how silly she was.

“Honey, come on.”

“Please?”

I waved her off and looked back out the window. Something fluttered and I heard the beat of large wings. A shadow covered our window for just a moment, then it was gone to my right. Then the hooting again.

“Please?” she said, clearly upset, but I ignored her.

I ignored her because there was something out there in the glow of the street lamp across the way. It shimmered and warped like a mirage. I heard the owls again. My wife protested behind me, “You aren’t supposed to look.”

I heard her, but it didn’t sink in. I was watching, engrossed in the thing that moved along the sidewalk across the street. Engrossed by the talking birds, calling and responding to each other.

A shimmer slid along the sidewalk, forming a familiar shape, then becoming abstract, then forming again. It looked like a man, thin to the point of worry, and nude. His skin was pale and just barely stretched across his bones. Behind him he dragged something. I would swear it was a scythe. Too cliché, I thought. Too much beer the night before, or too little sleep. Still it was unsettling. I opened the window without knowing why, call it a compulsion. I wanted this stalker, this skeletal being to know that I knew he was there. Perhaps I thought I might prevent him from committing some terrible act. The owls voices were much heavier, much louder through the screen. The icy air surrounded me.

“Hey!” I shouted. It was the only word that I could manage.

My wife screamed behind me and at that moment, the thing dragging its weapon along the sidewalk—the metal blade sparking on the concrete as it went—turned and looked at me. Not toward me, but at me. Its burning yellow eyes dug into my brain for just a split second. The creature’s visage was all I could see and the rest of the world was black. I could hear my wife weeping, calling to me, but I couldn’t answer her and I couldn’t move. Not dead, but paralyzed and blind having seen death before my time.

It was the next day at the hospital when we got the call that one of our elderly neighbors had passed away in the night; the owls were for her, not me. I should’ve let that personal moment alone, not interrupted. It was none of my business and now I pay for my rudeness. I will pay until the owls come back.

~ Dan Dillard

© Copyright 2014 Dan Dillard. All Rights Reserved.

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