Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

The Walrus


William Currens Devol

Josh only had the attic to clean out before he could put the house on the market.

The “Old Man” had had the courtesy to die in the late fall when Josh wouldn’t bake or freeze while he worked to clean the crap out of his father’s attic. All-in-all, the Old Man had been pretty considerate with his dying.

The mortgage was paid off. The taxes were current. The second wife had died the year before. The Old Man had rewritten his will leaving everything to Josh…everything but enough money to send his two ancient cats to a retirement home.

Josh laughed out loud when the will was read. His Dad had donated 2000 dollars to a cat shelter so his cats could live out their lives in plush surroundings. His Dad was such a pussy…his Dad had been a pussy, Josh reminded himself.

The Old Man had even gone fast. The neighbor across the street said the Old Man had been cutting the grass in front of the house and just sort of slumped to the ground. No wasting away in the hospital spending Josh’s inheritance…a massive coronary at 80 and…POOF!

Josh opened the door to the attic expecting an avalanche of dust bunnies and the smell of heat-baked wood and insulation. He encountered neither. From what Josh could see at the top of the steep, and now carpeted stairs, the Old Man had finished the attic. There was a newish vinyl window in a solid wall and there was a real ceiling.

The last time Josh had been in the attic…Christ, was it 25 years ago…the Old Man would have been 55 the summer Josh moved out for good…on Father’s Day that was…Happy fucking Father’s Day, Old Man.

Back then, boxes and totes had been piled high on the unfinished outer walls and furniture had been huddled together under blankets and sheets in the open spaces fore and aft of the chimney.

Hell, when was the last time Josh had seen his Dad alive, for that matter. It was probably at Josh’s Mom’s funeral nearly 10 years earlier. Josh thought it weird that the Old Man went to his ex-wife’s funeral. Josh had two ex-wives and he couldn’t imagine going to their funerals except maybe to make sure they were dead.

Josh flipped the light switch and headed up the stairs.

The attic space was now a white room with storage cupboards low along both sides. The chimney was gone and two large ceiling fans stirred the air under the lights suspended from the peak of the ceiling. The floor was polished hardwood, and a huge white sofa took up most of the available space on the far wall.

“Wally Fucking Walrus,” Josh said.

Josh stared at a big, brown stuffed toy walrus sitting on the middle cushion of the couch. Its big, sparkly blue plastic eyes stared right back at Josh.

Wally Walrus was actually a plush puppet from way back in Josh’s childhood when his parents were still together. Josh used to check a puppet just like Wally out of the Burton Library when he was a kid. The head librarian had told Josh’s Mom where she could buy him his very own Walrus puppet, so Josh got Wally Walrus for Christmas when he was five.

For four years, Josh and Wally were “best friends.” The Old Man would make the puppet talk and tell jokes and make Josh fell like a big shot by pretending to interview him on the Wally Walrus Talk Show. Wally would interview the big league ball player Josh or the famous explorer Josh or the famous actor Josh.

The Old Man gave the puppet a tough guy personality which was pretty funny when you thought about what a pussy the Old Man really was. It had been Josh’s favorite times with his Dad until his Dad just up and moved out on Josh and his Mom.

After that, Josh couldn’t stand to look at the fat puppet with two hollow rubber tusks coming out of a thick black moustache. The Old Man had been really pleased to find Wally in Josh’s stuff when Josh had to move in with him when his Mom moved in with a guy without any spare bedrooms.

The Old Man had wanted Josh to play the Wally Walrus Talk Show Game right then and there. As if a 15-year-old man was going to play dolls with anyone, let alone the guy that ruined his life.

To top everything off, the Old Man had moved Josh in with him and that woman. Shelly had pussy whipped the Old Man into making Josh’s life a real shit pile. All that woman cared about was keeping the house clean. Josh would be damned if he was going to kiss that woman’s ass by helping keep the Old Man’s hovel clean and in good working order.

Josh walked over to the puppet and punched it right in the mouth. The puppet flipped once and landed on the floor behind the huge couch.

“Take that, you shit,” Josh said to the puppet. “As a matter of fact, I think I may rip you apart one seam at a time. Come back here.”

Josh knelt on the couch and reached over the back. He reached down and saw that Wally had landed with on his head with the armhole pointed straight up. Josh reached out and slid his right arm into the puppet.

Every muscle in Josh’s arm went into a violent, painful spasm then the pain was replaced by a numbing cold. The Walrus puppet started swinging right an then left with more and more power until it spun Josh around so he ended up sitting normally on the couch with the fucking puppet right in front of his face.

Josh could no longer feel his arm, but he could see it shoot out to his right and he could feel its motion pull on the rest of his body as it slammed the puppet full force into the bridge of his own nose.

Josh felt his nose break. He felt the substantial flow of hot blood gush down his lips and spray off of his chin like a waterfall. “Fucking Christ,” Josh sputtered as he put his left hand up to his already swelling nose. That’s when he felt his lips start to move.

“Well, if it ain’t that ungrateful little fuck, Josh Donovan. How the fuck are they hangin’, you little shit”

Josh froze. That was the Old Man’s voice coming out of his mouth…well, that was the voice the Old man gave that Christing puppet back in the day.

“Hey,” Josh shouted in Wally’s voice as the puppet’s mouth opened and closed matching the voice coming out of Josh’s mouth. “I’m talking to you. Look at me when I’m talking to you.”

At that, Josh’s right arm snapped forward again and the puppet smashed into Josh’s left hand.

Josh howled in fresh pain. The blow, while not as hard as the one that broke his nose, was in the exact spot where it would produce maximum pain. Josh’s vision was glazed over by a white flash he both saw and felt just behind his eyes. When his vision cleared, he looked at the puppet.

The unblinking eyes stared at him with a dumb malevolence. Blood spattered the bottle brush moustache and beaded on the plastic bristles that were the Walrus’ whiskers. Blood had run down both rubber tusks and dripped from the ends and landed between Josh’s legs.

“What are you lookin’ at you punk,” Wally/Josh said in a low, menacing voice.

“Nothing,” Josh answered.

“Oh, so I’m nothing am I,” Wally/Josh said. When Josh’s mouth opened to pronounce that last syllable, the puppet leaped forward and up to deliver an upper cut that snapped Josh’s teeth together.

Josh felt something snap in his mouth and he chased a suddenly free chunk of something around his mouth with his tongue. He spat the crown that used to be on one of his front teeth into his blood-caked left palm. The tooth bounced once, hit the floor, and skittered under the couch.

“Well, Josh,” Wally/Josh said. “The last time I saw you, you barely had any hair on your pecker. How’s life been treating you?

Josh started to answer, but Wally cut him off.

“Never mind,” Wally/Josh said. “I really don’t give a fuck how life has been treating you. What I give a fuck about is your Dad being dead and you being alive. He and I talked about you all the fucking time. He said you were a good kid and you’d come around some day and you’d realize he was a decent Dad. I told him you were an ungrateful little shit that was more worried about himself than about how miserable he and your mother were together.”

“That Little Mary Sunshine you had as a father believed you’d snap out of it one of these days. I told him you were a twerp that didn’t have one grateful bone in your fucking body. How you ended up caring so much about that bitch of an ex-wife of his and so little about him is beyond me. How’s that nose; is it starting to feel any better?”

“Why do you care,” Josh said.

“I don’t,” Wally/Josh said as Josh’s right wrist snapped the puppet around and smacked Josh in the nose with the puppet’s big tail.

“Fuck,” Josh screamed. “That’s enough of that.”

Josh grabbed a dark brown top knot of hair on Wally’s head and yanked hard hoping to rip the puppet off of his arm. All he accomplished was sending a bolt of white hot pain up his right arm and up into the junction of jaw bone and skull. It felt like someone was burning his arm and jamming a screwdriver into his right ear at the same time.

“Oh, no,” Wally/Josh said. “I don’t leave until I’m ready. You could, of course, go fire up your Dad’s table saw and cut my head off, but your hand would come off with my head. It might be worth it to be rid of me, you little fuck.”

“Like I was saying, your Mom took alimony and child support from your Dad while he was unemployed, and then she left you and two cats stranded in that big old wreck of a house while she took the money and moved in with her boyfriend. You didn’t even tell your Dad she left you alone for days at a time until you got hauled into court for not going to school. Your Dad took you in and made you go to school and kept you out of jail and gave you and the cats a place to stay by buying a house he could barely afford while half his salary at his new job went for alimony, child support, and to pay back the alimony and child support he owed from when he was unemployed.”

“In return, you ungrateful little whiner, you did everything you could to come between him and Shelly. When you didn’t come to their wedding, she was relieved and he was heartbroken. I told him to call you up and to tell you to go fuck yourself, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Would it have killed you to send him a card when Shelly died? She was all he had for the last 25 years of his life, you asshole.”

With that, Josh’s arm warmed back to room temperature, and he could feel his fingers again. He yanked Wally Walrus off of his right arm and held it up to his face by the top knot.

“Fuck you,” Josh screamed in his own voice and he stomped down out of the attic with Wally in his left fist. He stopped in the bathroom and washed the blood off of his face. He filled the sink with cold water and stripped to his underwear and put his clothes in the sink to soak.

Josh found a pair of gym shorts and a tee shirt in a bag of clothes he was going to put out with the trash before he left. The Old Man’s clothes were too big, but he knotted a corner of the gym shorts so they would stay up.

On the stairs, Josh tried to drop kick Wally, but the puppet twisted in his hands and leaped to his right thigh where it sank suddenly solid and very sharp tusks deep into the muscle. The surprise and pain made Josh forget he was on a set of stairs. He pitched forward into space and tried to catch himself with his right arm when he crashed to the carpet. The fire that shot up his arm this time came from a broken wrist.

Josh knew his wrist was broken because the back of his right hand was resting on the top of his right wrist, and he could see slivers of bone sticking through the skin where the heel of his hand became the bottom of his wrist. There was that and the grinding pain that made him scream like a little girl.

The gnawing at his thigh muscle finally got his mind off of his ruined wrist. At first, Josh thought the puppet was trying to eat his leg, but he soon realized that the puppet was trying to free himself from under Josh’s leg. The pain from the tusks yanking back and forth in his thigh caused him to flip over on his back. Wally’s tusks came free with a sickening pop.

Josh could feel a pool of blood spreading under his ass as the thigh wound bled steadily but didn’t spurt.

“At least the fucking walrus missed the femoral artery,” Josh thought.

“Daddy wouldn’t let me smoke in the house, whaaaa,” Wally said directly into Josh’s left ear.

The fucking thing had moved right up next to Josh’s head.

“Daddy wanted me to cut the grass, whaaa,” Wally said.

“Shut up,” Josh croaked.

“Daddy sided with Shelly when she told him I should clean out the shower after I took one, whaaa,” Wally said.

“Shut the fuck up,” Josh croaked, this time weaker.

“Daddy didn’t love my Mommy enough to take her crap and let me get away with bloody murder, whaaa,” Wally said.

Josh didn’t answer; he was passed out from loss of blood.

Josh woke in a world of light. His right wrist hurt like a mad bastard, and his right thigh felt hot and swollen. Someone noticed he was stirring, and cool fingers lifted his right eye lid and shined a pen light right into his pupil. Josh winced at the bright light.

“Mr. Donovan,” a soft female voice said. “Mr. Donovan, I’m Dr. Kelly Wright. Do you know where you are?”

“Hospital,” Josh mumbled through dry lips. It came out sounding like, “hosspull.”

“That’s right,” said Dr. Wright. “Do you remember how you got here?”

“It was that fucking walrus,” Josh said. It came out sounding like, “E wuss thfushing walrich.”

The voice inside Josh’s head sounded loud and clear, “You bet your sweet ash e wuss thfushing walrich. It’s always going to be e fhushing walrich from now on.’

Dr. Wright had no choice other than to heavily sedate Josh when he began to scream and thrash. He was posing a danger to himself. She made a notation on Josh’s chart that he needed a psych eval, stat.


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The Ex

Copyright 2011

By William Currens Devol

(The resemblance of any characters in this story to actual persons living or dead is a coincidence.)

“Some days are longer than others,” Ted thought as he unlocked the door to his tiny apartment. He opened the door just wide enough for him to slip in without letting out the cool inside air. The good thing about having a small place was that a small air conditioner worked very well indeed.

Ted flipped on the light and dropped his car keys in the ceramic ashtray his oldest daughter had made nearly 30 years before. It was still very yellow, and according to Chrissy…Christine, he corrected himself…Christine hadn’t let anyone call her Chrissy for a long-long time…according to a 4-year-old Christine, the big blob of clay on one side of the ash tray was a “horsey.”

The day’s mail had been dropped through the slot in Ted’s front door and onto the floor. Ted bent and retrieved the mail.

“Electric bill, gas bill, water bill, cable bill,” Ted said as he laid each envelope on the waist-high table next to the door.

“It’s good to know that someone is counting on me,” Ted said to his reflection in the mirror. He took off his McDonald’s baseball cap and smoothed his thinning gray hair. He leaned in close to the mirror and saw that the red splotch on his left cheek just under his glasses was more red than it was the day before.

“Skin cancer,” Ted said sarcastically. “Thirty-five bucks for the office visit, Fifty bucks for the procedure, thirty-five bucks for the special cream, waiting for the next outbreak so you can do it again…priceless.”

Ted hanged his ball cap on one in a row of hooks to the right of his door and turned and walked the four steps to his bathroom. He very nearly pissed himself trying to fish his works out of his pants, but he managed to avoid flooding his jockey shorts. Any more, Ted’s bladder started to let go the minute he saw a toilet.

“It’s probably something very expensive and ultimately deadly,” Ted said to his reflection in the mirror over the sink

He put his works away and washed his hands. After drying his hands, Ted fished the dirty clothes out of the laundry bag on the back of the bathroom door and opened a set of bi-fold doors next to the shower stall across from the toilet. Ted clutched the load of laundry to his chest with his left hand and opened the old, avocado Maytag washing machine with his right.

Ted dumped the laundry into the machine and kicked his Dr. Scholl’s shoes into a corner. He peeled off his McDonalds polo shirt and the rest of his clothes and added them to the load. He turned naked from the washer and turned the water on in his shower.

Ted was clean, dried off and starting the load of laundry in less than five minutes. He left the bathroom wrapped in a towel and walked across his narrow kitchen and into his bedroom which was really little more than a closet.

“I’d get something to eat, but I’m too freaking tired,” Ted said to the skinny naked man he saw reflected in the mirror on the back of his bedroom door. Ted flipped off the overhead light and lay naked on top of his covers.

“Three more months, and I can quit at McDonalds,” Ted thought as he drifted toward sleep. “The last three payments on the Chapter 13 bankruptcy will mean one job for the first time in six years…Holy Shit!”

Ted sat straight up in bed. He was going to be 60 years old tomorrow…he looked at the clock…he was 60 years old already.

“Sixty fucking years old,” Ted said out loud to the darkness. “I forgot my own birthday…Christ, how did I get this far into life and have so God-Damned little mentally and financially to show for it?”

Ted knew the answer to that question…Naomi.

He winced even thinking the name of his ex-wife. He had once heard that the single most important decision made by a human is the decision of whom to marry…and more than 90 percent of us fuck that up. Ted was in the 90th percentile on that score..

Thanks to Naomi, Ted had been arrested for conspiracy to commit embezzlement, tax fraud, and mail fraud. Arrested but not convicted…thank God. When Ted had finally had enough and asked for a divorce, Naomi paid Ted for his half of the house with money she embezzled from the school district where she was the Treasurer.

The county prosecutor was certain Ted had been in on it, but a special prosecutor from the State of Ohio had determined that Ted was just as stupid and clueless as he said he was. Ted’s lawyer went through all the money Naomi had paid Ted for the house and most of what he had saved from his job with the Ohio Department of Transportation after his divorce.

Ted spent $175,000 for lawyers until the State determined he was an idiot. Between the money Naomi gave him and what he had saved, Ted was $60,000 in the hole with his lawyer when he was released and all charges were dropped.

ODOT wouldn’t take Ted back, and so he caught on with the Bainbridge Township Road Maintenance Department…lower pay, longer hours, but it was a job. Ted found his tiny apartment in Newbury Township and began paying for his ex-wife’s crimes.

Late in their 20-year marriage Naomi had forged Ted’s name on dozens of credit cards and maxed them all out to the tune of $102,000. Naomi repaid the embezzled money with the money her boyfriend paid her for the house and through the bonding company by which Naomi had been bonded. After an incredibly short 120 days in County jail which included a work release program that had her working in her boyfriend’s house from 6 to 6 every week day, Naomi declared bankruptcy. That’s when the credit card companies zeroed in on Ted.

Ted had kept up for a while, but was finally advised by a lawyer to file for his own bankruptcy…thanks to George W. Bush, the best Ted could do was file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The court ruled that Ted could pay his creditors 8 cents on the dollar, but 8 percent of $102,000 is still nearly 10 grand…

A sharp stabbing pain shot through Ted’s left jaw and up into his head. He was grinding his teeth again. That’s something Ted did when he thought of Naomi. TMJ was just another gift from his Ex.

Ted was rubbing his jaw line when someone knocked on his front door.

“What the fuck,” Ted said out loud. He looked at the alarm clock and saw it was nearly 2 a.m. “Who in the Hell…”

Then there was a tapping at Ted’s bedroom window. The curtains were shut, but Ted grabbed a pillow to cover his nakedness. “Who’s there,” Ted squeaked.

“It’s me,” said a voice Ted didn’t recognize. “You need to let me in, we are running late.”

“Who the fuck are you,” Ted asked, and he pulled on a pair of jeans, barely missing catching his junk in the metal teeth of the zipper.

“I’m going back to the front door,” the voice said. “If you don’t open up and let me in, “I’ll wake Susan your landlord and tell her I’m your gay lover and you have thrown me over for a younger man…real young…let’s say 16.”

“Christ, don’t do that,” Ted said. “Come around to the front, but keep your voice down.”

Ted fished under his bed for a second or two and pulled out the head of a 9 iron that was welded to a one-inch metal rod which was bolted to a wooden handle. The whole nasty business was less than a foot long, but Ted believed it would bust a head wide open. He stuck the bludgeon in his back pocket and went to his door.

When Ted fingered the curtain away from the window in the top half of his front door, he cried out in fear. For all the world it looked like a man in a neat black suit with the head of a snake was standing on his front stoop. Ted flicked on the front stoop light to see what was really at his door and saw to his horror that it was a man in a neat black suit with the head of a snake.

“Open up, Ted,” the snake said with a mouth that looked nearly human. The teeth were smaller and sharp, but the snake’s lipless mouth made the correct shapes for the words it was speaking.

“Nope,” Ted said. “I am not opening my door to an hallucination. “I am dreaming, and you, my snakey friend are just what Scrooge said to Marley’s ghost. You are an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard.”

“Sorry, Ted, but Marley’s ghost was real and so am I,” the snake man said as his snake eyes began to glow blue and then red and finally violet. “Open the door and let me in…now.”

Before he knew it, Ted was reaching out and flipping the deadbolt so that it was unlocked. Ted never took his eyes off of the glowing eyes of the snake man. Ted stepped back to allow the snake man to enter.

The door knob rattled and then turned. It pushed in toward Ted and the snake man came into the apartment. He was quite short, Ted noticed. Ted surveyed the short, snake-headed man from head to foot.

“Are those snake skin boots” was all Ted could say.

The snake man looked down and held one booted foot up off of the floor, “Yes, they are snake skin. I used to be a lawyer. Well, I still am a lawyer, but now I have a snake’s head. Some of us look like Hyenas, and we even have a few with actual shark heads. The boss is a laugh riot.”

“The boss,” Ted said. “Who’s the boss?”

“Tony Danza,” the snake man said laughing at his own joke. “No, I’m just kidding. It’s the Devil, Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer. I used to say The Prince of Darkness, but everyone kept asking why Ozzy Osbourne wanted to see them.”

Ted backed up and sat down in his lounge chair. It was a 30-year-old Lazy Boy he got from a cousin, but it was still very comfortable. He jumped right back up when the 9 iron jabbed him in the ass. Ted reached into the back pocket and grabbed the handle of the bludgeon.

Ted brandished the 9 iron at the snake man, but the snake man smirked and snorted a little laugh. The snake man made a pass in the air with his left hand, and suddenly Ted was holding a live rattlesnake.

“Holy shit,” Ted screamed and dropped the rattler. The rattlesnake landed with a solid thud on the carpet at Ted’s feet and disappeared into a puff of green smoke.

“Holy shit,” Ted said again.

“Look, Ted, can I call you Ted,” the snake man said and went on without waiting for an answer. “I know this is a shock to you, but I have come to get you and your soul and take the pair of you back to Hell with me, post haste.”

“Hell,” Ted asked.

“OK, listen close,” the snake man said. “Yes, Hell. Your ex-wife sold your soul to the Devil nearly 25 years ago, and the terms of the deal said that the Devil got your body and your soul when you turn 60. Your 60, and I’m here to collect. Let’s go.”

The snake man tried to grab Ted by the elbow, but Ted pulled away quickly, “Fuck you, I’m not going anywhere with you. My Ex couldn’t sell my soul she could only sell her own soul.”

“Yeah, here’s the scoop on that,” the snake man said. “Your wedding vows included the words Love, Honor, and Obey. They were spoken in church before a minister. It is through this loophole that my boss can buy up the souls of married couples. It’s a real bitch for you, but God isn’t going to save you. His hands are tied…metaphorically, of course. There isn’t any S and M for the big guy. That’s why nobody promises to Obey any more.”

“You mean I could have sold my ex-wife’s soul while we were married,” Ted asked.

“If she had a soul, yes you could have,”snake man said.

“Naomi had no soul,” Ted said.

“How do you think she got into graduate school,” snake man said.

“No way,” Ted said. “Fuck you and fuck the Devil. I’m not going.”

Snake man’s arms and leg disappeared, and everything below his snake head turned into a huge snake. It shot out and wrapped around Ted in the blink of an eye.

As Ted started to struggle, the snake started squeezing the air out of him. Every time Ted exhaled, the gold and silver coils of the snake tightened a bit more so he couldn’t draw in a complete breath.

The snake man put his mouth right up against Ted’s ear and whispered, “Come on Ted, you know that eternity in Hell will still be better than any day you have ever had since you met Naomi…her soul will come to us after she dies, and you will have seniority on her. Trust me Ted; in Hell, shit rolls down hill.”

Ted stopped his struggles and smiled. He and the snake winked out in a puff of red smoke that smelled just like burning match heads.

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Copyright 2009


William Currens Devol

I spent some quality time in Swanky’s basement in the early spring of 1975. The joke at the Ohio University of the Swanky’s era was that it was a gay bar. It was a place where you could find any kind of college kid, college kid wannabe, or sad post grad that was fighting growing up and leaving the 1960s. And you could find dope…any kind you wanted.

Hell, I bet most people didn’t even know Swanky’s had a basement. The door to the basement was below the stairs outside the rear door of the notorious night club where Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were playing the week that Born to Run went to the top of the Billboard 100 and where I once got high with an incarnation of the band Deep Purple that included no one from the original group.

There was a set of fire-escape stairs behind Swanky’s. The stairs descended to the brick alley  behind Kantner Hall. Swanky’s basement door was under the stairs and down another flight of four steps. Today there is a CVS pharmacy roughly where Swanky’s used to sit.

The night of Swanky’s basement I had been drinking cheap pitchers at the Frontier Room in Baker Center with guys from my old floor section in Jefferson Hall. We decided to go to Swanky’s because Matt swore he knew a guy that could get us some hash if we could scrape $30 together and we didn’t mind waiting an hour or so. Amazingly, we did have $30 among the seven of us, so we piled out the side door of Baker Center and started north on College Street.

An alley ran from College to Court Streets right next to Kantner Hall. One of us, I don’t remember who, stopped to relieve himself on Kantner Hall. That seemed like a great idea to most of us and we were engaged in trying to wash Kantner Hall away when the police lights started flashing.

Athens police were really pissy about public pissing. They booked you on indecent exposure and loved to listen in while you tried to explain to your parents how you got arrested on the streets of Athens with your pecker hanging out.

Six of us took off in as many directions. Only Matt, who was holding the hash cash, had his dick zipped safely away when the police flashed their lights. He stood and laughed at us until the police decided they’d take him in for questioning. He wouldn’t narc on any of us, so they threw him in the drunk tank for public drunkenness. He kept the $30.

I ran up the alley in behind Swanky’s thinking I could hide in the stairs to the basement. I peeled to the left and took a running dive into the short flight of stairs. I poked my head up to see three the other guys keep going up to Court Street. A policeman was right on their tails. I ducked back down and crouched against the basement door. It creaked inward and I rolled in and down another set of wooden stairs to the basement floor.

The wind rushed out of me and I thumped my head pretty good on the concrete. That’s when I realized my dick was still hanging out of my pants. I used the stairs to pull myself up. I had just finished zipping when I heard running outside the door. I rolled under the stairs into a pile of old, paint-spattered canvas drop cloths. I pulled the canvas up to my nose when I heard the door creak open again and saw a flashlight beam cut the darkness. The light swept back and forth across a surprisingly clean and roomy space. Upstairs in the bar, you could imagine catching all manner of clap and syph. Down in the basement, you could eat off the floor.

After a few sweeps of the light, it went out and I heard the door shut above me. I wasn’t going to leave Swanky’s basement for a while. I had visions of Athen’s finest setting a trap for me out in the alley. I was safe where I was, and I was surprised how quiet it was in the basement, considering how loud things got in Swanky’s on a Friday night.

The canvas was comfy and warm. I had about four pitchers of beer in my system. I fell asleep. A while later, I woke up because I had to pee like a race horse.

I knew people were in the basement before I opened my eyes. I heard feet shuffling, the snap of crisp cloth, and finally a man’s voice saying, “Watch it, you stupid fuck. If you snap me with that alter cloth again, I’ll rip your eyes out with my teeth.”

When I opened my eyes I saw a string of low-wattage blubs glowing a pale yellowish light across the basement. At the end opposite me, a large table was being draped in red cloth. It looked like satin. A big man with a biker beard and wearing biker colors stood at one end of the table. At the other end of the table a tiny man in a black suit with no shirt on under the jacket was grinning from ear to ear.

“You won’t lay a hand on me, you ape,” Shirtless said. “The black shepherd would have your balls.” He giggled then like a little girl…high-pitched and kind of crazy.

“Well, fuck you, asshole,” Biker bellowed. “One of these days, he won’t think your shit don’t stink, and I will snap your spine and eat your heart.”

A door in the wall behind the table opened into the basement and a human shape was silhouetted in the door frame. Both Shirtless and Biker snapped to attention.

A very soft but deep voice came from the shape in the doorway, ”Our guests will be here very soon. If the church isn’t ready by the time they arrive, I’ll make you wish you were never born.”

“Yes, Master,” said both men and they exploded into a flurry of activity.

“Better,” was the one-word reply from the closing door in the far wall.

Silver candlesticks were fitted with black candles and a huge inverted crucifix was suspended above what I could clearly see was intended to be an alter. The crucifix had to be at least six feet long and three feet wide. Someone had painted Jesus with clown makeup and stuck a red, round clown nose on this face.

I still had to pee, and it was getting imperative that I figure out what to do about it. I had resigned myself to pissing my pants when I saw an empty orange juice carton against the wall to my left. I inched my hand out and hooked the open spout with my pinky finger. I dragged it back under the canvas very slowly.

I took advantage of a lull in the action when both Biker and Shirtless went in through the door in the far wall by getting to my knees and pissing into the waxed cardboard carton. I had zipped up and gotten comfortable again before Shirtless came back through the door and lit the five black candles on the alter. Before he went back through the door, he turned off the overhead lights and left the basement flickering in the weak light of five candles.

I should have bolted for the alley the minute the door in the far wall clicked shut. I could have been up the stairs and into the alley in less than five seconds. I was tensing to do just that thing when red spot lights blinked on up in the corners of the basement ceiling.

The lights didn’t just blink on. There was audible thud like a big circuit breaker had been thrown. I saw, heard, and felt those lights go on. There was another thunk, and a series of black light spots must have been activated.

The clown makeup on Jesus glowed like neon. Writhing, twisting fanged snakes glowed to life on the side walls of the basement. They must have been painted with ultraviolet ink or paint. A giant goat head was painted in the same manner on the wall with the door in it. The goat’s beard took up the entire length on the door. The goat’s eyes had upside down stars for pupils.

Low, throbbing drum music came from speakers I couldn’t locate, and I was officially scared shitless.

I pulled the canvas up around my head so I was peeping out of a tiny eye-sized gap. That’s when Biker came through the door in the far wall buck naked except for a sheathed knife strapped to his massive left forearm. Biker had a big tattoo of a goat head that went from just above his rather substantial sexual equipment to his collarbone and from armpit to armpit. His nipples were the pupils, and I shuddered thinking about how much it had to hurt to get your nipples tattooed.

Biker stood to one side of the door in the far wall, and I quit worrying about tattooed nipples when Shirtless came through the door wearing a knife just like Biker and with a thick sliver chain wrapped around his waist and a thick metalring through his rather substantial dick.

I have since found out that it’s called a Prince Albert. A ring goes into your urethra and is shoved through the underside of you dick right were the soldier’s face would be if the head of your dick was actually a helmet. I moaned softly inside my canvas hideout and grabbed at my own, not nearly as substantial sexual equipment.

The drum beats easily covered my moan. Then I remember thinking, “Charlie Manson.” Sharon Tate hadn’t been dead all that long. The trials of the Manson Family were still fresh in the collective mind of America. I imagined being discovered and being stabbed 27 times with a fork. I wondered what they would write in my blood. I started shaking. I bit down on my tongue to get myself focused.

There are few things like the taste of your own blood to bring focus. Get punched in the mouth, taste blood, get focused. I bit hard enough to draw blood and focused on the issue at hand. Was I safe were I was?

I would have been much safer in my bed in my apartment on Fort Street behind the National Guard Armory, but no one in the basement knew where I was. I was pretty sure Biker and Shirtless would have taken turns chopping me into pate’ or sodomizing me, or both, if they knew I was a witness to what was going on.

That’s when it hit me. What the fuck was going on? That’s when the first guests arrived.

I saw feet on the stairs in front of me. The drum music drowned out the opening of the alley door, so the first I knew we were no longer alone was when a combat boot came down on the stair tread about a foot in front of my face. It was a green canvas and black leather combat boot. They were standard issue in Vietnam, but I’m certain the girl wearing them didn’t pick them up in country.

Combat Boots was a tall, thin girl in a black granny dress. She was accompanied by a shorter, plump woman wearing a tie-dyed peasant blouse and a matching skirt.

Tie-dye and Combat Boots walked down the short flight of stairs into the basement without making a sound. They stepped to my right and began taking off their clothes. Combat Boots was painfully thin. Her collarbones stuck out above her flat breasts and her hip bones looked sharp enough to slice through her abdomen.

Tie-dye, it turned out, wasn’t plump so much as her breasts were twice the size of her head. Neither Combat Boots nor Tie-dye owned a razor. Combat Boots had a snake tattooed on her left butt cheek, and Tie-Dye had a goat’s head tattooed on her left ankle and blue mushroom on her right.

Over the course of the next ten minutes 8 more people entered Swanky’s basement and stripped. There was Jeans Jacket; he had a black palm print tattooed between his shoulder blades. He was scrawny and had the first penis smaller than mine I had seen in the basement so far.

There was Bald Boy with a pentagram tattooed at the nape of his neck. Equipment gigantic, of course.

There was Blonde Surfer Girl with no tattoos but gravity-defying boobs and steel bars pierced horizontally through each cute pink nipple. She obviously had access to a razor.

There was Fat Cher with long, straight black hair, eyebrow length bangs, and crooked teeth. She wore a pentagram on a leather thong that dangled between her dangling breasts; the cellulite on her butt looked like purple cottage cheese.

Castro Beard had an ivory bone through his nose and a studded leather cock harness…yes, and giant equipment.

Pixie Haircut had a Bette Paige haircut and a body to match. She was deeply tanned. Her equipment was shaved clean and something down there was pierced and sparkling.

Sleepy Girl yawned non stop as she stripped. She was short and thin with washed out red hair. She had a dagger tattooed on her stomach with its business end dripping blood and pointing down toward her lady business where the carpet matched the drapes.

The last guy to arrive made the stairs creek when he descended. Steroid Steve was well over six feet tall. He was an artistic stack of lean slabs of muscle and totally hairless below his eyebrows. His shoulders were wide and his hips were narrow. His equipment looked like it had been doing some weight training, as well.

The 10 new nudies arranged themselves in a boy-girl-boy-girl semi circle facing the alter. Without a word, the group held hands. Biker and Shirtless went down on one knee at their respective places beside the door in the far wall. There was no sound.

My pulse was banging at my temples hard enough to hurt. I was sweating and cold at the same time. I was as scared as I had ever been in my life. I was scared because I knew I would be discovered and I was convinced that they would kill me or worse.

The pounding drum soundtrack continued to throb and grow louder. I could feel the bass thumping my chest through my canvas covers. In just an instant, the drums stopped and a loud explosion sounded as a huge fire ball blossomed between Biker and Shirtless.

Where the smoke cleared, He was standing in the room.

He must have stepped through the door in the far wall just as the fire ball reached its maximum diameter. He had shut the door behind him leaving the impression that he had materialized in that ball of fire. He was tall and hairless…he didn’t even have eyebrows. He was totally naked and apparently very glad to see everyone as his package was at maximum tumescence… and hard enough to drive nails.

Biker boomed out , “Hail, the Black Shepherd.”

Shirtless followed suit with a higher register, “Hail, the Black Shepherd.”

The naked 10 dropped to their knees and shouted in unison, “Hail, Master.”

“Praise Satan,” shouted the Black Shepherd.

“Praise Satan,” everyone else responded.

“Oh shit,” I whispered.

Then, everyone started fucking everyone else. It was a full-fledged, no-holes-barred Roman orgy of an orgy. People screwed on the alter. People screwed on the steps in front of my hiding place. There was moaning; there was groaning and squishing and skin slapping against skin…there was Satan praising…then, Shirtless made what turned out to be a huge mistake.

Shirtless had been astride Fat Cher. From where I was under the stairs, it looked like Shirtless had been trying to crawl inside Fat Cher…and it looked and sounded like Fat Cher was more than a little into the scenario. Shirtless, in a moment of abandon as he reached his dénouement, shouted out the “G” word…”Gooooooodddddddddddddd!”

All movement stopped. It was like someone quick froze the previously gyrating group. Biker crawled out from under Tie-dye, Sleepy Girl, and Steroid Steve and stood staring at Shirtless who was just starting to realize what he had shouted.

Black Shepherd lifted his bald head from between Blonde Surfer Girls legs, looked once at the now horrified Shirtless, and then looked and nodded at Biker.

Biker pulled his knife out of its arm scabbard and took three huge steps toward Shirtless, who was still more than halfway inside Fat Cher. Shirtless never said a word as Biker grabbed him by his hair and bent his neck back to his shoulder blades.

Shirtless’ head came off with one huge slice. The fountain of blood that gushed from the stump of his neck drenched Fat Cher, Combat Boots, Jeans Jacket, and Castro Beard…that was before everyone kicked into full psycho mode and began rolling in Lake Shirtless.

Everyone was soaked in blood in seconds. They began tearing at the headless corpse, and when it broke open like a grisly piñata, they rolled and screwed in the innards. Biker had retrieved Shirtless’ head and was grinding his giant dick in what had become the ruined left eye of the recently departed.

That’s when I lost it. First, I pissed myself. Then, I began screaming like a little girl. When I saw heads jerk up from the pile of blood fucking humanity and turn in my direction, I bolted from my hiding place and crawled up the stairs on my hands and knees.

I saw Biker try to lunge in my direction, but he slipped on a piece of liver or stomach or some other part of Shirtless and went crashing to the floor at the foot of the stairs. Just before I pulled open the alley door and bolted into the Athens night, I saw Shirtless’ head become dislodged from Biker’s pike and go rolling back into the pile of bloody fuckers.

I ran toward the East Green. I think I must have rolled more than half way down Jeff Hill. I think I tore the knee out of my jeans on the bricks of the hill. I didn’t stop running until I found myself on the path by the Hocking River behind New South Green. I collapsed on the path and rested until my breathing slowed to normal.

I felt suddenly exposed out on that path by myself. I worked my way back toward Peden Stadium and eventually to the West Green. I fell in with a bunch of kids heading up Richland Avenue Bridge and kept going straight out South Congress when they turned on East Union to head uptown.

I walked in shadows as much as I could. Some asshole blew a trumpet from the window of one of the fraternity or sorority houses next to Bromley Hall. I pissed myself again. I started running again and soon crossed West State and then East Carpenter. There was a big church on the corner of East Carpenter and North Congress. I think it was a Baptist Church.

I ran up the steps of that church and pulled one of the doors open. They used to leave churches open back then. I don’t think it was just for people that had the fear of God put in them by witnessing a murderous, Satanic orgy, but that’s why I went in.

I ducked inside the sanctuary and sat in the back pew. I didn’t exactly pray, but I kept saying “Dear God,” under my breath. When the minister put his hand on my shoulder, I pissed myself for the third time that night. I screamed too. I scared the minister and he jumped back. He told me later he thought I was hopped up on goofballs which he explained meant he thought I was freaking out on drugs.

Reverend Graham was very kind. He sat with me and talked, but I could tell he was trying to figure out if I was drunk or stoned. We talked about where we were from and how we came to Athens. We talked about my major and how my classes were going. After about an hour of small talk which established that I was neither drunk nor high, Reverend Graham finally asked me why I was in his church at midnight on Friday with piss in my pants.

I told him everything. It took me about 30 minutes, and I left nothing out.

“Are you ready to call the Athens Mental Hospital, Reverend Graham,” I asked when I finished my story. His answer nearly was more frightening than what I’d seen in that basement.

“Did anyone see your face, boy? Can any of them identify you,” the tone of terror in Reverend Graham’s voice chilled me to the bone. He had grabbed my upper arms and was staring intently into my eyes.

“No,” I said. “That end of the basement was in deep shadow. They know somebody saw everything, but I’d bet my life they didn’t see my face.”

“That’s what you’ll have to do unless I can talk you into leaving town tonight and transferring to another school,” Reverend Graham said. “You’ve heard all the crazy ghost stories about this town, I assume?”

I nodded my head.

“Most of them are crap,” he said letting go of my arms. “The ones that have some validity aren’t nearly as spectacular as the one that get repeated. The biggest problem this town has is that it is lousy with witches.”

“Witches,” I said, “Witches in 1975?

“Boy, you didn’t just see a bunch of crazy people that play at being Satanists. You saw a coven of witches at a Sabbath. You saw real Satanists. You would be dead right now if this so-called biker hadn’t fallen down. He would have killed you and fucked YOUR eye socket,” Reverend Graham said, giving the curse word a hard emphasis that sounded strange in a minister’s mouth.

I could only stare at the Reverend.

“I am the last person you will tell this story,” he had grabbed my arms again. “If you want any kind of life that doesn’t involve either looking over your shoulder for or actively fighting these people, you will keep your mouth shut. Do you understand, boy?”

I shook my head vigorously, “Yes, sir, Reverend Graham. I understand.”

“If you ever need to talk about what you saw, come to me and we will talk. I will not betray you to anyone. Now, go home and never speak of this again in your life unless it’s with me…go,” he said, and I did.

I talked with Reverend Graham two times before I graduated. Each time he convinced me that I wasn’t equipped to fight the kind of battle I would be in for if I told anyone, let alone the police.

Reverend Graham died in 1979, two years after I graduated from Ohio University. I was still in Athens. I was in my second year of teaching at Vinton County High School in McArthur. I happened across Reverend Graham’s obit in the Athens Messenger and saw that visiting hours were that evening in the funeral home just south of the Baptist church.

The funeral home was packed with parishioners, fellow clergy, friends and family. Some people say things like, “They look like they could sit right up and talk to you,” when they see bodies at a funeral home. No one would have said that about Reverend Graham.

Whatever killed him had left him 40 pounds lighter than the last time I had seen him. My guess was cancer, but all the obit had said was “after a long illness.” I spent as little time as I thought respectable at the coffin and got in line to give my condolences to the family.

Just as I got to the family group standing near one of the doors to the viewing room, I stuck out my hand but tripped on the leg of a folding chair. As I looked down to see what I had stumbled on, a woman took my offered hand and said, “So nice you could come. How did you know my father?”

I looked up into the face of Fat Cher from Swanky’s basement. She had lost 30 pounds, but her hair and her teeth were the same.

I couldn’t talk. I tried to speak, but instead I squeaked. I pumped Fat Cher’s hand and tried to make words, but it was useless. I finally pointed to my mouth, moved my lips, and shook my head like I was a deaf mute.

“I understand,” Fat Cher said and thanked me for coming. I ran out of the room and ran out to my car.

I was shaking behind the wheel of my car when I spotted the Black Shepherd and Biker walking up the front steps of the funeral home: they were both in solemn black suits.

I started looking for a new job the very next day. That fall, I was teaching in an out-of-the-way school district to the west of Toledo and hoping three quarters of a state was enough real estate between me and Athens.

Flash forward to three weeks ago when I was visiting my parents who live within 25 miles of Athens, Ohio.

I was driving into Athens on old back roads because I wanted to see if a trailer park friends of mine had lived in at one time was still operating after more than 30 years. I was alone because my wife had stayed home in the Toledo area to be with the dogs, the cats, and the hamster…and to avoid my asshole brother-in-law who insisted things would be much better in America if everyone was armed and very, very pale.

I was thinking about how many times I hitched out to the trailer where my friends lived back when we were all college students and about how high I always was when I hitched back.

I was nearly to the Athens city limits when I saw someone on my side of the road with their thumb stuck out. I figured I needed to repair my karma for all the people that gave me rides back in the day, so I flipped my blinker and pulled over to the shoulder.

The hitcher was a woman with salt and pepper shoulder-length hair. At first, I thought she was fat, but she had gigantic breasts and they made her look much heavier than she really was.

She stepped to the passenger door and bent to see what kind of a maniac had stopped for her. She smiled at me and opened the passenger door and scooted into the bucket seat. As soon as she pulled the door shut, my car started to stall out. All the liquid crystal displays on the dashboard went black, and the glove box dropped open.

“Oh, crap” she said. “I do that sometimes. Give it a few seconds and it will be OK.”

I started to ask what she meant, but, before I could, everything went back to normal and the engine revved twice and returned to a quiet idle.

I looked over to see if the glove box door was going to jump shut on its own and saw the goat’s head tattoo on her left ankle and the blue mushroom tattoo on her right ankle…It was Tie-Dye.

I took a deep breath and managed to sound almost normal when I said, “That was weird. Where are you going?”

“You could drop me at the CVS if you are going up town,” Tie-Dye said.”You know where that is, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I most certainly do. Feel free to roll your window down if you want .” That was all the conversation I managed on the trip to the CVS.

Three minutes later, I stopped on Court Street to drop off Tie-Dye. She opened the door and got out. When she turned to shut the car door, she leaned into the car.

“Thanks, Thanks a lot,” she said, and then she called me by my first name.

How am I going to explain to my wife that we will be moving to Florida?

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Stupid Cross

By William Currens Devol

When Denny rented his apartment on the top floor of the house on East Franklin near Kontner Street in Nelsonville, he thought the rent was too good to be true, but he signed the lease anyway.

The apartment was awesome. The house was sound and dry, and his apartment had a tiny kitchen and its own bathroom. Denny Marshall couldn’t believe he didn’t see that stupid cross up on Kontner Hill when he first looked at the apartment. How could he miss a sixty-five-foot-high cross less than a quarter of a mile from where he lived?

Day time wasn’t so bad, but after dark he didn’t need to turn on any lights. Denny could do his homework by the light reflected light from that stupid cross. The cross reflected the light from what seemed like a thousand spotlights right into his apartment. It was as if the cross was on the window ledge.

Denny had wanted to be a cop since he saw his first episode of Law and Order. In those days, it was Logan and Lenny as partners. Denny liked it when Logan leaned just a little too much on some perp.

In Denny’s hometown of Delaware, Ohio, none of his friends wanted to be cops. By the time Denny was in Junior High, all his friends wanted to do was get high, ride their skateboards, and skip school to get high and ride their skateboards.

He would have had no friends at all if he hadn’t been able to run fast and hang on to a football. Everyone thought he should play college football, but his SAT scores were lower than his height. At just over five feet four inches tall and 150 pounds in full helmet and pads, Denny had been under sized for a high school running back.

When he actually looked into becoming a police officer, Denny was shocked to find out he should go to college. The Delaware Chief of Police told Denny that most big city departments wanted their candidates to have a criminal justice degree or military police experience.

It took Denny most of the summer after graduation to talk his parents into financing his dream for himself and not theirs.

Denny’s late start meant that all the criminal justice spots were filled in the Ohio schools Denny’s parents could afford. Denny put his name on waiting lists and his hopes were dwindling when he got a call from Hocking College in late August. Two recent cancellations had opened up in the criminal justice program, and if Denny could be ready in time, classes began in two weeks.

Denny was in Nelsonville and rented his apartment two days later. Denny’s parents were paying for school and his apartment. His place was clean and cheap; Denny’s Mom approved of the former and his Dad approved of the latter. He moved in four days before classes started.

If it had just been the light, Denny could keep the curtains shut, but the stupid giant cross was a stone cold sexual buzz kill. No woman wanted to bounce about the mattress with a 65-foot cross blazing just outside the window.

He would sometimes sit at his desk under one window and stare at the cross. Some guy built the stupid thing as a memorial to his wife. Denny would sit and run one hand back and forth across top of his black buzz cut and try to imagine what kind of an idiot dumped his money into a stupid cross for a dead wife.

The first night Denny saw the figure land on the cross he was contemplating having enough money so that dropping a fortune into something to impress a dead wife wouldn’t bother him.

Denny said, ”Holy shit,” and jumped to his feet when he saw what looked like a man in a white suit drop from above the halo of cross illumination to land on the right crossbar. Denny’s first reaction was right out of an old Tom and Jerry cartoon.

His eyes bulged, then he rubbed his eyes, and, when he looked again his lower jaw gaped open. The figure in white was still there. Denny ran to his closet and dug under some shoes until he found the case for his .22 target rifle. He opened the case and grabbed the rifle’s telescopic sight.

When Denny got back to the window, nothing was on the cross except millions of watts. That stupid cross was playing tricks on his eyes. Stare at that stupid cross long enough and you could start to see things. That’s what Denny tried to tell himself, but he knew he was a reliable witness. He was sober and well rested when he saw a man in a white suit land on a steel and porcelain cross that was 65 feet tall.

From that first sighting on, Denny kept his telescopic sight in the middle drawer of his desk.

A week later, Denny was reviewing the proper finger printing procedure in prelude to finger printing one of his classmates in class the next day when he heard a loud thump and twang like you’d hear if someone smacked the bottom of a steel wash tub.

Denny looked up and saw his man in white back on the cross. Denny opened the middle drawer and grabbed the telescopic sight without looking. He put the sight in front of his right eye and then searched for the cross in the magnified world he saw through the scope.

Then Denny was looking at the back of a head bathed in light. Mr. White had dark hair that fluttered at his suit collar. As Denny watched Mr. White’s head began to rotate.

If you looked real close in “The Exorcist,” you could tell they used a dummy for the head spinning scene. Denny saw the man’s neck skin as it began to resemble a chunk of taffy being twisted at a carnival. That was no dummy.

Denny made an inarticulate whining sound and dropped the scope into his lap…right on his balls. As freaked as he was from seeing that head begin to rotate, a good shot to the balls changed his attention priorities. Denny clutched his balls and hyperventilated briefly.

When Denny’s balls gave control back to Denny’s brain, the first thought in his mind was, “Call 911.”

“Right,” Denny thought. “I’m going to be a cop, and I know what the cops will think. They’d think I was some stoner that was way too high for his own good. Denny knew the cops would think he was busting their balls.

Denny fished the scope off of the floor, but the cross had no one on it. “This is someone somehow fucking around on that stupid cross who just wants to freak people out,” Denny said out loud to the room. “Well, it’s working,” Denny thought to himself.

He drew down the blinds on both windows, and decided that what he didn’t see couldn’t bother him. He tried to get back into the chapter on fingerprints, but he couldn’t make his eyes move over the words and the diagrams. He kept looking up at his windows like he was expecting company.

Sleep was quicker to come than Denny thought it would be that night. He fell asleep fast, and his subconscious ran wild inside his head.

In the dream that came on quickly, Denny was watching Mr. White through a telescope. The back of Mr. White’s head filled the eye piece through which Denny peered. At the magnification of the dream telescope, Denny could see individual hairs move and knew a very soft wind was blowing up on the cross.

Mr. White’s head started to rotate counterclockwise. Denny wanted to look away, but he was frozen in place. He tried to close his eyes, but his lids would not respond. Mr. White’s head made a full 180 degree turn, and hazel eyes rimmed in red stared straight into the lens of the telescope.

Denny knew he had been spotted; he tried to back away from the telescope but he was rooted in place. Mr. White smiled to reveal two rows of needle-sharp teeth. Mr. White’s body spun to match up with his head and he floated back from the telescope until Denny could see Mr. White’s whole body.

Mr. White lifted his left arm and pointed straight into the lens. He made the gun gesture with his index finger and he dropped and raised his thumb twice miming the hammer dropping on a round in the chamber.

In Denny’s dream, Mr. White fell from the view in the telescope, but Denny still could not move. A dark blemish appeared in the white porcelain that covered the stainless steel cross a split second before Denny heard the crack of a shot an then the metallic twang of a ricochet. Another blemish blossomed on the cross. It was followed by another delayed gunshot and then a twang ricochet. Mr. White leaned back into Denny’s field of vision in the telescope, waved, and flew backwards and out of sight.

In the dream, Denny could finally move, and when he did, he woke up to find he was standing in front of his now uncovered, open window. Three police cars were heading up East Franklin with their sirens whooping and lights flashing.

Denny looked back at the cross and saw a bald, gray-bearded shirtless man in bib overalls standing at the base of the cross with hands high above his head. The man dangled a pistol on the index finger of his left hand. He was turned in the direction of the police.

The man in the bib overalls looked up at the gun in his hand and let it drop to the ground. The bald man then backed away from the gun, turned his back to the police and lay down on his stomach with his arms and legs splayed out…then, the police swarmed him.

When Denny got to his first class at Hocking College the next day, a blond kid in a Bengals’ ball cap was talking about the crazy old guy that shot up the cross. His roommate, he said, interned at the Nelsonville Police Department.

“The guy kept telling the cops that he was trying to kill a demon in a white suit who had been visiting the cross off and on for more than a month,” Bengal’s hat said. Then the old guy said that owls would bring this demon small animals which the demon would eat.”

“My roommate said the old guy smelled like a brewery and was ranting about blaspheming and repenting,” Bengals’ hat said.”It was a real horror show. When the guy settled down, they locked him naked in a psych cell under a suicide watch…it was real rubber room stuff. The guy will get moved to the nut ward in Oblenness Hospital in Athens some time today.”

The professor, a retired FBI Agent, walked into class right then, and everybody shut up. Professor Mayer didn’t take any crap.

After class, Denny approached Bengals’ hat just outside the classroom. Bengal’s hat was thumbing through a menu on his cell phone when Denny introduced himself. Bengals’ hat, Mike actually, looked up and introduced himself. The two young men shook hands.

Denny pretended to apologize for eavesdropping on the story of the crazy old guy, but he was really fishing for more information, “I’m sorry I was so nosy but they arrested the guy right outside by apartment.”

“Don’t worry about it, dude,” Mike said. Just then, Mike’s cell phone began to play something with way more bass than a cell phone speaker should endutre.

Mike looked at his phone. “Hey, it’s my roommate. He sent me a text and a picture.”

Denny watched Mike retrieve the text message. Mike’s eyes got huge.

“Fuckin’ A, no way,” Mike said. “Look at this, Denny.”

Denny took the phone and read the message. He began to shake. The text message said this;

“ur not gnna beliv this…the crazy man is ded. The sewicide wtch cop fell asleep…whn the cop was sleeping somebody wasted the crzy guy…check out the picture I snuck with my fone…J.”

Denny handed the phone back to Mike and didn’t say anything. He tried to stop shaking.

Mike didn’t notice Denny’s problem and thumbed through menus to open the picture file. When he got the file open he said, “That’s just wrong. That’s just wrong.”

He handed the phone to Denny.

Denny took it with trembling fingers and looked at the picture. It looked for all the world like someone butchered a cow in a padded room and left all the pieces.

Denny squeaked out a moan and handed the phone back to Mike. The edges of everything started to turn gray and black spots flew across his vision like a cloud of gnats.

Denny sagged, and, just before he tumbled forward onto the hall floor, Mike grabbed him and lowered him to the carpet.

Mike checked to make sure Denny was breathing and called 911.

As Denny slipped over into a dead faint, he saw Mr. White shooting him twice with his finger.

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Copyright 2009
By William Currens Devol

Hank Stafford’s bad day had already been one for the record books when the lights on Athens Municipal Airport’s Runway 11-29 blinked out seconds after Hank had broadcast the VHF signal to turn them on.

“Shit,” Hank muttered and pushed the throttle forward and banked his Cessna 350 to the right to gain altitude and come around for another pass at a landing.

“Celeste is going to chew my ass as it is,” Hank thought.

Hank’s two-day business run to Cleveland turned into a three-day trip when his single largest customer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, challenged Hank and his company Vector Rolled Paper Products to come up with a 10 percent price cut for newsprint.

In the end, Hank gave up. The Plain Dealer was set to publish a series of community shopper newspapers later in the year. He’d have to eat a crap sandwich in the short term, but he’d get to stay for the prime rib.

“Celeste won’t give a damn one way or the other,” Hank said out loud as he lined the Cessna up to the left of and parallel with East State Street and rebroadcast the VHF signal to turn on 11 two niner’s lights. When the lights came on, Hank made final course corrections and busied himself with landing.

The Davis boy, Tim…Thomas…Tony! Tony Davis was rubbing the back of his dark brush cut and looking sheepish when Hank stepped down from the cockpit.

“When is the city going to buy a new Pilot Controlled Lighting unit, Tony? We could have us a spectacular crash some day,” Hank said with mock sternness.

“Hey, Mr. Stafford,” Tony said. “They don’t even buy me my coveralls to work here; they’ll buy a new PCL when pigs fly, besides, in about half an hour the Moon will be up and folks can land by the light of the full Moon. Want some help tying her down?”

When Hank and Tony finished the post-flight checklist and tied the Cessna to huge rings set deep in the tarmac, Hank pressed a $20 into Tony’s hand.

“Holy shit,” Tony said. He blushed bright pink and added, “I mean, thank you Mr. Stafford.”

“Don’t mention it,” Hank called over his shoulder as he carried his bags to his black Porsche Cayenne parked next to the white clapboard house that served as the terminal. Hank pointed his key at the Porsche and clicked the button that opened the rear hatch.

“Full Moon in 27 minutes,” Hank said out loud as he tossed his things in the back of the Porsche.

Hank fished in his left pants pocket and pulled out a small brass key. He used the key to open a panel in the floor of the SUV. After looking both ways, Hank took off his denim jacket and pulled a double shoulder holster from the floor safe.

Hank slipped the rig on, shrugged his shoulders to make a few adjustments to the fit, and put his jacket back on.

Hank reached back into the safe and extracted a TeleDart RD406 tranquilizer pistol. He turned a dial on the side of the weapon and saw the pressure gauge turn red when the pistol was fully charged. Hank loaded a tranq dart into the breech, flipped the breech shut, loaded five more tranq darts into a clip on the front of the right shoulder holster, and jammed the TeleDart into its spot.

“No safety, no safety, don’t shoot yourself in the balls if you have to use it,” Hank said to himself as he pulled a Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50 caliber automatic out of the gun safe in the floor of the Porsche. Hank slapped a clip into the butt end of the hand cannon and put the pistol into the left holster. He put three extra ammunition clips into the pockets of his denim jacket, relocked the safe, buttoned the bottom two buttons of the jacket, and looked at his watch.

“Shit,” Hank hissed. He had less than 25 minutes until Moon rise and he had to do his best to get home to Chauncey in about 20 minutes or there could be hell to pay.

Hank knew there was no way to get over Peach Ridge on Route 33 and take Route 13 to Route 293 and get up Utah Ridge Road to his compound before the Moon popped over the ridge top. He knew it, but he drove like he could make it…he wasn’t even close.

“If the FAA let me put in my own landing strip, I’d have been home 30 minutes ago,” Hank thought as he slid around curves on Route 13. What good was money if you couldn’t do what you wanted with it?

He had to stand the Porsche on its nose when a good old boy in a late 60s Chevy pickup pulled out in front of him about a mile from beautiful downtown Chauncey.

“Move your ass, you old fuck,” Hank screamed at the old man in the Chevy. Hank wondered for the thousandth time why he agreed to move to the wilds of Athens County, Ohio.

The answer was, of course, he loved Celeste. He would do anything for her. When she agreed to marry him, Hank had promised to make sure nothing bad ever happened to her. He hoped tonight wasn’t the night he’d break that promise. Most of the time, Celeste was the most beautiful woman Hank had ever met, and she was sweeter than she was beautiful. It was hard to believe she had come from such a weird family.

The Moon was up before Hank turned on to Utah Ridge Road. He knew he was too late, but he didn’t take his foot off of the gas peddle until he slammed it on the brake peddle at the gate to the compound. He slid to a stop sideways in the driveway.

Hank pushed a button on the dashboard, and the two halves of the gate opened slowly at him. He drove quickly through the gate and pushed the dash button again: the gates closed behind him.

He drove the Porsche around the first bend in the tree-lined driveway before he put the car into Park. He pushed the button that slid the window down, turned off the ignition, and listened. There was nothing to hear at first except the tick of the cooling engine and the breeze in the trees.

The first howl rose up from somewhere on the south side of Hank’s 50-acre property.

“Shit, the pine trees,” Hank said out loud. If she was in the pine trees, she was closer than he liked. He wasn’t going to make it up to the house without running into her.

Hank put his right hand on the butt of the Desert Eagle and opened his door with his left. After he slid to the ground, he eased the door shut with barely a click. That’s when he heard the second howl.

She had heard him. Her ears were like directional microphones. He could picture her turning her head at the sound of the car door closing. She would have thrown her head back and howled a warning. She wanted her prey to know she was hunting. Spooking the prey into a mistake was just the thing she loved to do.

The good news was she was coming to him. The bad news was she was coming to him. Without hesitation, Hank sprinted off the driveway and into a small knot of brush off to his left. He had the Porsche and the open road between himself and Celeste.

Hank reached into his pants pocket with his right hand and pulled out the Porsche key. He stuck the button end of the key between his teeth where he could bite down on the trunk-release button and keep both hands free.

Without making a sound and with deliberate slowness that belied his hammering heart, Hank transferred the Desert Eagle to his left hand and drew the tranq dart pistol with his right.

Celeste would be on his scent now that she was coming. She would follow his scent right across the road and into his hideout if the trunk release trick didn’t work. Hank was going to have to be at least 30 feet away from Celeste when the dart hit her, or she’d still be able to get a paw or two on him before she went to sleep.

Hank shuddered thinking about the damage Celeste could do.

Since Celeste wanted him to know she was coming, she wasn’t shy about letting out excited yips and barks as she came across the property on the dead run. She was heading directly for Hank and she was already tasting him with her mind.

The light-brown werewolf broke from cover about 20 yards in front of the Porsche. She froze for a moment to sniff the air. She could smell his fear; Hank was sure of it.

She growled deep in her throat and started slowing loping toward the Porsche. She leapt from the road to the roof of the Porsche and rose on her hind legs and surveyed her surroundings.

Celeste’s muzzle was long and slender. Hank could see the breeze flutter the soft fur at the nape of her neck. Her ears twitched in unison and then separately. Her black nose wrinkled as she turned slowly.

She knew where Hank was. She could smell him and she could hear his heart hammering against his ribs. Celeste was playing; she wanted to get him to break from his hiding place. Jesus, even as a werewolf, she was beautiful.

Celeste dropped back down to all fours and dropped to the road behind the Porsche. She would charge him any second.

Hank bit down on the trunk release button. The trunk clicked open a few inches. Celeste turned to check for an ambush. Hank leveled the tranq gun and pulled the trigger.

Celeste turned back toward the hiss of the CO2 cartridge just as the dart struck her in the right side of her furry neck. She howled and charged, but she dropped after three halting steps.

Hank heard the growl from behind him. He flattened himself to the ground and had the sense of something just passing over his back. He heard the clack of empty jaws slamming together where his neck would have been.

“Aw, crap, two of them,” Hank screamed as he rolled to his left and pointed the Desert Eagle at the Porsche and pulled the trigger until the automatic was out of bullets.

Two of the hot brass casings had ejected and ricocheted off of a small tree and down the open neck of Hank’s shirt. They burned white hot against his neck and chest, but Hank ignored the pain, reloaded the traq gun, and jumped to his feet.

The second werewolf was flat against the road. Hank had never meant to hit it. He just wanted the boom of the .50 caliber and the sound of breaking glass to give him a few seconds to get a fresh dart in the gun.

The second werewolf leaped from the ground. Hank pulled the trigger. He didn’t hear the hiss of the dart and the whump of it hitting its intended target. He was momentarily deaf from emptying the Desert Eagle into his Porsche. Hank did feel the jarring thump as the werewolf hit him square in the middle of his chest.

Hank went down in a jumble of biting, snapping werewolf. It was trying to tear his throat out, but missed on the first two tries. The third try would have been perfect, but the werewolf collapsed on top of Hank fast asleep.

He wanted to rest. He had the wind knocked out of him and his ribs were killing him, but Hank had only a couple more minutes before the first werewolf would begin to come around.

Hank got plastic cable ties out of a bag in the Porsche’s floor safe. He got to work quickly, and, when he was done, he had two hog tied werewolves. He finished just as the first werewolf started to twitch and stir.

He still wasn’t going to put them in the Porsche and take them to the house. They were far too heavy and they could still bite Hell out of him. They’d be safe out here until dawn when they would turn back into Celeste and most likely her Mom.

Sarah was a handsome woman for a 45-year-old, but Hank didn’t want to see her turn back into his naked mother-in-law.

Hank saw the damage to the Porsche was cosmetic. He tossed the key on the ground where Celeste could see it in the morning. Celeste and Sarah would shrink back to normal size when they changed, and the plastic ties would slip right off.

“God damn,” Hank said to the thinner of the twitching werewolves on the ground. “I hate it when your family visits.”

The End

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