Sunday, June 18, 2017

WHEN the DEAD KNOCK part 2

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson

Sheriff Walker returned to his office inside the Comanche County Courthouse, staggered to see the amount of incident reports piled on his desk. “People have been having the recently diseased show up on their doorsteps,” Martha Kinsley sighed as she placed another stack of papers on his desk. “Either these people have all gone nuts or I have for taking them seriously.” The sheriff glanced at Martha. The petite woman with short bouncy blonde hair who ran dispatch and did most of the office paperwork was in her mid-thirties. Only the tiny lines of wrinkles under her eyes, from manning the 911 lines three nights a week from midnight to six, hinted at her age.
The sheriff shuffled through the report names on his desk … Councilman Sears, Judith Banning, Mayor Otter and a long list of others, many of them were business people and those with civic responsibilities. “These aren’t the sort who usually sees swamp gas or a sheet blown off someone’s clothes line and report ghosts,” he said, “and you have to remember … this is Cloverdale.”
“Did I tell you I was born in L.A.?” Martha said as she placed a cup of hot coffee on the sheriff’s desk and opened a box of jelly donuts from White’s Bakery. She leaned over as she slid the donuts toward him and he noticed the two top buttons on her blouse were undone. “I moved here after my divorce looking for some peace and quiet.”
“We don’t have a million cars fouling the air and the traffic jams with snipers,” the sheriff told her with a smile. “But we get enough strange to make up for it.”
“The mayor seems pretty upset,” Martha said. “She’s called twice since you were out … I told her the radio in your car was having issues.”
“It is,” Sheriff Walker said as he took a bite from one of the donuts. “Damn thing won’t work at all … unless I turn it on.”
Deputy Jimmy Chong entered the office and hurried toward his desk. The sheriff called him over and handed him the stack of papers. “What do you make of these?”
            “I’ve been through these reports a couple of times,” Jimmy said, shuffling through the paperwork. “All the incidents are about murders or sightings of people who have died recently.”
            “So what’s the connection?” Sheriff Walker was impressed by his new deputy’s knack for seeing the obvious.
            “Black Rose Cemetery,” Jimmy said grimly. “All these reports are about people recently residing there or about others getting ready to move in. I was just on my way out there. Kelly Weston, the cemetery Sextant, has had some vandalism going on.”
            “I’ll go with you,” the sheriff said. He glanced at Martha. “If the mayor calls again tell her I’m putting in a request for a new radio along with the law enforcement budget at the next city council meeting.”

-------2-------


                        Harry Walton’s love of driving was a thing of the past even though only two months before he’d been infatuated with it. He gripped the wheel of the tanker truck as he rumbled down Canyon Road gathering raw product from all the farmers in the area. If it was up to him, he’s never get behind the wheel of a vehicle again but a young man had to have a job. The Cloverdale Dairy and Cheese Factory employed two others with arms strong enough to lift and dump eighty pound milk cans into the tank and Harry was lucky to be able to do it with only one.
He was in town during summer vacation from Montana State University visiting his cousin when the Lucky Dice Car Club noticed his fifty-six Chevy with the hood scoop and flame paint job and asked if he’d like to become a member. The dozen guys wearing black denim jackets and most with Elvis style duck tail haircuts seemed pretty cool and there were always plenty of girls hanging around so Harry said “Okay!”
            A voluptuous blonde named Cindy McCowan who wasn’t afraid to show her figure was giving him the eye and Harry noticed the guy standing next to her glaring. “There will be a test to see if you are worthy,” Frank Hicks said.
            “What kind of test?” Harry asked.
          “We don’t want no damn chickens in our club …only chicks,” Hicks slapped the girl on the butt. “We go at each other center line at ninety, Vineyard Road at midnight … You turn away before I do … and you’re smoke!” 
            “How do I know you’ll turn out?” Harry had asked.
            “I’m still here aren’t I?” Hicks looked around at the other club members. “Everyone here has had to prove they don’t have hidden feathers.”
It was like two parties each one at the opposite end of a road with everyone drinking beer and listening to music. Harry had straddled the white line revving the engine in his 409 Chevy while a mile away Hicks did the same in a souped up Ford Falcon running a 413. Cindy McCowan showed up for the initiation wearing tight pink pants and a white halter top. “I thought you always rode with Hicks as his good luck charm,” Vern Johnson who was flagging the contest asked as she appeared at the side of the highway.
            “After we see what this Chevy can do I might have to trade up to GM,” she said giving Harry a wink.
            Be cool and don’t lose your nerve Harry told himself as Vern looking through binoculars and signaling with his arm dropped a pair of girl’s yellow lace panties and he tromped on the gas pedal and began to accelerate. Hicks has done this many times before.
At a mile apart it should have taken the two cars no more than thirty seconds to meet but for Harry it felt like forever. He kept waiting for Hicks to turn out. The black Ford hurtling toward him looked something out of a horror movie. It wasn’t until the last split second that Harry yanked the wheel to the left and by then it was too late. Hick’s car crashed head-on into the front passenger side and spun him in a complete circle twice before the crushed car became airborne, flew over an irrigation canal and then rolled seven times across a corn stubble field coming to rest against the trunk of a giant cottonwood tree. The doctors all said he was lucky to be alive.
            Harry was in Cloverdale General for a month and there was already grass growing on Hick’s grave when he got out. Cindy McCowan had visited him the after the first operation but after she found out his left arm was useless and would always just hang there she hadn’t been back.

Harry shook his head to clear the memory. The sun came out from behind some clouds and he turned on the radio. It was one mile to the next farm.  Dee Dee Sharp was singing Mashed Potato Time. Static suddenly faded out the song the same time as Harry noticed a plume of dust rising on the gravel road ahead. Frank Hick’s voice broke through the buzzing like scratches escaping from a 45 record. “You turn away before I do … and you’re smoke!”
Harry couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the black Ford Falcon barreling down the center of the narrow road coming right for him. He knew this time he wouldn’t turn as he accelerated and shifted gears. This time he’d become the smoke … and perhaps rise to a better place.

-------3-------

As Jimmy parked the county patrol car next to the Sexton’s Buick, Sheriff Walker noticed Kelly Weston’s new Hispanic assistant shoveling fresh dirt from a trailer; obviously the soil was intended to level out disturbed graves. “Who said the dead rest in peace?” Sheriff Walker shook his head as he and Jimmy surveyed the damage.
            “These are all new graves and we always get some settling,” Weston said. “That’s one of the reasons I hired Julio to help with both kinds of planting. He doesn’t just have green thumbs this guy could grow potatoes alongside bacon in a frying pan. Lately he’s been working double shifts with the vandalism. It looks like someone attached a chain and yanked the vaults right out of the ground and stole the bodies.”
            “That’s all Cloverdale needs:  its own Doctor Frankenstein,” Jimmy said looking at the dozens of violently open graves.
            “Tomar un descanso y habla con nosotros!” (Take a rest) Sheriff Walker called to Julio Hernandez. He’d ran a background check on the man before he was hired and although he suspected the married man with three children’s immigration papers were forgeries he seemed okay … everyone has to eat. The man was a wanderer never staying in one place for long.
            “Siento causar estos problemas,” (sorry for the problems) Julio said as he wiped his hands on a rag taken from the back pocket of his ragged but clean jeans. He took an energy drink from his back pocket and drank half. The sheriff thought he looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
            “There is no reason you have to be sorry,” the sheriff said. “You didn’t pull these bodies out of these graves did you?”
            “Cuando empieza nueva vida puede partir incluso la roca.” (When new life starts it can split even rock,) Julio said. His eyes were wide showing white all around. “La suciedad de estas tumbas fue empujada hacia arriba desde abajo!”  (The dirt from these graves was pushed up from below!)
Jimmy was busy making notes on a pad. “I was right,” he said. “This cemetery is the connection to what’s happening. Every one of these defiled graves is related to our reports of people seeing the dead.”
Julio went back to shoveling and the sheriff finished talking to the cemetery Sextant. “We now know where the dead are coming from.” John told Jimmy as they drove back to town. “Now we have to find out what’s bringing them back to life.”

-------4-------

            Leston Neville sat in the passenger side of the black Ford while Wendy drove. She looked good for a dead woman two months in the grave. The blood smeared baby began to cry and Leston noticed a binky with a plastic ring on the seat next to the infant. He moved a soiled blanket and tried to insert the pacifier into the baby’s mouth. Part of the infant’s lower jaw fell away leaving a gaping hole running into the squalling body. The crying sound was louder now and much lower like a trumpet suddenly turning into a bassoon. “Don’t just sit there gawking!” Wendy screamed. “Fix it!”
Leston put his hands on his head wanting to scream himself but he was incapable of making any but the smallest of sounds. Finally after a mile he was able to squeak out “How?”
Wendy gave him a disgusted look reached over and opened the glove box. She flung a roll of duct tape at him. “Wrap it on good,” she ordered pointing to the jaw laying on the seat, “and don’t worry about Lesty being able to breathe … we passed that turn in the road  a few months back.”
            Leston noticed one of Wendy’s eyes was slipping from its socket. He reached over and gently tucked it back into place. “Where are we going, Hun?” He was beyond the point of being repulsed.
            “To a party,” Wendy said. “To see people who haven’t been alive for years.”

-------5-------

            When Sheriff Walker saw the cars crowded on the road ahead at first he thought it was teens having some kind of road racing party. They had the radio blasting and were listening to Three Dog Night sing Mama Told Me Not to Come. Deputy Jimmy Chong thought the same thing and was beginning to slow, hoping to block the road for any juveniles looking to escape whatever illegal thing they were doing when suddenly the sheriff yelled. “Go! Go! Don’t stop! Get us out of here!”
            “What the Hell!” Jimmy yelled as he accelerated the patrol car and began to weave between the parked vehicles. Dozens of skeletal fingers reached for the door handles and scratched the paint as he roared through. Several were on the car hood and blocking the windshield either having flung themselves there or been thrown there as the car plowed through the crowd. The car struck something, either a tree or another car. The walking dead covered the outside of the car like a blanket. There was only darkness and classic rock music blaring from the radio. “This is the craziest party that could ever be … Don’t turn on the lights! I don’t want to see.”

-------6-------

Julio Hernandez opened the refrigerator in the tiny camp trailer looking for another energy drink. The Comanche County Cemetery Board had allowed him and his wife Maria to live on county land next to Black Rose as part of his compensation. Even inside the tiny metal house things were better than they had been in Juárez. The Mexican city was filled with violence. Every night he and his wife had prayed that their ten year old son Jose would stay away from the gangs and insist on having a better future. Jose was a good boy … too good. When he refused to join a local chapter of Los Zetas he was found with his throat cut from ear to ear.

Julio had been beyond grief, he had been destroyed. For all the thirty three years of his life he had always been a faithful Catholic and a true believer. “Why me?” he screamed to a portrait of the Virgin Mary hanging on the wall of his house at the beginning of Dia de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) and three days after the funeral. In his rage he had cracked the glass cover. “Haven’t I not given you my whole life?” It could have been lack of sleep or reflection from the crack, but the eyes in the portrait seemed to look down in sadness and in shame.
“What do you ask me for?” A soft motherly voice seemed to come from the portrait.
“Give me the power to bring back the dead!” Julio insisted. “If only for a day or a night … I cannot live without my Jose. I cannot live with this pain!”
“Night it is!” The portrait said just before it went back to being just a painting. And there was laughter in the city … somewhere far away.
The next afternoon Julio thought he saw Jose with a group of younger boys playing on a busy street but lost him in a crowd. Strange things were beginning to happen. His long dead mother and father were sighted by his sister. An uncle missing for years was found buying bananas in the market. They were forced from their home by terrified neighbors, doctors and police who said they were cursed with Bruja Embarcación a kind of mind sickness. Friends told them Jose had gone north looking for them and so they followed. Days were hot and endless ever searching and hiding from immigration people but the nights were worse. When Julio fell asleep his prayers came true. He would raise not only the ones he loved but any recently buried body up within a half mile radius, and more were rising all the time.

            This job in Cloverdale Montana seemed like some kind of joke. Working next to the dead and trying to stay awake at night. But they were desperate. “Sólo para una semana o dos,” he had told Maria. “Only until we have money to follow the trail.” He’d tried his best to stay awake, but this was the third night with no sleep. He thought maybe Maria had gone into the tiny kitchen to make more coffee but he found her sleeping on the floor. She looked so peaceful he was almost ashamed at what he’d put her through. He kissed her and lay beside her for only a minute … for only a minute … with a tiny prayer asking forgiveness. “Maria, madre de Dios nos perdone nuestros pecados.”
Just to the south in Black Rose Cemetery the ground began to tremble. Soil and rock was pushed up from below. Not just one or two graves opened … they all did … and the dead began to rise.

TO BE CONTINUED.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

WHEN the DEAD KNOCK

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson

                Louise Porter managed the best she could to combat loneliness after her husband John succumbed to a fatal heart attack in early March. Nights were the worst. Most days the sixty-six year old woman kept busy readying her garden for spring planting behind the house on Garlow Street in Cloverdale and she did weekend volunteer work at several civic organizations including the Red Cross and a local group associated with the High School PTA – L.S.D. (Ladies for Student Development.)
            Her interest for television shows vanished, likewise her energy whenever the temperature rose above seventy degrees. It was late on the night of April nineteenth as Louise sat reading a novel by Nicholas Sparks with a Jazz radio station playing softly in the background when a loud knock came on the door. At first, something about it sounded recognizable, but then Louise’s mind went suddenly blank. She’d lived long enough not to trust anyone who came calling after ten o’clock and it was almost midnight. She tuned on the porch light and looked through the peep-hole in the door.
“Anybody home?” Louise gasped and felt blood drain from her face when she heard the familiar voice call. This had to be an illusion, conjured up by her loneliness. She stepped back, blinked and then looked again. John stood on the porch with one hand stuck in the pockets of his favorite patched bib-overalls and the other holding his father’s canvas creel and his favorite pole. He was grinning and raising one eyebrow the way he always did when he teased her. The floppy golf-hat she’d given him for his sixty-eighth birthday with trout flies stuck around the brim perched jauntily on his thinning hair.  “I know you don’t like it when I go fishing and then arrive home after dark but by golly this time they were really biting. Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to clean them but I would be much obliged if you’d unlock the door.”
“I don’t know you … go away!” Louise stammered.
“It’s me, Lucky!” John bent down and peered through his side of the peep hole. John was the only person in the world who called her Lucky. He’d used that nick-name for her since High School when he’d made eight for eight at the foul line during the championship game with Butte while wearing a bobby-pin from her hair attached to the sleeve of his basketball uniform.
“You’re dead, John … go back to heaven,” Louise pleaded. Her words sounded silly even to her own ears.
John made a show of sniffing under his arms and then wrinkling his nose. “I know I smell bad,” he said laughing. “But by golly I ain’t dead yet … although with this breeze coming up it is getting deathly cold out here.”
The wind blew the parting in his hair to the opposite side showing the receding hairline that he was always trying to cover-up and suddenly Louise felt sorry for him and was tired of being alone.
            “If you’ve got mud on your shoes leave them on the porch,” she scolded. “I just mopped this floor this morning!”
A hundred thoughts were running through her head tugging and pulling on her subconscious trying to get her attention but she pushed them away. It was so good to have John home … she had missed him so badly. “I’ll run you a tub while you clean the fish,” she said. He kissed her cheek as he took fish out of the bag.
            Louise hummed a song as she filled the old claw-foot tub upstairs with water and added John’s favorite bath oil. Please don’t let this just be my imagination or a dream she closed her eyes and said a silent prayer. When she went back downstairs the house was empty and John was gone … if he had ever been there.
            Louise cried herself to sleep weary of a grief that could so cruelly distort even the most cherished memories of a dearly departed loved one. It was 4:19 AM when she opened her eyes. John stood over the bed staring down at her. There wasn’t time to scream.

-------2-------

            Sheriff Walker turned his head as the second deputy in less than ten minutes ran down the stairs from the bedroom and out the back door of the Porter residence. All the bedroom windows were open fresh air seemed to help. John felt queasy himself. Mrs. Porter had been his best friend’s widow. Seconds later, the sheriff could hear Trent Wilson stumbling and throwing-up in a pristine bed of marigolds and pansies. “Who the hell would want to butcher an old lady like that?” Chet Hunting, the Comanche County Coroner, asked. He and two assistants had just finished gathering up all the recognizable pieces of the woman and placing them in carefully labeled Ziploc freezer bags.
            “That’s what we are going to find out,” the sheriff responded.
The first deputy who had recovered somewhat from his sickness returned from inspecting the bathroom. “The bathtub was full but nobody ever climbed into it,” he said.
            “How do you know that?” Sheriff Walker knew Jimmy Chong was a born detective and was always amazed at how his simple but brilliant mind worked.
            “There were fresh towels on the rack next to the tub and none had been used, also the carpeted floor mat was dry if anyone wet had stepped on it, it should have been a little damp.” Jimmy shook his head. “It’s a shame to waste all that money.”
            “Run that past me again!” The sheriff was interested.
            “The tub was full of Diptyque bath oil, at least twenty dollars an ounce I figure Mrs. Porter must have planned on soaking in a hundred dollars’ worth of designer suds mixed with Epsom salts.”
            “Louise never had any trouble with her arthritis,” the sheriff considered. “It was John who liked to soak his feet and fall asleep in a hot bath.” After a moment he walked into the bathroom to check for himself. “I wonder who she filled the tub for.”

-------3-------

            There wasn’t a day that went by that Mary Joe Carlson didn’t think about that awful day at the end of March, and each time, she did she hated and despised herself. Timmy Johnson was just four years old and Mary had agreed to watch him while his mother went to a sewing class. He called her Maw-ree in an adorable child’s voice. It was a warm day for March and Mary watched as Timmy played with toy trucks in a sandbox her own children had long since outgrown. It was expected to be a hot summer and the irrigation company had turned the water into the canal that crossed the back of the yard the week before. The water was only three foot deep and Mary wasn’t worried even though there was no fence to keep toddlers away. Timmy was making motor sounds with his mouth and tongue as he drove the toy truck across a small mountain of sand and Mary laughed remembering her own children doing the same. She heard the phone ring inside the kitchen and decided to let Timmy play … she’d call back whoever was on the phone.
            Elisabeth Manning was sobbing. She’d just found a woman’s phone number in her husband’s wallet when she was doing laundry. Mary tried her best to console her best friend. “Don’t jump to conclusions, Beth,” she said. “Has Frank ever given you any cause to suspect that he might be having an affair?”
            “That’s just it,” Liz sobbed. “Lately he’s been dropping into the Red Rooster after work and I’ve smelled perfume on his collar several times.”
            “Did you ask him about it?” Mary decided to invite Liz over and filled a pot with water for coffee.
            “He claimed he stopped to help a drunken woman change a flat tire and she slobbered all over him while he was jacking up her car.”
            “Who was this woman?”
            “He said he didn’t know her, but the first time he tells me the story she was driving a car and the next time it was a pickup … you’d think if he spent all that time jacking up a vehicle he’d remember what kind of outfit it was!”
The coffee was done perking and Mary poured herself a cup while she listened to Liz describe other unusual things in her husband’s behavior … suddenly she remembered Timmy! “Liz I’ll call you back!”
The rest of the memory was a nightmare complete with echoing sounds and flashes of chilling light.
She ran outside and Timmy was not in the sandbox. Neither of her next door neighbors had seen him. Mary had run up and down the canal bank calling his name before someone finally called the sheriff’s office. First she feared he might have been abducted and then later prayed that he had been. Sheriff Walker and two volunteers pulled Timmy’s body from a culvert pipe where Vineyard Road crossed the canal just a hundred yards from her house.
No one, not even Timmy’s grieving mother blamed her and that somehow made it even worse. There were times that Mary wished she could die, but then that would be too easy … she needed to suffer for her negligence. She wanted to contract some horrible disease that would disfigure her face and leave her in terrible pain but sometimes she wondered if even that would be enough.
Mary walked out back past the sandbox with a basket of laundry ready to be hung on the line. Life has to go on … even for those who are not worthy. Suddenly she heard Timmy’s voice calling. “Help me!”
Mary dropped the basket of clothes on the grass and nearly fainted as blood rushed out of her head. “The voice came again. “Help me Maw-ree!”
Mary ran down the canal bank, her heart thumping wildly with cold terror and a kind of irrational second chance answer to her nightly prayers. She plunged into the water and swam into the culvert opening even though there was less than six inches of air-space as the water swept under the bridge. There was more room once the water passed the inside edge of the pipe and the bridge supports. Timmy clung to a piece of rebar jutting out from a concrete wall. “Hang on!” Mary screamed. “Don’t you dare let go!”
Timmy’s fingers slipped off the iron rod just before Mary reached him and he sank into the dark rushing water. “No,” Mary shrieked as she submerged and tried to locate him.
Ten minutes later, it felt like hours, Mary dragged herself out of the pipe wishing she had the guts to stay there and die. She was standing in rushing water up to her waist and moving toward the canal bank when she felt something grab her leg and pull her under. “Maw-ree,” a cold voice bubbled.

-------4-------

            Sheriff Walker couldn’t believe it; two murders in less than a week was a push even for Cloverdale. “You sure this wasn’t just an accident?” he asked Chet Hunting as they recovered Mary Joe Carlson’s body from a pool of flotsam and driftwood near a washed out bank.
            “No way,” the County Coroner said. “Mrs. Carlson didn’t drown she was strangled … even though the marks on her neck came from an awfully small person.”
            “How small?” Sheriff Walker was almost afraid to ask.
            “It couldn’t be a midget,” Chet said, “because their hands are near normal size. I’d say these marks came from a child three or four years old!”
            “What the Hell is going on in Cloverdale?” The sheriff took off his hat and slapped it against his leg like he was trying to rid himself of some kind of clinging dust.
            “I don’t know but I think you’d better be finding out,” the coroner said. “Plenty of people are going to be asking you that same question.”

-------5-------

                        Leston Neville gripped the steering wheel tightly to keep the old Dodge truck from creeping into the borrow-pit as he bounced along the back-roads of Comanche County. It was past four AM. There was a time when he had made modest money repairing autos, now he just didn’t give a damn and he let his own vehicles fall into pathetic disrepair. The one-gallon ceramic containers filled with homemade corn-whiskey in the back rattled together each time he hit a bump in the road. Life wasn’t worth living without Wendy and Leston drank as much moonshine as he sold. There were three more stops to make and he could go home … but home was just a place to sleep out of the rain … a place to cry without being seen.
            Even though they barely made enough money to pay taxes on the forty wooded acres and somehow feed themselves he and Wendy were thrilled when they found out she was pregnant. Wendy scoured the second hand stores and gathered enough material to make several baby outfits hand-sewn by candlelight after her chores were done. Leston made a cradle out of un-split lengths of kindling wood and even though one of the rockers was off center, Wendy had tears in her eyes when she told him he was going to be the world’s best daddy.
            Leston was beginning to nod off and he jerked the wheel sharply when he felt the right front tire leave the gravel. The truck skidded sideways but he got things under control. There was no money for a doctor and Wendy had decided to have the baby at home. “It’s the most natural thing there is,” she’d told him. What she didn’t say was that it was almost as natural as dying.
Leston knew something was terribly wrong when after a full afternoon and one whole night of agonizing labor Wendy still hadn’t delivered. At 3 AM when she finally began to scream and he saw all the blood he loaded her into the truck and drove hell bent for town. It was the first of March and the last snowstorm of the winter was raging across Western Montana. The belt that ran the generator for the truck lights broke and Leston frantically made one out of twisted twine. When that broke with less than nine miles to go he decided to drive by moonlight. The truck tires were bald and snowdrifts were beginning to cover all the open areas between the clumps of trees.
Leston didn’t see the fleeing deer until it was too late and the truck hit one and skidded off the road. He tried frantically to push the truck from the deep snow with his bare hands all the while listening to Wendy scream and knowing there was no way he could help her. Then like a miracle that comes out of the sky with a host of singing angels, car lights appeared in the distance. Leston wrapped Wendy in a blanket and stood in the center of the road waiting for the vehicle to arrive.
When the car, a forty-something black Ford coupe with one downward pointing headlight began to slow Leston moved off the side of the road and was horrified when instead of stopping … it sped up. Leston was so distraught that he began to run after the car with Wendy in his arms. He ran until his lungs felt ready to burst and then he ran until he coughed up blood. At least Wendy had stopped screaming. More than an hour later he saw lights from a house and somehow struggled up to the door. He was delirious and later learned the farmer and his wife had to use warm water to pry Wendy’s frozen body out of his arms. The baby had tried to come out the wrong way and had gotten caught. It would have been a boy.
There was no money for the funeral or the two coffins … so the church took up a collection. A month later Leston was still climbing out of a hellishly deep canyon of depression and decided to sell his mechanic tools, buy alcohol distilling equipment from Fred Hicks and keep steady company with the comforting spirits. They’d been together morning, noon and night going on three weeks. Like all good marriages this was till death do we part. He could still hear Wendy’s screams when he closed his eyes but they weren’t as loud.
Leston was beginning to nod off again. He forced his eyes to open wider. Off in the distance he could see car lights. Something about the way they shined looked familiar … he felt his teeth grind together hard enough to chip the enamel. A black Ford coupe with one downward pointing headlight rounded the bend and came right toward him. This time it didn’t thunder on past but stopped dead in the road.
Fiery rage swept over Leston as he stopped and reached for the sawed-off ten-gage shotgun he kept behind the seat. The door to the Ford opened when he was still two yards away and bringing the barrel up level. Wendy leaned out and stared at him with black lifeless eyes. “Hurry,” she said. “We’ve got to get our baby to town to see the doctor.” Something about her smile made his blood run cold.
Leston could see a blood smeared newborn infant wrapped in a tablecloth on the seat next to her. He wasn’t completely out of his mind. It wasn’t alive … and neither was she. He knew it was wrong as he threw the gun over a fence and walked around to the passenger side of the Ford and climbed in … there was still no money for a funeral … but he just didn’t care anymore.

TO BE CONTINUED …



           



Sunday, June 4, 2017

KINGDOM of the ANTS part 4

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


KINGDOM
of the
ANTS
Part 4
By R. Peterson

Mayor Otter looked everywhere for her missing daughter Joanie. By the time she called an emergency meeting of the PTA Ladies for Student Development (LSD) in the library she was frantic. “I don’t know where my daughter is and our city is under attack by an army of ants! You’ve got to help me find her!”
            “I saw Joanie and some of her strange friends hitchhiking north on Vineyard Road earlier this evening,” Madeline Bird said taking off her pink cowgirl hat and slapping it on her bulging thigh. “The ashes from these damn fires in town are getting into everything … I’ll bet they were headed to Black Rose Cemetery.”
            “Why would my daughter want to spend Saturday night in a graveyard?” The mayor looked as if Mattie’s answer was the dumbest thing she’d ever heard of.
            “I don’t know …” Madeline grinned. “… run around naked, smoke grass, have group sex … kids are wild these days. Why do we sit down here consulting an Ouija Board every Tuesday night?”
            “I’m too upset to get behind a wheel,” the mayor said. “Can someone drive me to the cemetery to see if Joanie’s okay?”
            “Sheriff Walker has Vineyard Road blocked off,” Ermine Crane opened a box of powdered donuts and set them on the table - taking three for herself. “He ain’t letting nobody down that road cause that’s where the killer-ants went.”
            “He’ll let me through!” Margaret was indignant. “I’m the mayor and I’m his boss. He works for me!”
            “Sheriff Walker don’t work for the city, he works for Comanche County like his dad, his grandpa and his dad’s grandpa. A Walker has always been sheriff of this valley for a hundred and fifty years … ever since our first sheriff Thomas Lang ran off and left Elisabeth Walker back in 1886,” Doris Hicks said. “It’s all a matter of public record … look at my files if you don’t believe me.”
            “If anyone knows the history of Cloverdale, you do Doris, and if you say the records are in your library we believe you,” Mattie was trying to make peace. “Why don’t we ask Hermie where Joanie is?”
            “You want to consult an Ouija Board right here … right now?” Mary Martin looked scared … but then she always did. “Reverend White told me Hermie is just another name for the Devil and we’ll all pay the price if we continue to yield to his temptations.”
            “Old split-hoof hasn’t tempted me yet,” Sally McBride said reaching for another donut. “But if he did, I’d be sure to yield … probably even stop and back up!” Most of the ladies laughed.
            “With everything going on tonight, I just have to know my daughter is okay!” The mayor followed the other ladies into the basement of the library. “It’s awful cold down here maybe we should start the coal furnace.” Ermine Crane agreed, and she and Lucille Morgan started the fire. “If Hermie don’t know what has happened to her then we’re going out there okay?” Everyone agreed.
The ladies lit nine candles in the room and then turned out the lights.
            “Hermie knows everything,” Madeline said. “He told me about Bill shacking up with that bitch who works at the Red Rooster even when I didn’t want to hear it.” She sat with the others after they’d placed the Ouija board on the table and placed her fingers on the Planchette.  “I’m all for doing this Margie; I know what Joanie means to you … but I’m warning you that you might find out some things that you don’t want to know!” A sudden silence filled the room almost like a funeral of mourners just before a family prayer.
            “Hermie, are you here?” The mayor asked. The ladies watched as the pointer slowly moved to YES.
            “Can you tell us where Joanie Otter is?” Madeline blurted. They all watched in frustration as the pointer once again moved to YES.
            “Tell me where my daughter is … show us the damn place,” the mayor demanded.
All of the ladies gasped after the pointer slowly spelled out D E A T H.
Mary Martin was the first to shriek as smoke from one of the candles spread outward forming a black and white hologram against the far wall. The horrible flickering image showed Joanie sprawled naked on withered grass. Bloody iron spikes had been driven through her outstretched hands and legs. Mayor Otter screamed along with the rest, and then fainted.
            “Never again,” Ermine bawled. “I’ll never tempt Satan again … I swear.”
            “I should have listened to God and Reverend White!” Mary sobbed as she held her head in her hands.
            “Get rid of that thing NOW!” Three of the ladies screamed.
Madeline put on a pair of garden gloves before she picked up the Ouija board and the Planchette. Sally McBride held the hatch to the coal furnace open while Madeline tossed the oracle inside. A collective sigh of relief swept the room as through the opening they could see the board catch fire and begin to burn.
            “Let’s hope Hermie was wrong, Joanie comes home and that now our troubles are over,” Madeline said taking off the gloves and tossing them on the flames also. “I know I promised, but I really don’t want to have to go to Black Rose Cemetery tonight.” Then she slammed shut the furnace door.

-------2-------

The ground shook and a ball of fire rose from the flat stone where Marsha (Baby Bat) had sketched-in the Ouija Board markings with chalk. The homemade wooden pointer spun upward into the air just missing Ham’s 1938 Adler Damenrad ladies’ bicycle circling overhead. An invisible white-hot laser appeared to be burning the symbols into the rock. “What’s the meaning of this?” Ham was furious.
“It means Týr continuare,” Marsha said. “The battle isn’t over … and you haven’t won yet!”
“Cloverbone is no more,” Ham said. “You all belong to me and we will not wait forever for doom to arrive. It will take more than words written in stone to stop me!” She leaped from her perch at the top of the gravestone and pranced toward where a naked Joanie lay stretched out on the grass. Four Blowfish armed with sharpened railroad spikes and wooden mallets were ready to crucify her on the ground. “When you hear her screams you’ll know the battle is over!”
Suddenly every Goth face in the cemetery stared toward the stone that the Ouija Board image had burned into. A dark shadow, so black it glowed in the night, rose from the grave and hovered over the stone. There were no visible features, but the image of a woman wearing long robes was unmistakable. “Prepare again for sudden death,” a low voice moaned.
“Rose? Is that you?”  Baby Bat could not contain her astonishment.
“Hush child!” the voice said, “and close your eyes for some things were not meant to be seem by the living.”
“Close your eyes,” Marsha called out. “Everyone close your eyes.”
The new order was picked up and repeated by all the captured former Cloverbone members.
“Crucify her now!” Ham screeched as she stood over Joanie’s body. “We’ve come too far to fall for dark smoke and a few blind tricks.” She looked at the captured spoons and the new matching rings on her fingers. “After Cloverbone dies, we might have to do some thinning in our new ranks.”
No one noticed the homemade wooden pointer spinning in the air as it plunked back down onto the still hot stone and began to move across the smoking letters and symbols. Heat from the rock charred the edges of the wood as it spelled out T Y R E.
One of the blowfish, a husky fork named Scratch positioned a railroad spike of Joanie’s left palm and lifted the wooden mallet high over his head. He licked his lips as he stared at her naked body. “I might have a little fun with you once you’re pinned … and before you bleed out,” he leaned close to her ear and whispered.
Joanie moaned and closed her eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she shouted to her friends. “I’ve ruined everything and placed everyone in danger.”
Scratch had just started a vicious downward thrust when thousands of ants swarmed up his arm and caused him to drop the mallet. In seconds, all the flesh on his arm was stripped to bone. The other members of Abra Cadaver holding Joanie’s arms and legs screamed as millions of insects swarmed over them like a blanket. Black Rose Cemetery had suddenly become a battleground.
            Ham was aware of a light glowing from the entrance to the cemetery. A dark figure stood holding a glowing crystal high above its head. “Who are you?” Ham demanded above the agonized cries of Abra Cadaver.
            “I am doom,” the voice replied.

-------3-------


            Sherriff Walker and a deputy responded to a call of screams coming from a house just outside Cloverdale. At first they thought it might be another case of ants terrorizing people, but as they neared the property there seemed to be no sign of the devastation always present in the insect attacks. The electricity was off to the house and the sheriff thought it strange since the power had been restored to the rest of the city and county residences.
            They entered the house using flashlights and found two teenage boys unconscious but apparently unharmed on the kitchen floor along with a bloody butcher-knife and a video camera. There were definite signs of a struggle and blood was on the floor. “She attacked us and took the crystal!” Kent Lopez blurted when the deputy woke them up with water splashed on their faces. Scotty held up a cut finger that didn’t match the amount of blood pooled on the floor.
            “Who did?” Alarms were going off in Sheriff Walker’s head.
            “Sheryl Bliss,” Scotty said. “We thought she was going to kill us!”
The sheriff looked at the address on the report … this was the Bliss residence. He pointed to the camera lying on the floor. “Is that yours?”
            “My dad’s,” Scotty said, and then he added sheepishly. “We were only having a little fun!”
            “Well then let’s see what your fun looks like shall we?” Sheriff Walker picked up the camera, looked at the three-inch screen built into the viewfinder and then pressed rewind and play.
            “My God!” Sheriff Walker put handcuffs on both boys when the video was only half finished. “How many times did you stab her?”
            “I lost count,” Scotty said. “She grabbed ahold of the crystal hanging around my neck and instead of dying like we planned, she seemed to get stronger and stronger.”
            “She forced us to tell her about the movie, about the initiation into Cloverbone and everything,” Kent sobbed.
            “What the hell is Cloverbone?” The deputy jerked Kent to his feet.
            “You boys been shooting a little LSD?” the sheriff joked as he dragged them outside.
            “We only smoked a couple of joints,” Kent explained.
            “Soaked in PCP,” Scotty added.
            “But we ain’t messed up any at all,” Kent insisted.
            “You will be when the DA gets through with you!” the sheriff told them as he tossed them into the backseat of his car. “So you’d better tell us what you did with her body right now!”

-------4-------

            “This is a closed fight!” Ham screamed when the dark hooded figure moved toward her. “I know that you are not from Abra Cadaver and if you’re not a member of Cloverbone … get out now!”
            “I’m here for a Black Wedding,” the figure said. “And I plan to dip my tongue in Cloverbone tar … if they will allow me!”
Babybat helped Joanie to her feet while the Blowfish were busy battling the ants … and losing.
            “I know you from school and I’ve seen that crystal before,” Joanie said walking toward the figure. “Sheryl Bliss isn’t it … what are you doing here?”
Sheryl pulled back the hood showing shoulder length hair that had been dyed midnight black. With a sweep of her hand the ants stopped their attack and moved beyond the fence surrounding Black Rose. “Kent Lopez and Scotty Target tried to kill me tonight in order to make a movie and get blood for one of your rituals,” she said. “I had to torture them both but I think I know what’s going on here. They were going to join Cloverbone and needed a little virgin blood smeared on a crystal in order to take the vows. Their plan wouldn’t have worked … unfortunately I’m far from a virgin but I’m almost certain Scotty Target is.” Sheryl handed the blood smeared crystal to Joanie. “I’ve been researching Goth culture for the past year and I’d like to be your newest member if you will allow it!”
            “There is no more Cloverbone! I have destroyed it!” Ham insisted.
Joanie and Babybat both looked at each other. “If the two unconquered members will agree!” All of the former Cloverbone cult members looked toward the large flat rock covered Black Rose’s grave. The ghostly figure of Rose appeared to loom over the stone. With an eerie screeching sound the wooden pointed moved to YES. “Done!” they both shouted at the same time. “Joanie handed the crystal back to Sheryl. “Defend our sanctuary!” she ordered.
            “I demand a Blood Battle!” Sheryl yelled. “Al di là di qualsiasi dubbio!”
            “You are but one and we are more than forty,” Ham hissed. “There are no prisoners in a Blood Battle … only corpses!”
            “Bring it on!” Sheryl told the reigning Doom Queen from Salt Lake City.
All forty Blowfish brandished sharpened forks and charged Sheryl from all sides. She held the crystal high above her head and closed her eyes. With a flash of ethereal power all of the attackers were blown outward, tumbling head over heels in a mass of flaying arms and legs. A horrified Ham gaped as her antique bicycle plunged from the sky and landed on her head.
All the members of a reinstated Cloverbone turned their back on Sheryl and hissed to let her know she was now one of them. The important rituals would come later. “I’ll dip my tongue in tar when I return,” Sheryl promised. “These creatures…” she gestured toward the ants. “Don’t belong here. Their realm of power is on the western side of Crystal Mountain and I must restore order to all things.”
            “Are you going to let them go?” Babybat asked Joanie as they watched the surviving Blowfish push a shrieking Ham out of the cemetery on her damaged bicycle. One pedal was twisted and bent like a pretzel.
            “I almost have to,” Joanie said. “If we want to have Týr next moon phase. We are so strong now we might have to challenge the covens in London or San Diego.”
            “So what do we call you?” Babybat asked Sheryl as she gathered her army of insects and prepared to leave the cemetery.
            “I’m only a year older than you but why don’t you call me … Aunty!” Sheryl laughed.

-------5-------

            It had been a week since the city of Cloverdale had been attacked by the ants. It was Tuesday night and the PTA Ladies for Student Development were once again meeting in the Comanche County Library. Mayor Margaret Otter was just banging a gavel to bring the group to order when Madeline Bird rushed in with a box of powdered donuts. “Sorry I’m late,” she stammered. “But I just drove past the Red Rooster and I saw Bill’s truck parked next to that slut JoAnn Blowjob’s camp trailer. With Joanie home safe now and everything … I’m sorry now that we burned your daughter’s Ouija Board. Hermie may be from Hell, but you have to admit he did help us keep our husbands and boyfriends in line.”
            “I thought about that too,” Ermine Crane said. “That’s why I drove to Missoula and picked up another.” Mary Martin looked ready to faint as Ermine slid the Parker’s Brother’s Mystifying Oracle out of the cardboard box. The rest of the ladies clapped. “And look! This new Planchette glows in the dark!”
            “Bill has a box of condoms that does that!” Madeline laughed, then she remembered JoAnn Swartz the new waitress at Spare-A-Dime and her face grew determined and ugly.
The ladies were just tromping down the stairs, two of them dragging Mary, when the lights suddenly went out. Ten seconds later Mayor Otter had a candle lit and the wide-eyed and nervous ladies followed her down the stairs. They all heard what sounded like large animal breathing coming from the dark corners. “Don’t worry,’ Madeline said as they moved toward the dusty round table. “I’m sure it’s just Hermie … you know how that little devil likes to make our time together exciting and special!”


THE END ?