Posts Tagged ‘Horror’

A Dead Story.

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Fiction
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This story hung on in my mind for so long I had to get it out. The problem is, well… it has a lot of problems. The continuity of the Haitian accents, for one. The switch in tone from the first part of the story to the second, for another. The ending is ill-formed as well. Its biggest problem is that it is just plain schlock. Cheesy, campy, B grade, really not very good. You get the point. It also happens to need an edit or three. I’m posting it anyway, so I can have done with it.

On the Tombstone it reads… Devouring Books.

Detective MacDonald buried the break, jerking the car to a skidding stop. Feathers flew as noise-some chickens scattered. Beside him, Detective Haggis’ belly wobbled with his harsh laughter.

Outside the car, the Miami heat pressed down on them, wrapping around their necks and licking at their faces. They swung the gate latch on a wood-slatted fence that should have looked out of place in front of the brick tenement building. Haitian thugs, most shirtless, stared at them with motionless violence as they walked past. More chickens peppered the slum’s dirt yard. Little wire coups were piled around the cracked sidewalk. A three legged cat hissed at them on the building’s steps.

The air inside was close and stale. A few more roughs crowded the hall, glaring. Dark skinned women in brightly intricate dresses and head rags eyed them with the same unblinking stillness as the men. The Detectives climbed four flights of dark mote-filled stairs slowly. They reached the top basted in sweat. Three patrolmen huddled near a door at the far end of the corridor An aging Haitian woman stood with them.

“What’s the story?” Detective Haggis asked the oldest of the three officers.

“Missing person, signs of foul play. Elderly woman, lived alone. No evidence of forced entry. Neighbors knew her as…” the patrolman consulted his notes. “Old Lady Beignet. Neighbor here says she liked to take in strays.”

Detectives Haggis and MacDonald studied the woman a moment. Her clothes were bright even in the darkened hallway. Gold hoops hung in her ears. Her hair poked through the colorful wrap on her head. Her hands fumbled convulsively with a gold colored rosary.

“What do you know about – ” Detective MacDonald began.

“I known her all my life! I tell her to mind them! I tol’ her! I did! She stuck in her ways. Don’ want to listen to anybody.” The woman motioned wildly with her hands.

Detective Haggis opened the door to the apartment. He followed his partner in. The neighbor followed, still blustering.

“What was your name?” MacDonald interrupted her.

“My name is Madam Roux.” She announced with a rosary clutching hand to her chest.

“Mrs. Roux – ”

“Madam Roux.”

“Madam Roux. Did you hear or see anything out of the ordinary over the last few days?” MacDonald asked.

Madam Roux laughed. “In this building? Listen, Old Lady Beignet been gone since about supper time yesterday.”

MacDonald touched Haggis on the arm and motioned to the crime scene.

The small apartment mirrored the age of it’s occupant. A scratched rocking chair and foot stool were pushed close to the room’s only window. Sepia toned photographs of varied sizes and faces hung around the window. A television with fake wooden sides collected dust on a pair of upside down milk crates. Stacks of Readers Digest magazines lay ruffled next to the TV. A cheap dining tray table stood beside the chair. A wall of book shelves ran from the door to the opposite corner. The rest of the room was open space on top of creaking wood floors.

“I told her! I said you gotta mind them. You gotta give them what they want.” Madam Roux started again.

Haggis turned to her. “Who?”

“All of them,” Madam Roux fanned her hand in front of her, taking the entire room with he gesture. Her rosary rattled.

Nearly in the center of the floor lay a paperback novel. MacDonald approached it. The wood around it was caked with dried blood. Looking over the area, MacDonald found a thin spritz of blood dried on the side of the television and the wall behind it.

“Liked to take in strays. I don’t see any cats.” MacDonald commented.

“‘Course you don’t see no cats!” Madam Roux said.

MacDonald glanced at his partner. Haggis nodded and took the woman by the arm.

“Why don’t we go out in the hall. I have a few questions. Maybe you can help me. Haggis shut the door behind them.

Alone in the apartment, Detective MacDonald walked around taking mental notes. The windows were locked. No sign of a struggle. No narcotics. A wand lighter on the table by the rocking chair, but no ash tray or candles…

The book cases caught his eye. Stepping gingerly over the bloody floor, he examined the book bindings. There was no order to the books. Cookbooks stood next to automotive manuals. Romance novels crammed against Westerns. Dusty books crowded scuffed books into singed books. His eyes rested on a title he remembered from his semester in college. He took it down.

“A Movable Feast,” he said to himself. He hadn’t finished it and had failed the class.

He fanned the worn pages with his thumb. The book settled into his hand.

It flipped open.

MacDonald stared at it, doubting his eyes. The pages turned over rapidly, rustling a wild animal’s warning. The book stopped moving, resting open at its center pages. The sheets began to dog-ear themselves, top and bottom. A wave of folded corners spread page by page to the covers. The book fluffed itself, turned down corners pointing at MacDonald.

MacDonald turned his head to the apartment door.

The book hurled itself upward. Dog-eared pages caught MacDonald’s head and bit in. He let out a small yell. The binding bulged, constricting itself by slow degrees around MacDonald’s head and down his neck. There was a muffled snap.

At his shoulders the paperback cover unhinged itself from the binding and stretched over his chest and back. The rest of the book settled slowly into its natural shape where the Detective’s head had been.

Blood pooled around the man’s boots, rushing over the dried blood already on the floor. The book worked itself contentedly down midriff, thighs, calves, and on until its pages brushed the floor. It flipped itself over onto its spine and gnawed the soles of MacDonald’s boots inward until they disappeared. The pages folded flat in one smooth motion.

The book shut with a loud snap and lay on the floor.

Haggis walked into the room. He stopped moving with his hand still on the door knob. He spotted the fresh blood and the pair of books on the floor. Haggis called weakly to his partner. His eyes darted around the room. Slowly, he backed out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him.

~

It was after 3am when the police called off their search. Countless patrolmen, detectives, and forensics personnel had entered and exited the apartment without incident. Detective Haggis and Madam Roux had a plan in place long before the last officer drove away. Haggis entered the apartment with his weapon drawn. Madam Roux trotted in, rosary swinging in her hand, and grabbed the wand lighter from the tray table. Facing the books, she flicked it to life.

Haggis found his way into the small kitchen. He knelt beside the stove with a crescent wrench. Looking up from his work, he saw a small stack of magazines on the counter.

“Ah shit,” he muttered.

“Hurry up in there!” Madam Roux yelled from the front room.

“I’m hurrying!” He spat back.

Eyeing the magazines, he cranked away with the wrench.

“They’re moving!” Madam Roux shrieked.

The pipe fell free. Haggis stood. The magazine on the top of the stack fluttered as if blown by a slight breeze. Haggis tossed the wrench on top of the stack. The magazine rattled its pages in frustration. He holstered his weapon and ran from the room.

In the living room, he swept Madam Roux’ head scarf off and covered her face with it.

“Don’t breathe. Close your eyes,” he commanded.

He pulled a mace can from his pocket and sprayed the shelves as he moved, not really believing it would have any effect.

The pair of books on the floor nipped at their feet. He rushed Madam Roux out of the apartment and pulled the door shut hard. Madam Roux fell to the floor opposite him. He slipped down the door frame and sat on the floor. Something hit the other side of the door with a dull slap. A moment later a second object hit.

The Detective looked at the woman. “Remind me to tear up my library card.”

A three-legged cat pranced up the hall and rubbed against Detective Haggis’ hand, meowing. Behind it stood a crowd of Haitian men. Most carried machetes. A few had torches.

Haggis waved them off. “I broke the gas line. No torches.”

A young man in the front drew on a cigarette. “G’on out the building now.” He looked at Madam Roux. “And take the cat with you.”

Madam Roux scooped up the cat and ran down the hall. Haggis stood watching the men. The man who spoke tugged the filter off his cigarette. Another man handed him a bottle rocket. He fit the burning cigarette over the fuse gently and pushed past Haggis.

“Let’s hope it is not a dud, huh?” he grinned.

He knelt at the corner of the door. Another man moved to grasp the door knob. Two more men with machetes positioned themselves on either side of the man on the floor.

“Quickly now… NOW!” the Haitian yelled.

The door was opened a few inches. Rustling echoed inside the apartment. The man set the bottle rocket on the floor with it’s stick laying outside the apartment.

“Shut it!”

The door slammed. Haggis released breath he didn’t know he had been holding.

The man on the floor positioned the bottle rocket gently, making sure the cigarette could still get air from under the door. Satisfied, he stood.

“Three minutes, I think.” He put his arms out and ushered everyone to the stairs.

Outside, Haggis gasped for breath. The whole neighborhood crowded the street around him. Time passed slowly. Faces grew worried.

The man who had set the firework approached him, the three-legged cat crowding his ankles.

“Sorry about your friend,” he said. “We have wanted to be rid of this for a long time.”

Madam Roux stood apart from the crowd, crying.

The Haitian looked up.

The ground shook. Haggis heard a whoosh followed quickly by a bang that made his ears ring. Flame shot out a window on the back side of the building.

“Now what?” Haggis asked.

“Now go home. We ended it.” The Haitian man said, turning away.

“What was it?” Haggis said to the man’s back.

The man faced him, grinning. He shrugged and disappeared into the crowd.

Detective Haggis stood a moment longer before running to his car and driving off. Sirens resounded in the night behind him.

Copyright December 2010 held by Christopher Floyd

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Copyright 2010 held by Alayne Floyd.

Hollis felt himself being watched. It hit him while washing his supper dishes. He held his rough, arthritic hands beneath a sheen of soap bubble rainbows floating on the dish water, bracing for the adrenal flush building inside him. His blood warmed. The skin on the back of his neck prickled. His hearing and eyesight sharpened minutely. He breathed slow and deep. He felt the thinness of his strapped T-shirt against his skin. The familiar, surging need to move fell upon him.

“Been awhile,” he spoke softly.

Taking his time, he dried his hands with a frayed brown towel on the counter. He stared out the window above the sink. The sun fell below the horizon. The small patch of grass between his house and the next gave ground to the night.

Hollis walked slowly through his dining room and into the living room. His bent shoulders ached. Eyeing the front door before turning his back to it, he settled painfully to his knees beside an old cedar chest. He hefted the solid lid.

He grabbed his old bayonet and wedged it into the wood to hold the lid up. He shuffled the chest’s contents around.

He placed several small cardboard boxes onto the floor, then withdrew his service pistol and tucked it into his web belt. Next was a hand-held spotlight with an extension cord attached. After a pause and a sigh he gently set his father’s old scatter gun next to the boxes. The M 14 Hollis had bought at a gun show followed. He yanked his bayonet free. The lid slammed shut.

He walked into his kitchen with the rifle, spotlight, and ammo boxes. He leaned the rifle against the back door, piled the boxes on the counter, and plugged the spotlight’s cord into an outlet over the sink. He turned out the porch light and went back for the shotgun.

The screen door slammed behind him. He sat down in his lawn chair and stared for a moment into the shadows between the houses surrounding him. The house behind his was a conflagration of strung lights, people, and loud Norteῆa music.

“Yep,” he said. “Welcome back, Teddy Bear.”

He dropped the bayonet blade down into the wooden floor of his porch.

To the right of his chair he kept a small icebox. On top of it lay a pair of thick prescription glasses. Laying the shotgun across his lap and juggling the rifle, he leaned over and put on the glasses. Grabbing a Coke from the icebox, he popped the top and settled in for a long night.

Hollis waited in silence for an hour or so. The shadows shifted under the moon. The party showed no sign of ending. The noise was a distraction. The bastard might use it to sneak up close. The moonlight helped, but Hollis’ eyes had grown old. Even with the glasses, his vision was limited.

Hollis leaned the barrel of his rifle over the narrow porch railing. He switched on the spotlight and began to dance its powerful ray against houses and under small trees, panning the rifle. Nothing moved, but he knew the thing was out there. He had never seen it, but felt it every time it watched him. The neighbors at the party were looking at his porch. He flipped off the light.

“We’re going on thirty years, Teddy Bear,” Hollis spoke. “I ain’t gonna be around forever. I think you should come on out and introduce yourself, you son of a bitch.”

Hollis placed the light on the porch and took the Coke from between his legs. He took a long drink. His eyes scanned his surroundings.

“We both know what happens if I come off this porch. You run away again. You’re scared of me, ain’tcha Teddy Bear!” His voice was rising.

He sat back and spoke to himself, “Ain’tcha Teddy Bear.”

Only the music and voices answered Hollis. He thought in silent stillness for awhile.

“Or are you curious?” He asked the night. “Is it just because I’m not afraid of you? I’ve given up hunting you, you coward. Though God knows, I have a right to. I guess you’ll just have to work up your nerve and come for me.”

Another pause. Another sip.

“Teddy Bear, are you waiting until I’m too old to fight you? Here I am, sixty-four years old. Got guns now instead of fists. No matter how feeble I become, I still won’t fear you. That’s what brings you back, isn’t it? I’m not afraid of you. That’s why you can’t come for me like you do the others.” Hollis laughed.

“You need to get your nerve up. Mine is.” His voice grew louder.

He stood, slinging the rifle over his shoulder. He held the scatter gun by the barrel with its stock on the floor.

“Hey!” he yelled. “You hear me, Teddy Bear? Do you hear me, you black bastard? Quit wasting my time! Get your shadowy ass over here!”

The tone of the party shifted. Four men hopped the low fence separating the yards. Shouts of encouragement and derision followed them. They advanced on Hollis, hollering in Spanish.

Hollis held up his shaking hand. The sense of being watched intensified.

The man in the lead switched to English.

“What the hell did you say, man?” He asked angrily. “Did you call us black? What are you doing out here in the dark? You crazy, or just lookin’ to get hurt?”

They were near enough now to see him. He could feel Teddy Bear approaching, sniffing for his fear. Hollis didn’t feel any. Yet.

“Shit, man. You’re black! What the hell is wrong wit’choo?” The first man shouted. The others were forming a circle around his porch. The lights and noise from their party had affected their senses. They were blind in the dark.

The scatter gun barked rapidly. Sparks burst from both barrels. The two slugs punched up dirt and grass in front of the man who had threatened him.

All four broke into a run, cursing and stumbling their way back over the fence. The party music stopped. Hollis was aware of people scrambling to get inside the house, but was busy scanning the shadows. He stepped off the porch in instinctive pursuit.

Teddy Bear retreated too.

Hollis stretched. His neck cracked. He’d been sitting for longer than he realized. His spine ached and his toes tingled. He turned his back to the night and slowly returned to his chair. The thing had drawn back, but was watching. Hollis could still sense him.

“Got too close, didn’t you?” he said to the night. Flipping the shotgun open, he removed the spent shells and replaced them with live ones.

The staring contest continued. Hollis reached for another Coke. He needed the caffeine. If he had to relieve himself he would make sure Teddy Bear saw that too.

A few minutes passed. A flash caught Hollis’ attention. A strobe light pierced the darkness in the neighbor’s back yard. Hollis could hear a car crawling along the street in front of his house. The beam lit up his yard.

Three uniformed officers appeared around the corner of his house before he could gather his supplies and duck back inside. One yelled “Gun.” All three aimed their pistols at him, shouting commands. Hollis sat frozen, Coke in one hand and rifle balanced on his railing with the other. The spotlight flashed out as the police cruiser reached his house.

The officers moved around his porch, spreading out. One climbed his steps, eyeballing the barrel of the M 14 as he did.

“Don’t be afraid,” Hollis kept his voice calm and low.

“What?” the officer in front of him asked. “Put down the gun!”

The officer saw the shotgun in his lap.

“Shotgun too,” he hollered over his shoulder.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid,” Hollis repeated. “You can’t be hurt if you’re not afraid. Don’t be afraid.”

A cop to his left hopped his porch rail and leveled his pistol at Hollis’ head. The third officer stayed back and spoke into his shoulder mike.

Hollis remained still, his eyes straight ahead.

The strobe stabbed through the dark on his right, making the shadows run. It continued its slide into the next yard before disappearing.

Four more policemen rounded the right side of his home. Four more guns pointed at him.

This time he shouted. “Don’t be afraid! Don’t none of you be afraid. I ain’t afraid!”

One officer holstered his pistol and pulled a stun gun from his side, aiming carefully at Hollis’ chest.

“What are you, crazy?” Hollis said to the man. “Look at my finger.”

His finger was snug against the rifle’s trigger. The barrel faced the house across the yard. The officer closest to him holstered his weapon and motioned for the man to wait.

“You’re not afraid.” said Hollis to the closest cop, still staring into the yard.

“Why are you pointing that rifle at your neighbor’s house?”

“I ain’t pointing this rifle at my neighbor’s house.”

“What are you doing with the shotgun?” The cop asked.

“Got me a pistol too, sir.”

The patrolman glanced at another officer before speaking. “What is your name?”

“Hollis Dwayne Watts, sir.” He anticipated the next question. “This is my house.”

“Mr. Watts, you don’t need to be scared. Tell me what is happening. Did you discharge a firearm?”

“Sir, I ain’t been scared since My Lai.” Hollis’ eyes flicked for a moment into the officer’s. “And I had to get rid of a distraction just now.”

“For me it was Tora Bora. You seeing Charlie out here?” The officer probed.

Hollis laughed hoarsely. “You run my name yet?”

“You have priors?”

“Teddy Bear’s gotta be loving this. I can feel him close again.”

“Who’s Teddy Bear?”

“Nine-teen-Seventy-Eight.” Hollis enunciated determination in his voice.

“Alright. Who’s Teddy Bear?”

“It’s a term of endearment,” Hollis eyed the man. “Like pig.”

The officer ignored the slight. “You got a beef with this Teddy Bear?”

Hollis grunted. “Yeah, you could say that.”

“He in that house over there?”

“No way. That house still has people partying in it,” Hollis shook his head.

The patrolman who had hung back stepped up onto the porch.

“Hollis Dwayne Watts,” he recited. “Sixty-four years of age. This is his residence. Prior convictions: three counts residential trespassing, one count public disturbance, one count harassment. Diagnosed Paranoid Schizo-Affective by court psychologist. Wife and daughter disappeared in the fall of 1978. No arrests were made. No Teddy Bear in the system either.”

“Does that sound about right, Mr. Watts?” The first officer asked him.

“Mostly.”

“Have you been taking your medications?”

“Damn pills only blur the edges. Make me hear things too.” Hollis mumbled.

“Want to put the guns down?”

“Hell no.”

“Want to tell me about your wife? Where do you think she took your daughter?”

“My girls? Ask Teddy Bear.”

“How do you want this to end, Mr. Watts?” asked the first officer.

“I’d like to see Teddy Bear. Bastard runs away every time I show up. I’d like to know what it is that chases him away. I ain’t always had to have these guns. I want to know why he wasn’t chased away from my girls. Then I want to kill his black ass.”

“Mr. Watts, put the rifle down right now.” The officer’s voice grew stern.

Hollis caught a stirring of shadows in the neighboring yard, something smooth and wispy.

The officer placed his hand on his pistol.

“Mr. Watts, put the rifle down.”

The shadows blinked longer, stretching toward the house.

“Hollis. I know that look. Don’t be scared…” The officer commanded.

“Scared gets you killed, sir.” Hollis snarled, leaning into the stock of his weapon. He pivoted the barrel a few degrees.

A large patch of flickering shadow broke away from the darkness. It was visible to him for a second before it latched onto the blackness alongside the house full of people.

Hollis shot three rounds. Each slammed into brick. The police around him fired. He heard the noise and felt the flaming hammer strikes as bullets punctured his body. He slumped out of his chair, his father’s scatter gun dropped to the porch. His head sagged against the wooden floor.

The talkative officer shouted for the others to stop. The rifle clattered over the porch rail. The night felt very still. Hollis could sense Teddy Bear. Worse, he could feel its glee, its anticipation. He had seen the beast at last, but the beast had tricked him. He created fear for Teddy Bear. He spoke the names of his daughter and his wife softly to himself. Heartbroken, He lifted his eyes and stared at the dark until his vision failed him. He pitched forward.

The officer closest to Hollis stood staring down at his body. His pistol remained in its holster. The look that settled into Hollis’ eyes had tugged at an instinct in him. The dead, fierce eyes of a soldier committed to action.

The officer turned around and stomped down the porch step, his eyes reflexively hunting for movement.

Across the yard and past many shadows, the lights in the neighbor’s house blinked out.