Tag Archives: Horror

THE DEALER

“I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen if you go to the hospital in order to save you some time. First, they’ll take some tests, stick needles into you, give you some saline and sedatives, pump your stomach and slide a catheter into your dick. None of which will be pleasant under your current condition of duress. None of which will work.”

I got high with a couple friends eight days ago. Ecstasy and a little bit of coke, nothing crazy. But we haven’t been able to come down since. None of us. Drinking wouldn’t do anything. Sleeping pills? Forget it. Wasn’t able to sleep at all, barely could eat. Called into work. Couldn’t drive. And it was getting worse. Had to go back to the source, the source that was this voice over the phone.

“And when they don’t find anything physically wrong with you they’ll bring you to the next step: psychological evaluation. Welcome to the psyche ward. By this time you’ll be so aggravated that they might consider you a danger to yourself and others and that’s ninety days right off the hop. Either way, you keep up this ‘I’m high and I can’t come down’ story and they’ll keep you in for 72 hours at first for observation, then two weeks, then a month. Jesus, a month in the loony bin is enough to drive anyone insane, especially one who is already fucked up on what nobody else can see or detect and God knows what else they’ll make you swallow and how that’s going to react with what you’ve already ingested. The drug is a ghost. One that only you see. I made it that way.”

Went to Derek’s. He was way worse than I was. Kept shouting that he needed Christ. Yeah, got it. Sarah couldn’t even look at me; she was in some catatonic state. Kept pulling at her hair and clawing at her own face. Something had to be done. None of us wanted to go to the hospital and admit what we were on. Our episode would go on public record. Future employers would see it. Cops, family –it was a no go. But when it got to the point where that didn’t matter anymore that’s when the fucking phone rang. Guess who it was?

“Am I painting a somber picture here of how things are going to go? Because I can give you names of people just like you that are still there, wasting away in some hospital basement without the ability to even construct a sentence. Or what about the ones that saw it coming and decided to take things into their own hands not bearing the thought of eventually becoming a vegetable that nobody gives a fuck about. Nah, not them. Smart ones, you see?”

The dealer. Like he was reading my mind. Just like that. And things got worse the more he talked until it made the trip I was on the least of my fucking problems. But why? Derek and Sarah were already falling apart and would probably never recover. What was it worth to ruin people’s lives like this? The answer I got made me realize that my problems were just starting because if I was looking for empathy I was in the belly of the wrong beast.

“Why you guys? Motherfucker, why not? You got high off my shit and now I control you and that is the way it goes. I’ve built this. I’ve got designs. Nobody asks where it comes from anymore so this gets easier all the time and I’m aiming even higher. Ha, get it? Remember that I control you because I control how you feel now. I can make it good just like the very first time you ever dropped, or I can make it so bad that you’ll want to die. Just die. That’s all. We all know how lonely and final it can all be. Just one little tweak and your whole narrative will change.”

What do you want?

“Now we come to the point. What do I want? Well, that all depends on what you want, my new friend. You want out of this? You want to be able to go back to your job, your family, your girl or guy or whatever the fuck you’re into? I need you to do something for me and I’ll make it stop. Are you ready to listen? Do I have your full attention?”

Yes. I’m listening.

“Good, cause there’s this party coming up and you’re bringing the treats.”

 

Part 1 of 2. Catch Part 2 Here: The Party Drug

Horror Flash Fiction #10: Looking For Victoria

Johnny Spirit sat beneath the bridge downtown beside the tracks on an old battered mattress placed among train cars splattered with graffiti. He took from his coat pocket the handful of mushroom caps that Evil Jesus had given him, popped them into his mouth and began to chew on what tasted like pliable copper. Unlike most he was loath to do it as they made his mind a train-wreck and the come down was unnecessary but he needed them to get tonight’s job done. They let him get far enough into the thin veil that separated all things to where his own natural abilities would kick in and take it from there. It was very much like jump-starting a vehicle in the dead of winter.

Far across the silent, broad street under the sole streetlamp a fire burned high in a rusted steel barrel. Beyond it on the facade of an abandoned factory a doorway led into darkness. Something bad had happened there not long ago into the past or perhaps into the future. It was hard to tell and it wasn’t his business unless someone paid him which was why Johnny was here to begin with. He needed to eat, pay rent and maybe get a bottle of Jack to help manage his own demons.

After a half-hour had passed in silence the mushrooms started to kick in. Johnny felt nauseous and cold. His thoughts took shapes of their own and took him to places he needed to forget but simply could not and it was all part of the trip:

Her face appeared again like it did every time he closed his eyes. She was laughing as she danced between trees drenched in soft summer’s eve light.

The image faded, replaced by another of her some time later -the same lovely face contorted into a mask of anguish as she screamed for him to leave, followed by the heavy presence of silence and emptiness that had since remained like a long, dark hallway.

No…I’m sorry, Sweetheart. I’m so sorry for what happened to us.

Then came the little apartment room swallowing Johnny up to the moment that he was trapped with the elfish nymphet happily hurling bottles at his face as she laughed at him and at his pain. She was all scars, stitches and rage under a barrage of flower tattoos -a girl that was nothing but damaged and as such had damaged Johnny in return by trying to love him the way that others had taught her.

Some people’s sickness you can’t see until it’s far too late.

Again his world transformed to become the burnt-out husk of their house after the fire where everything was blackened and wet as he wandered through alone in the night still clearly recalling the kaleidoscopic din of sirens and lights. It was a place that he had never really left and Johnny hated himself for it just like he hated the four walls he lived in and despised even more the need to ever leave it and walk out into the brutally confusing world.

Johnny, get a grip. You’ve got work to do.

Johnny jerked his head up, opened his eyes and forced himself into the present. He had to own this trip or it wouldn’t work. The nausea dissipated and he couldn’t feel the cold or anything else now as he experienced the weightlessness that was the dominion of dreams. It was how Johnny knew that it was time. He needed to find the girl in blue by the station as it was Johnny’s ticket to where he wanted to go tonight.

Johnny began to walk in the direction his mind told him to go and it wasn’t long before he heard steps falling, skipping along beside him. He turned to face a girl of about twelve whose light-blue dress and dancing shoes spoke of how long she had been residing here unseen except for when she needed or wanted to be.

“Do you think I’m pretty?” She asked.

“I’m bad, but not like that.” Johnny replied as he lit a cigarette. The act of it taking more of his concentration then it had a right to. “I’m not interested in that or in you in general, not really anyway.”

Johnny felt sorry for the girl as he took in her dead visage, her pale dead legs beneath her tattered dress, her pale dead everything. He wondered how many of the missing have fallen to her in these parts in this town.

“You sure know how to talk to a lady.” She crossed her arms.

“I’m looking for Victoria.”

“Oh? And what do you know about Victoria?”

“She’s been hurting some of my friends and I want her to stop. I thought that things might be better off if her and I had a conversation in private.”

The girl’s laughter was humorless and beyond her years. “What makes you think that I would help you?”

Johnny reached into his pocket. “Because she takes possibilities away from you. Help me, and I’ll help you. All I want is some information and in return I’ll give you this.”

Johnny pulled out a small black key and handed it to her. The girl knew what it really was and smiled. She nodded over to where Johnny came from, to the barrel fire and the door behind that led into a very bad place judging from the feel of it.

“I think you already know where to find her.”

Johnny looked over to see that the fire was still burning like a beacon. There was still nobody tending it. And the door was still open like an unanswered invitation. “Fuck.” He said.

“Not for you. Not tonight. Not if you go in there.” The girl cupped her mouth and giggled.

“A grand says I do.” Johnny turned and started walking.

“Oh, poor Johnny.” He heard from somewhere behind him. “She’s not really the one your looking for, is she?”

The War Veteran

Johnny had his face in his iPhone.
He didn’t see the crippled old war veteran
lying like litter on the sidewalk
in a beaten parka begging for change.

“Get out of my way, you filthy bum!”
Johnny was disgusted. The city should do a better job
of keeping this scum out of his sight.

As Johnny went to kick the man’s legs
to teach him a lesson
the old man’s hand reached out
and seized Johnny by the ankle
for while this particular veteran had lost everything
along the way he had obtained a very special gift
and today it would be Johnny who was the one
receiving the lesson
of a lifetime.

Everything went dark and quiet but for only a moment.
Johnny opened his eyes but didn’t remember closing them.

He wasn’t downtown anymore.
Instead Johnny was in a rice field and his ankles were all wet
the air was stifling hot with no breeze
large insects buzzed all around him and he could
smell his own sweat along with cow shit
but he didn’t have time to feel disgusted again.

A large boom displaced the air all around him as
further up the way
the entire tree line disappeared beneath
a wall of mushrooming fire
as jets roared past overhead.

Johnny’s eyes widened as the heat hit him and as
dozens of men came running out towards him screaming
all completely covered in crawling flames.

Johnny could smell their skin burning
when the barrage of endless bullets began
whipping right past his head and
cutting down the men Johnny realized
where all around him
scared just like him –men that
he went to basic training with
that he played cards with
men that were like his brothers.

The way that his best friend’s body
twitched as it was riddled with bullets
made him look like a dancing puppet
and it might have been funny as Hell
if it didn’t break Johnny’s heart.

Bombs exploded dirt high into the sky
that came raining back down all around him.
Then another hit…and another
closer and closer each time.

Johnny turned his head to look behind him.
A boy, must have been only seventeen
a new recruit that Johnny knew well
was seated on the ground trying to hold his guts in
screaming for his momma.

Men in straw hats came running out of the forest
fire spouted in rapid succession from the barrels of their guns.
They were all around him coming in fast.
Johnny was paralyzed with fear
his bladder let go inside of his pants when
the sergeant –a large shirtless man wearing a cowboy hat
calmly smoking a cigar
came up to Johnny and slapped him:

“Don’t you dare wet yourself on my field, soldier. You worthless piece of wet chicken shit I’ll hand you over to Charlie myself and you’ll get ass-banged all the way to Goddamn China if you don’t get a grip on your gun and DO WHAT YOU”RE TRAINED TO DO!! We’ve got to take this damned village or we’ll all be sucking bamboo dicks for the next ten years so get your Sally-ass shit together and make yourself GOD-DAMN USEFUL! GET TO KILL’N SOME COMMUNISTS! YOU WANT TO MAKE IT HOME SOME DAY THEN START MOVING! THE ONLY WAY OUT IS FORWARD AND THROUGH THESE SHITBAGS!”

The sergeant was the scariest person Johnny had ever seen
he was obviously completely insane
and made Johnny want to run into the fire just to escape his presence.
Instead the sergeant pushed Johnny forward and at that moment
Johnny somehow knew that he had spent over a year
in this Hell and there was no respite from it
not day or night
it would just continue on and on.

Johnny’s Mom wasn’t going to be able to
bail him out of this there was no one
there was nothing but him and his gun and
he was going to die or go mad in this man-made Hell
where everything was burning and filthy and all covered in
grease and blood and where everyone wanted you dead
and the only thing worse than the insects was the heat
and the constant endless stream of enemies.

This was a reality that he had never had to feel
or know was real and Johnny just couldn’t handle it.
Johnny just wanted to go home and hide under his bed.

Johnny leaned over and vomited
then vomited some more
as the sounds of passing cars and people
laughing returned and Johnny opened his eyes
realizing that he was in the middle of the sidewalk
crying, having wet his pants and now
retching his insides out in front of a
group of Japanese tourists.

Johnny ducked into a nearby alley
and leaned back against the cold brick wall
shivering and still crying.

The last thig he remembered before all this was
the man…the old man…
The war veteran.

The old man climbed up into his wheelchair and
quietly rolled himself down towards the harbor.

He had found some bread to feed the gulls with.

It was getting late and the view of the water
at sunset always made him feel at peace.

Games The Dead Play

Jackson with the long blonde hair
Hollywood smile
badass black leather jacket and slim frame
gracing the kitchen at a party

I was watching him
from the living room
making some beautiful girl laugh
playing it all up smooth as
silk rippling in a fine french wind
but that was Jackson
last I remember
the thing about this was
that he’s been dead
for fourteen years

Don’t tell me that I’m
crazy or mistaken
it was him all right
the way he moved and tilted his head
when he laughed and looked away

Hell, I could see the scar on his right cheek
from here
I gave it to him when we were sixteen
with a bowie knife
that was supposed to hit a tree

Best days of my youth were
spent that last summer
before his funeral when
we were all seventeen and
all we did was skateboard
drink whiskey
get high

He got all the girls’ numbers
every single one of them
you had to hate a guy like that
if you didn’t like him so much
because Jackson had all the charisma
that the rest of us didn’t he was as pleasing
as a Beatles melody
with his laughter his calm eyes his lack of caring

He was one of those guys that would never die
but then one day he did

I remember well
the way his mother cried at his
open casket
his ashen gray face with the
lips sewn together

When you see someone you know
in such a manner
with all the light gone
their dormant body
just looks like a
cheap rubber suit

Now here we are and
there he is
glancing at me all nonchalant

This even isn’t the first time
I’ve seen him
yeah, he’s been here and there at
parties, festivals, bake sales

I put it all together a while back
that he’s been watching me
following me
but for what?

It appeared there was a game afoot
which rules I did not fully understand

Well, having had enough of this
it was finally time to find out
and get some answers from the
dead man himself
so I set my glass down
and made my way towards the kitchen

Jackson lit a smoke as I approached
now that he was alone
leaning up against the fridge

For a moment he just looked at me
and I felt that I must be losing
all my marbles and that
it wasn’t him at all
but then

flashing that signature Hollywood smile

“What took you so long?” He said.

Dad, Have You Seen My Scooter?

Life at times can unrelentingly kick your ass
without ever offering an explanation for it and
then brutally punish you for being desperate
until the world flips over gravity undoes itself and all of
the universe unravels in your lap

and this all occurs when you are
unfocused or not paying attention
like day-dreaming behind the wheel
missing where you were supposed to turn
and ending up in a ravine
or it occurs while performing a simple task
such as, let’s say
unpacking a box of used tools.

This was just after the divorce
it was rather messy
the entrails of our marriage
was still a burning trash heap of
screaming unsettled emotions
wailing sirens and tears

and so there was the new (but somebody’s old) house
seems like somebody left in a hurry
it was messy neglected and needed some care
but that would all be done

It was old but large and on a corner lot
not far from the school
not that far from work

Sometimes in bed
I would hear things at night
but you just had to get used to
how the house settled

And what a deal it was
when I had so little to put down
instead of asking questions I
counted my blessings

whatever was wrong with it I could fix
the only thing that mattered now was
that I had custody of Brian
as long as I had that and
we had a place to live and to call home
then it would all be okay
eventually

This was a fresh start
a new coat of paint over everything
and I was just starting to embrace it
on a overcast Saturday afternoon
in our long open basement
aimlessly sorting through a box of tools
when gliding into the room like a newborn superhero
came my son draped head to toe in last year’s
black hooded reaper Halloween costume upon his silver
adjustable kid’s pro stunt scooter

I smiled a little remembering his face
when he opened it last Christmas
until I realized that he was going too fast
and was sure to speed right into the
darkened backroom that was little more than a
closet that housed the water heater

He paid no attention to where he was going being
too busy looking at me bending down on his knees
swinging himself around and
off to the side showing off
laughing like he was super high on chocolate
having the time of his life

only when he was
halfway across the long room
did I realize how unsettling
his way-past giddy laughter was
and how strange his movements were

As I opened my mouth to say something to
the little rock star like ‘calm down!’
the body beneath the black reaper robe
swung down like a pendulum
so low that it was almost even with the leg board
much further then could be possible
having a spine or bones or even skin but as quickly
it stood back up to become the form of Brian again

nothing came out of my mouth
it was rather dry
my mind was busy trying to piece together
a logical explanation but
was not doing a very good job

The laughter continued –louder and higher
the scooter passed right in front of me now
closer to the darkness of the doorway

The cloak swooped down again
now inches from the ground
rippling like a water serpent then
viciously whipping about as though it were caught in the
maw of an over-excited alligator

the laughter came faster and faster
-a tea kettle pitching higher
and higher until ‘POP!’

the robe suddenly swooshed up and away
into mid-air floating dreamily before falling flat
revealing that there was nothing
but the scooter underneath which then
riding solo
sped up straight into the back room
where I heard it crash into the concrete wall

I cannot express enough that, as a parent
it is probably the most terrifying thing
to watch as your child suddenly loses
all of their bones and turns into a
a gelatinous pile of goo
or a rippling flag of black that disappears altogether
in complete daylight

There was something stuck in my throat
pretty sure that it was a scream
and it would not come out because there
was no air there was nothing but the
dropping of my stomach as my mind raced
to try and find something that would
make sense out of what I had just seen

after a full minute of not breathing
I finally managed to gasp
as my son rushed into the room
red-faced flushed from running

“Dad, have you seen my scooter?”

The Disappearing Factory Across The Street

“RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP!”
Good ol’ Eddie always banging on my door
with a cold beer on a Saturday afternoon.

He was here to talk about the humming again
the strange sound of machinery in the air
where there was no manufacturing plant for miles
we all heard it increasingly over the summer months
and of course Eddie was the expert on what it was.

The field across the street from our house
at the center of our neighborhood
that has been barren since we moved in
five years ago
was once an old factory
that had burned down decades ago
nobody survived
not even the foundation remains
every project to reclaim the space had
simply failed.

The humming came from the factory that once was there
according to Eddie who had chatrooms
about it on his phone
forums, blogs and other obscure articles.

According to town legend
every so often a great storm would come
to tear down the veil between the known
and the unknown and during this time
the whole entire factory appeared
to take over the field once again
like a ghost ship but with
an employee committee.

“That makes no sense at all, Eddie.” I’d say,
“Things like that don’t happen in real life.
it’s just a ghost story meant to attract tourists.”

But it was real enough to Eddie; he’s dreamt about it
his wife was concerned and the cats avoided him
he was becoming increasingly obsessed
as the humming became louder.

“Can’t you hear it? It’s every day now. It’s coming back. Soon. I can feel it in my bones.”
“I think that might be the beer…or maybe cancer.” I replied.

The only live witness that Eddie could muster
to having actually ever seen the factory was Bayou Billy
who lived on the corner but that his dog had died
of a Methamphetamine overdose
three weeks ago and the fact that the
thing was still lying dead on his front lawn
chained to a tree like it
was in any condition to escape
did not make him the most reliable witness
and also he was blind.

I had decided that Eddie was delusional
but on certain nights when we all could hear
the low rumbling sound of machinery
coming out from everywhere
it did kind of have me spooked.

Then the day came when he finally did prove me wrong and man
it was like the end of the world
during the World Series
a huge strangely intense storm was in full force
the cat got blown off the porch hours ago and

“RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP!”
I opened the door and there was Eddie
soaking wet screaming -I could barely hear him
because towering behind him
where the field always was
there loomed a gigantic menacing brick building
that took up the entire wall of my vision
an utter monstrosity
and I could hear it so loud
producing God knows what
from God knows where.

“I TOLD YOU! I KNEW IT WOULD COME! COME ON LET’S GO INSIDE!”
Eddie practically dragged me from my porch and across the street
I had no words but his face lit up like a crackhead at Crack Christmas
I tried to pull him back
something was wrong with this place
other than that it was actually there to begin with
Eddie didn’t see what I saw
the way the factory looked like a yawning death trap
from a terrible nightmare or a thousand-year Reich
the jagged surfaces jutting out in impossible angles
that sole figure looking down at me
how it waved at me
it would always give me nightmares.

But Eddie would hear none of it
“I NEED TO GO IN! I NEED TO SEE IT!” was all he shouted
he broke my grip and
ran into one of the many doors
it seemed that at that moment the storm stopped
and the factory disappeared
and so did Eddie.

I never told anyone about that night not even my wife
because I wasn’t stupid enough to sound that crazy.

Eventually his wife stopped looking for him
a couple years later the family moved away
my kids grew a little taller and my wife and I
more than a little distant the room was always
full of unspoken words and maybe
it was me maybe I blamed myself for what happened
to Eddie I should have stopped him somehow and now not a night
went by where I didn’t see his stupid grinning face shouting:
“I NEED TO SEE IT!”

A year later my wife and I were divorcing
and we had put the house up for sale
she was no longer living there it was just me and
I could hear the humming those nights
but what it really felt like was some kind of PTSD
from long before reminding me of the things
I should of done.

Once again during the world series
I had just switched the TV and all the lights off when
a storm had swept in and was raging terror all across the sky.

Suddenly my bedroom was flooded with light
and outside I could see the many levels and windows
of the factory as it was once again now standing in full force
right across the street right in front of my window and it
took me by such surprise
that I almost didn’t hear the front door:

“RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP!”

The Bully

Tyler was the biggest, meanest, toughest
bully there was in our neighborhood
and he terrorized us younger kids
on a daily basis as he lay in wait
in the alleyway,
in his leather jacket,
smoking Marlboro’s.

A decade ago,
a car accident put him in a
wheelchair for life and had
reduced his mental capacity
to that of the local produce section.

Nobody had seen him since then
until I did the other day,
now in my forties.

His sister was wheeling him
across the broken pavement of
the local strip mall and after
some conversation was struck up,
she asked if I could wait with him
outside while she went into the drugstore.

Tyler was silent, small and stared
vacantly at the ground.

“Sure thing,” I said,
wanting to be nice to her.
She still had it.

Not a moment had passed since she went inside
when I felt a sudden cold, steel pressure
clamping down on my wrist.
It felt completely alien, but some part of me
automatically knew that it was Tyler’s hand.

The crushing grip tightened as he
applied even more pressure and
worst of all was that while Tyler was
staring up at me
–where before there was
nothing but blankness in his eyes,
there now was this evil spark,
this glaring, searing manic light,
widening with recognition.

“Hey, look who it is! It’s the Little Toad!”

‘Little Toad’ was Tyler’s nickname for me and
suddenly I was twelve again,
trying not to get pulled into his madness but
compelled by the force of it all the same.

“Little Toad! Little Toad!”
Tyler shouted with glee
as his hand continued to crush my wrist;
his face now right up in my mine.

“Nothing ever changes! You’re still a Little Toady Toad!
And while you’re wrapping your arms around the bottle,
your wife is wrapping her legs around the dentist!
That’s right, I see it all, and it’s all a million laughs!”

Tyler’s entire face seemed to grow out and distort
like a balloon inflating from the stump of his neck
or a twisted medieval gargoyle coming to life.

“What?! You think I was done with you back then?”
Tyler’s voice scraped through my ears like
unrelenting poisonous sandpaper.

“HA HA! Little Toad! I’ll always be here!
I’m at your house every day and every night!
I’LL NEVER BE DONE WITH YOU -IN FACT,
I’M JUST GETTING STARTED!”

It was all coming together like
the worst possible nightmare
in all eternity
and I started to scream.

“My God, are you okay?” His sister was standing
just outside of the shop door staring at me
like I was a complete lunatic and
Tyler was leaning against the side of his
wheelchair, back to normal,
staring away at nothing,
even drooling a little bit.

I didn’t say anything.
I just walked away
to my car then drove to my house and
to my wife and kids.

Later on that week,
I thought myself silly for sleeping
with a baseball bat beneath my bed.
Really, what was wrong with me?

Perhaps because we were sleeping
in different beds now,
or perhaps because of something else.

Later on that night,
I thought I heard a noise
from out back.
It seemed somehow
deliberate.

I went outside and
nobody was there…
but somebody had been:

on the patio table there was
a cigarette left burning…

a Marlboro.

The Harrowing Descent of Mr. Hand Puppet

It started innocently enough
he constructed a hand puppet
named ‘Willy Nilly’
to entertain his girlfriend’s young son
and together they put up clips
on YouTube.

“Hey-Hey-Hey! Duuuh! Howdy, Mr. Rabbit!”

The shows started getting longer
he made up more characters
–more puppets.

A shelving unit was built in the bedroom closet
where they would be carefully stored
when not in use.

His girlfriend joined in
she was a sassy little pink bunny
named ‘Boo!’

It was all in good fun
for a while…

Then something changed
the shows became angry
political and
at times bizarre and
uncomfortable to watch.

It was no longer for the son.
He started filming just himself
in the basement and
spending more and more time
with the puppets.

When it got to the point where he
was always in character
we knew that there would soon
be big mean trouble.

Mr. Hand Puppet
was what everybody called him
by now.

He would take the puppets for walks
downtown
talking to himself
in the voice of whatever puppet
he had on
at the time.

Then one day he just disappeared
but other people
started disappearing too soon after
from the homeless shelter
downtown.
The police would find strange scraps of
fuzzy bright material
at the crime scene.

They didn’t know what was going on
but I did
deep down I knew exactly that.

It was a week later
that I got the afternoon phone call
that would put it all to an end:

“Hey-Hey-Hey! Duuuh! Howdy Mr. Rabbit!”
Mr. Hand puppet
sounded peculiar perhaps because
he was far too happy
to be sane.
“What are you up to today? Hee-hee-hee!”

“Just tell me where you are.” I almost whispered,
by now ready for just about everything
but not this:

The front door of the house was
wide open and I
rushed upstairs
to find Mr. Hand Puppet
in the bedroom
lying face-down in a pool of
growing blood.

I froze.

My mind was racing with possibilities
and none of them good
even the fact that I was now standing in
the middle of a crime scene
was also not good

but those thoughts
were suddenly swept away
as from behind me I heard
the closet door
slowly being opened
and a voice say:

“Howdy Mr. Rabbit…

would you like to know a secret?”

Jenny Says Hi

Johnny got drunk
behind the wheel again and
smashed his car into a tree.

Jenny wasn’t wearing a seatbelt
and died on the way to the hospital.

That was twenty years ago
and the only reason Johnny
had recalled it right there and then
as he left the party that night
was that across the road
parked right under the
lone streetlight
was a 1983 mustang GT
5-litre V8
blue finish with cobra rims.

Johnny froze
and dropped his keys.
Jesus.

It wasn’t just any mustang GT
sitting there as though shipped in fresh
from outer space
It wasn’t just any car
It was the car
the one Jenny had died in
the one with the rear left panel replaced
by a slightly deeper shade
the one with long yellow scuff marks
all across the front bumper
and worn dark tints
missing patches here and there

and of course the
silly smiley-face sticker on the side bumper
where Jenny had put it.

Johnny couldn’t breathe
as he approached the car as
inside the shifter sported a chrome skull
on a center console painted black and white.

He did that
twenty years ago
when Jenny was still alive.

Oh God.
This wasn’t happening to Johnny
There must have been some answer to this.
Some strange coincidence.

He decided to wait across the street
on the curb
sobering up –half falling asleep
until when near dusk some kid came
strolling along
cigarette in his hand.

Weird-looking kid
-strange eyes
nobody walked like that.

Kid went up to the car
and stuck his keys in.

“Hey!” Johnny approached.
“Where’d you get the car?”
“What’s it to you?” The kid asked.
“Where’d you get it?” Johnny’s voice grew louder.
“Piss off, man. I don’t answer to you.”

Johnny went to grab him but
the slippery bugger dodged it
shouting:
“Get off me! I’ll charge you!
You can’t just run around grabbing at people!”

Johnny managed to catch him by the shoulder and
spun him around against the car
the kid grinned
his breath smelled like rotten eggs.

“WHERE DID YOU GET THE CAR!?” Johnny slammed his
hand down on the roof
right next to the bastard kid’s head.

The kid shrugged. “Alright. Uncle gave it to me, man.
Some old trash job he touched up. He’s a
mechanic. We good?”

Johnny turned away. Was it possible?
Johnny supposed it was. It had to be.
“Alright, never mind.” He said.

The kid picked up his cigarette.
“You need help, man. Cut down on the booze or something.”

Johnny walked away and heard
the car door slam behind him
and the engine started with that familiar
deep rumbling that he had always loved.

The car started off…
but stopped.

Johnny turned around to face the
red tail lights loudly flashing.

The kid leaned out the window
and looked back.
“Oh, Mister -and one more thing…

With a calm smile he said:
“Jenny says Hi.”

The Laughing

I must have been twelve
the first time I heard it
deep in the woods
-the laughing.

Sometimes it was a woman’s laughter
sometimes it was a man’s
sometimes an old voice
and sometimes young

but there was something about
the laughing
unlike anything you’ve
heard before.

Deep in your bones
you knew that it was not
like you or me
or the forest or the
cars on the street
grown or made by man
or in any way
natural.

Nobody knew what it really was
why it was there or
how it came to be.

Nobody talked about it
but everybody knew.

When you heard it from your room
late at night you knew
that harrowing echo
wasn’t a teenager by the bonfire
a drunk in an alley
a coyote or another night
animal
this was different
there was something about
the laughing
that made you want to
crawl deep inside your bed
and stay there.

When it came
even the animals appeared
from the trees out
onto the streets
startled
eyes wide in terror.

You would wonder what it might
look like
but you never wanted to find out

of course,
unless you were a kid
on a dare.

Steven was sixteen
when he went into the forest night
through the trail then off into the woods
after it
following it
looking for it
because we had dared him
egged him on

we did not fear much
then

but that had changed

because we all heard
what it sounded like
when he had found it
or it him.

Even after the search party we never
told what really happened
that night.

We never caved
in fear that they would send us out next.

Even to this day
we don’t even mention it to each other
anymore
like we had forgotten
but none of us had.

Some nights still
the room drops in temperature
the blood stops running in my veins and
I become gripped by an old fear
when I hear it
because it knows
that I know that

thirty years later
what was out there
in the barren darkened wilderness
really wasn’t
young Steven…

laughing.