The story below was submitted to a major contest a while back for consideration for publication and placement in their anthology. Well. I have recently received news by one of their editors ( a very nice woman..btw ) telling me that it did not place. She also encouraged to be submit more stories for their publication for possible future consideration because they would like to see more from me in the future so I was not to be discouraged. I have since actually submitted another story to them that was already ready to go…so I’m crossing my fingers with that story now.
Please take the time in your leisure to read this short little urban Fantasy story which also has a little bit of Science Fiction and a smidgeon of Horror thrown in. ANY feed back good or bad is always welcome. I like constructive criticism in regards to any of my writing. I am at your mercy in that regards so be gentle….:). I hope you enjoy it…btw you can also go over to MY Collection over at Scribd to check it out there as well to read it in a different format if preferred.
Bits and Pieces
By Philip Wardlow
Charlie’s old 1984 Ford Ltd came to an abrupt stop on the dust bowl of a road that went by the name of Horsehead by the locals or 188th by the not so local residents. The road lead into the little town of Galatia, Kansas where he lived. The town of Galatia was still some six miles distant to the north with twice as many miles behind him to the south to anything you would remotely call a town.
Dammit, and hells bells he thought. I just got this thing a tune up last month. Charlie tried turning the key in the ignition again. Click, Click, Click. Dead.
Charlie pulled the lever under his dash to pop the hood and got out, not bothering to look for cars on the road, because there were none, not a soul. This road didn’t get much traffic, especially two hours after the sun had already set. He had a full stretch of road all to himself all the way from the Number 4 Highway teeing into the Old 190 Rd that cut the town of Galatia in half.
He looked around, nothing but corn, rows upon rows on both sides of the road he sat on. Tall stalks, taller than he was, (and he was six foot-four and just as lean and straight) were just waiting to be harvested and seemed to be reaching for the stars that dotted the nighttime sky that surrounded him. He hated corn, in any fashion. He never had a taste for it, especially at this moment. Fucking corn. He was beginning to rethink the wisdom in traveling this road as he lifted the hood on his car.
Charlie played the flashlight over the engine block like he knew what he was looking for, nothing apparent jumped out at him. He jiggled the connections to the battery, good and solid. It’s gotta be the alternator, he thought idly.
A sharp loud keening sound followed quickly by a low rumbling moan came from the cornfield across the road making Charlie hit the back of his head smartly against the inside of the hood. What the fu… , was as far as he got with his thoughts before they were interrupted by another sound from behind coming out of the cornfield on his side of the road close to the car.
“Mister?” a little girl’s voice came from out of the corn.
“What the hell!” Charlie muttered out loud, his heart doubled in speed in his chest. He moved the flashlight to the rows of corn nearest his car.
“Who’s there?” Charlie yelled back as he edged towards the trunk of his car.
“Come out of there, you here? I don’t have time to be playing games!” Charlie felt like a fool yelling at the corn stalks. He was starting to feel like he had made up all the sounds and the voice inside his own head just before he was answered back.
“Mister, have you seen my dog?” Suddenly, a little slip of girl, no more than probably seven years of age Charlie reckoned, walked out between the tall rows of corn. She had short cropped red hair, with a splash of brown freckles covering a pale white face. She wore a pull over white nightie which fell down to just above her knees where he saw she must have fallen down once or twice in, because both her knees were mocked up with dirt. Big brown boots which seemed two sizes too big covered her feet with no socks completed the look.
Charlie showed the flashlight directly into her face which caused her to raise her right hand to block the light in her face.
“Dog?” was all Charlie had heard. Charlie lowered the flashlight to point at her boots.
“Yeah, he got out and my dads gonna be awfully mad if he finds out. He’s not supposed to be out after dark. He gets into too much trouble, so he’s gotta stay locked up till mornin. My dad thinks I’m in bed but I saw em get out of his pen…oh he’s gonna get it when I get a hold of him.” She stomped her foot at the last bit.
“I don’t think you should be walking out and about little lady. It’s not safe this time of night, no telling what could happen to you. I’m sure your dog will come back home in due time. He probably got sight of a yard bird and took to runnin after em. Don’t you worry none, get along home now.” The little girl was making him nervous, he didn’t need this shit. He just wanted to get his car fixed and get the hell on down the road. Charlie turned from her back towards his car and continued to wiggle things inside under the hood.
“Car problems Mister? My dad’s great with cars, he can fix anything. I think you’re right about my dog, he does come back eventually and my dads gonna be upset but not as upset as he would be if he knew I was out lookin for him. But I can go get em for you, even though I might get in trouble, he says we should help people any chance we get. You know, the lord Jesus and all that stuff.” She said from behind him, her voice seeming much closer to him.
Sure enough, Charlie looked to his left and she was pretty much on top of his car.
“Do you say pretty much whatever comes into that head of yours?” Charlie muttered low under his breath to her without her catching what he had said.
“Step Back.” Charlie almost yelled, as he slammed the hood down on his car closing it.
Charlie stood there in the road next to his car doing some heavy thinking, considering his options.
He could wait and try starting his car in a few of hours to see if the problem fixed itself except is, he didn’t have a few hours and he really didn’t think the car would fix itself. He wasn’t about to call a tow service, even if his cell phone did work out here in the middle of Cornville, USA. He didn’t need any undue attention. He knew he couldn’t be sitting around all night on this road, the sheriff’s office still sometimes might send a patrolman down roads such as these to wrangle out teenagers racing cars, smoking pot or drinking on back roads such as this. No he didn’t need that kind of attention right now.
“What’s your name?” Charlie asked the little girl.
“Nuh uh, sorry can’t tell you that on a count of you’re a stranger.”
“Well, my names is Charles and if you tell me your name, then we won’t be strangers anymore now will we?” Charlie put a smile into his voice.
“Well, you got a point there Charles so I’ll meet ya half way and I’ll tell ya my name – my Daddy call’s me, Smidgen. That’s my not my real name though, I am not a Smidgen – I’m pretty big for my age.” Charlie shown the flashlight on her and she was smiling back.
Too easy, he thought to himself idly and grinned inside; Charlie had been that trusting once.
“Well, I should like to take you up on your dad’s help if that wouldn’t be too much to ask. Do you mind taking me to him so I can be about my way?” Charlie asked her just as nice as you please.
“Sure, we live just up on the next road. I took a shortcut through the corn to get here but we can walk up this road to get to our property.” The word property came out as prop-pretty to Charlie’s ears.
“C’mon.” she said and grabbed his hand in hers and pulled him up the road with her.
It had been about a fifteen minute walk to their farm, but in that time Charlie was bombarded with all kinds of questions from the little girl nicknamed Smidgeon. Where you from Mister? Galatia,up the road. What’s your last name? Wilkins. Do you like dogs Mr. Wilkins? Sure, long as they don’t bite. Do you like corn? Cuz we grow corn, my daddy says people all over America eat our corn? Nope, never cared for it. So on and so on it went. It had been a very long fifteen-minute walk to the farm.
The farmhouse sat back from the road a bit, a good seventy-five yards or so, by his reckoning. A wide graveled road lead up to the place from the main one and in much better condition he noticed than the one he had just left. The house, to Charlie, was your typical country home, two storied and white with dark painted trim work and dark shutters on either side of every window. The porch was long and wide in the front and wrapped around the house. One side, at the end had a nice porch swing sitting there. Ideal, he thought.
What looked to be a big oak tree sat in their front yard. The massive oak took up most of the yard, the tree sat some twenty feet from the home but its upper limbs reached out till they were almost touching the upper roofs of the second story. The road up to their property made the turnaround at that tree to exit back to the main road. Charlie also saw jutting up out of the darkness at the back of their property a massive grain silo, it looked like a giant silver bullet pointing up into the sky. Adjacent to it sat a giant pole barn with rippled corrugated aluminum walls with various farming machinery, such as tractors, combines, and a pick-up all parked alongside either side of it.
Charlie took this all in as he and the little girl slowly walked up the drive to the house. The front yard was nicely lit by a bright flood light mounted high atop a pole sunk into the ground smack dab in the middle of the yard. The pole was leaning a fair bit from the vertical looking dangerously like it was about to fall down similar to the leaning towering of Pisa in Italy, Charlie thought. Underneath the light, Charlie saw a balding little red headed man digging furiously around the pole with what looked to be a spade shovel in his hands. As Charlie got closer he noticed the man might have been little but he had arms like tree trunks as he dug and flung the dirt out of the hole he had made. He seemed to be sweating profusely because it was spilling off him like a leaky hydrant. There was a mountain of dirt surrounding the pole where he had excavated around it. Nearby he saw a wheel barrow and what also seemed to be unopened bags of cement along with various bits of lumber lying on the ground. Busy in his work the man hadn’t seen him and the little girl approach. Charlie quickly detached his hand from the little girls. Funny thing for all her talking, she hadn’t said a word since she had reached their private drive, he had almost forgotten about her and how he would have to settle things at the end of all this.
“Excuse me Mister, is this your daughter?” Now most people would have jumped, was Charlie’s first thought, the way he did in coming up on the man, but the man just slowly rose up from his shoveling and just as calm as you please turned to look at him like he was expecting him to be there or at least didn’t have cause to have any fear on his own property for anyone for any reason. Either way, Charlie thought in that moment that this was one cool cucumber; he might have some trouble with this one.
“You see, my car broke down back over on Horsehead, and I ran into this little one here who said you might be willing to try and help get my car back on the road. I’m thinking it’s the alternator or battery or some connection, or something…” Charlie cut himself off and just gave the guy an imploring look.
The man took a handkerchief from the inside of his coveralls and wiped the sweat from his balding head and face. Charlie noticed the pinky finger on his right hand that held the handkerchief was mostly missing. It seemed to be nipped off just above the second knuckle, hazards of being a farmer Charlie though idly, you can keep it. The man looked back at Charlie scrutinizing him up and down. The man might have been all but five four and Charlie towered above him but it felt to Charlie like he was being looked down upon, at that moment by someone much bigger.
“Smidgeon go in the house, you and me will have words soon enough.” The little man looked at his daughter without blinking but Charlie could tell he was displeased with her.
“Yes, Daddy but he’s out. He got through the fence pen again like he did two nights ago. I told you, you gotta make it stronger, he’s gettin bigger.” Smidgeon began to move towards the porch. What she had said seemed to get a reaction out of him this time. He grabbed her hand and turned towards Charlie suddenly with an oddly inquisitive look on his face.
“What’s your game mister? Really? Cuz, I have way of sniffing out the shit from the roses. Where you from, you talk like you’re from around here but then again you don’t.”
Charlie was starting to get pissed, feeling like he was being interrogated for no reason.
“I was just passin through on my way back to Galatia where I live is all, names Charlie, Charlie Wilkins. I’ve lived there all my life; probably know half the people you know in these parts I’m sure.” Charlie put on his best relaxed smile he could muster and stuck out his right hand to the man and looked him straight in the eye.
The man just looked down at Charlie’s hand like he didn’t know what to do with it. He still held to his shovel with his right hand and with the left, his daughter’s hand not budging an inch.
“You’re daughter said you might be a good enough Christian and take a look at my car that’s still back on the road and maybe get me on my way.” Charlie didn’t think appealing to his Good Samaritan side was going to work looking at the man, but hell it was worth a try.
That seemed to soften him a bit and he let go of his daughter’s hand.
“Well what kinda car is it? I can fix most anything providin it’s American made? Can’t work on any of that foreign junk ya know. Names Barry, by the way, Barry Keegan.” With that Barry reached out and shook Charlie’s hand. Charlie came back flexing his fingers. Boy, he’s got a grip on him.
“No, No, it’s a Ford LT…” just as before back on the road, a sharp loud keening sound followed quickly by a low rumbling moan came from behind him, but this time it seemed much closer than before. He had only a moment before everything went black but it seemed to all unfold in slow motion; with Barry raising the shovel over his head, a black shadow descending on Charlie from behind, accompanied by an onrush of wind blowing at the back of his head, the scream of the little girl from behind her father with her eyes open wide staring at something Charlie couldn’t see, then darkness when the shovel held by Barry connected with the side of his head sending him to the ground hard.
Charlie woke to his head exploding. He breathed in evenly and long until the pain dulled enough to prop himself up from where he sat. He looked around gingerly because his neck didn’t like certain angles his head wanted to take. He seemed to be lying on some type of air mattress directly on a slab of cement in some very big almost warehouse like room with very high vaulted ceilings. Probably the pole barn, thought Charlie through the dullness and pain that was his brain. He grabbed tenderly at the side where Barry’s shovel had connected with his head. He felt bandages covering it going all the way to cover his right ear as well. He went to prop himself up to stand, but his body wasn’t having any of that as it sent stabs of pain to the back of his head leading to another series of mini-explosions to bounce and skitter around his skull.
Charlie saw there was a bottle of water next to him on the ground along with what looked like a generic bottle of over the counter pain pills. Well wasn’t that nice of him, Charlie thought. He twisted the cap off the water and popped four of the pills into his mouth and drank heavily still being careful to not tilt his head back too far. He noticed blood splattered down the left side of his shirt sleeve. Fucking great, this was a dog’s dinner now wasn’t it? For the moment he just sat there thinking on what all this meant. Charlie, always a cautious man, a smart man, knew when it was time to look at the situation and understand it from all angles if he could. First thing he decided, was to give it another go at getting up and was greeted with billiard balls knocking around inside his head instead of the mini-explosions from before. He would take that over the other for now.
He shambled over to what looked to be a big metal door which had a very small window set near the top. At his height, he had to bend over just a bit to look through it. It was pitch black outside, not much to see, but through it, he could make out their house in front of the pole barn he was now in. The front porch was lit by a small light near the steps, and a dim light also shown from inside in one of the rooms of the house on the lower level towards the back. The front yard flood light he had seen earlier was now off with the big oak tree just a very dim shadow against the sky.
“Anybody out there!” He regretted doing that the moment the first words came out. He put his hand to the bandaged side of his head fearing that something was spilling out of it. Shit…shit.shit that’s a smart one.
When his head calmed to a dull drumming thud he put his ear to the steel door.
Scritch Scritch …Scritch Scritch…..a soft metallic scrape reverberated into his ear through the door. Something was on the other side of this door. He listened closer. It sounded like heavy breathing, more so the bellows feeding a fire, a hollow but raspy deep inhalation of breath.
“Anyone there?” Charlie spoke in a low tone right next to the door still holding the side of his head.
“BAM!” went the door; “BAM!” went the door again. Something was trying to get in at him was Charlie’s first thought. No Shit.
“Stop it Brutus, just settle down boy. He’s alright, what’s gotten into you? Stop getting so worked up.” The little girl’s voice carried through the door to him.
“You alright mister?” she asked him, her voice coming through slightly muffled as if he was hearing through a big ball of cotton. Charlie didn’t know if that was because she was talking behind the door or because his hearing was off from the blow to the head.
“No, I’m not alright, where’s your damn father? Why am I locked up in this place and why the Sam-hell did he hit me over the head with a shovel?” Charlie fired back at her sounding angrier than he meant to, but damn it all he had a right to, didn’t he?
“BAM!” the something hit the door again and this time much harder. The steel door held though. Even being locked up, Charlie was glad for that.
“Don’t get’em riled up Mister, Daddies gone to hitch your car up and bring it back here to have a look at it for you. He just put you in there for your own safety on account of Brutus.”
“Brutus?” Charlie hadn’t caught the name before. What’s a Brutus?
“He’s my dog. You were right he did come back just like you said. Brutus doesn’t like you much, not sure what you did to make him mad at you. What did you do?” she asked politely through the door like they were just carrying on a normal conversation and this whole circumstance wasn’t strange at all.
Charlie never got a chance to answer back because he heard the chink chink sound of metal on metal and the crunch of wheels driving on rock. He couldn’t tell how close the sound was but through the little window on the door he saw a truck’s headlights coming down the private drive. For a moment the lights blinked out on the truck as it got lost behind their house then popped out again on the backside where it made slow progress to the place he was now locked up in.
Charlie heard the truck come to a stop, followed by its headlights being turned off. Charlie heard the creak of a car door being opened and then slammed shut.
“He’s up Daddy.” was all he heard the girl say.
Charlie was too afraid of getting close to the door so he only caught mumbled phrases and clipped words through it with no real meaning behind them. Barry must have been working a key into what must have been a padlock by the heavy sound it made banging against the door as he went to unlock it to enter the pole barn.
“Take Brutus and yourself back to the front and keep’em there till I call ya…thanks darling. I’m gonna have a talk with Mr. Wilkins now.” Charlie heard the padlock being removed.
“Okay Daddy. C.mon boy…lets go se….” The girl’s voice faded away as Charlie heard her continuing to talk to what must have been her dog, Brutus. Charlie was happy Brutus had gone bye bye.
Barry opened up the door into the pole barn. Charlie saw he didn’t have anything in his hand, like a gun or that blasted shovel. He could rush him right now but the pounding in his head was just now starting to let up and he didn’t think it best to push it till he knew wouldn’t fall over from a dead feint or in agonizing pain from the monster headache that threatened to grip his brain at the wrong moment. Besides small or not, the balding red-haired little man looked like he could break Charlie like a piece of balsam wood over his knee.
Barry shut the door behind him and walked directly up to Charlie, “How you fairin, Mr. Wilkins?” To Charlie’s ear there seemed to be genuine concern in his voice when he asked the question.
“How do you think? You hit me in the head with a fucking shovel!” Charlie glared at the man hoping for a reaction but none came. None that Charlie could see.
“There’s reasons behind everything that happens. Now as to the shovel, well I guess I was trying to save your life. I just want to give you a fair shake you might say. Brutus is still young and is prone to over reacting, but he’s getting better. He’s learning to look before leaps most days now. I want this to play out the right way for you is all.” A chill ran through Charlie and he knew it wasn’t a cold breeze in the room doing it.
“First time I ever heard of being hit in the head with a shovel as someone trying to save someone’s life, oughta keep your damn dog on a leash.” Charlie uttered a bitter laugh behind the comment.
Barry ignored him and ran his hand through his balding head. “I have to make you understand something about my situation and have you come to an understanding about something in yourself. The first part to me always seems like it should be the hardest in all this, but it never is. People have a knack at seeing the fantastic more so than the lie that’s already inside them that they’ve come accustomed to living with all their life.”
“Just what are you getting at Mister? It all sounds like babbling to my ear if you don’t mind me saying. I just want to get the hell home. You’re lucky I’m not gonna sue your ass for assault and battery.” Charlie gave him a hard look this time, people said he could be intimidating when he wanted to be.
Barry just clenched his massive fists once and smiled to himself. He walked over to a corner and grabbed two fold out chairs leaning against the walk and then walked back to where Charlie was standing. He carefully unfolded them and placed them on the floor across from each other.
“Sit please.” Barry intoned in a low voice with a hand on one of the chairs.
“What if I don’t want to?” Charlie asked.
“Well I could make you sit, but I would rather have your cooperation. Frankly, I‘ve a got a little story to tell and I don’t wanna be doin it by craning my neck to look up at your Paul Bunyan ass the whole time.” Barry sat in his own chair not more than three feet away facing his.
“Well since you put it that way; I’m all for story time.” Charlie fell into his chair secretly happy to be off his feet, but Barry didn’t need to know that.
Once again Charlie’s snide remarks and sarcasm got no reaction out of him. Barry just leaned
back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. Barry give a momentary wayward glance upward before he started in on his story.
“First try not to interrupt till I finish cuz I imagine you might have a few questions, but save’ em till I’m done if you wouldn’t mind…good?” Barry stared intently until Charlie just nodded his head.
It happened about three years ago, what I’d like to call the ‘Incident’. It was about this same time round harvest time. The corn was high and plentiful almost like you see it now and back then my only worries were the weather and the possible blight to my crops. I had been having a good year and looking to cash in at the end of the year somethin real good. I was blessed I told myself. It was hard work mind you, up before the chickens even crowed and settled in to bed for what seemed like to me an hour before I got up. So I rightly thought I deserved any blessing, cuz of all my hard work. I only want to mention this partly because I want you to see where my head was back then before I go on with the rest of the story. I was full of pride you see and nobody could tell me different, not my neighbors wondering when I was coming over to visit , not my preacher asking me why he hadn’t seen me in church, or my wife god bless her when she needed my help at home. I had my own stuff to do, the farm wasn’t gonna run itself, sure I could of hired some help. Then I would have just had to pay ‘em. You see I was a greedy bastard back then and I’m ashamed to say that now.
I was out back in the middle of my property working in the middle of the fields, clearing out one of my irrigation ditches with the back hoe when it flew by right over my head some ten feet. It was bright as the sun to my eyes and I could feel the heat coming off it as it had passed over. The sound it made was like a high pitched hissing growl like it was burning up the air. It cut across ten rows of my corn demolishing them into bits of nothing before it came to a stop in my field. I walked over to where it fell to and looked down into a hole about twenty feet wide and half as deep in the ground. At the center of that hole was a round knobby rock, like one of those geodes you might see with the crystals inside. It was glowing red hot and big as a soccer ball and almost just as round. Now I’m no fool, I’ve seen one too many science fiction movies as a kid, so I didn’t go poking a stick at it like those idiots you see, looking for a slime creature to come crawling up my arm. I went and got my back hoe out and scooped it up and drove it all the way back to the house and set it behind this pole barn you see here.
Then funny thing is, after that I pretty much forgot about it for a long awhile. Sure, I told my wife and daughter about what had happened and even showed it to them, then it was on with my life again. So there it sat for the next two weeks in the shade behind the pole barn. It wasn’t till my daughter came running to get me late one afternoon that I actually remembered it. My wife, Maggie, was already standing there behind the pole barn staring down at it when I came up on it.
I saw that the rock had a crack in it much like an egg would you might say and it was oozing an oily brown liquid onto the ground. The crack slowly started to get wider and wider like something was pushing to get out from the inside, it started to remind me a lot of baby chicks when they start to hatch out. Then we saw something moving on the inside of it but it didn’t look like a little fluffy baby hatchling. For all its slow progress from before, it suddenly broke free from its shell entirely and there it was. It was a beautiful creature, about the size of full grown cat or small dog. The skin of it looked strange like rough textured black steel sprouting fine silver spikes all over its body which was slowly unfolding and filling out from its round shell it had been in for God knows how long. It had six legs instead of two or four like you might expect, with three on each side of its body. Nothing deformed mind you, I’ve seen many a calf born with a leg or hoof sticking out of some weird location on its body. No you can tell this thing was meant to look this way if you know what I’m getting at.
Even for being just born it looked pretty strong, its muscles along its back were already well formed for something so small and was already standing on all six of its legs pretty confidently. It ambled around a little testing its new legs and stared at us all with very big brown eyes you could just see held intelligence behind them. To me, it looked like a cross between a cat and dog. It had a long jaw line like a dog with sharp canines that looked to be made of metal as well. The tip of its snout looked like a cats along with the ears which both moved on its head as it listened to sounds around it. It had a long black thin tail tipped in silver like the very end of it had been dunked in a can of silver paint. The look of it was kind of hard to place with any known animal; of course it was a breed all of its own. I remember thinkin and sayin out loud to my wife and daughter that he was gonna be a brute when he got bigger. My daughter decided to call him Brutus, he has lived up to that and then some you might say.
Well my daughter wanted to keep it as a pet and was I having none of that. I didn’t trust it, not in the slightest. Every time it looked at me it seemed to be sizing me up, it made feel uncomfortable. The funny thing is, my wife who loves animals for that matter thought the same thing about it. Well the issue was taken care of soon after when I came back home to find the police and an ambulance on my front door surrounding my daughter and wife. A coyote had gotten a hold of our little girl while she was playing at the edge of the yard near the corn and tried to drag her into the corn. Well little Brutus, as we called him back then, heard her screaming and jumped out of its pen which he had never done before and tore into the thing and dragged if off into the corn somewhere. My daughter and wife knew better to explain the full details of what had happened to the police. The police just called her lucky to be alive and filed their report. Since then my daughter and the creature have been inseparable.
Now here in the story is where it goes stranger than it already seems. A few days after the coyote incident, I had gotten in late one night at about eleven. I came into the house quiet as you please, everyone was settled in and should have been asleep. Maggie, I figured was fast asleep like my daughter but then I heard footsteps overhead where our bedroom was, then I heard something fall loudly to the floor followed by my wife screaming. I bolted up the steps and burst into our bedroom.
When I entered, I saw she was on the floor in her pajamas leaning her body tight against the wall between our bed and the night stand table she had pushed over. Her eyes were as wide as she could get them and a sick grimace of terror was all over her face. I saw that one of her legs was bent at the knee and tucked up next to her close and the other was laid straight in front of her on the floor of the bedroom. Little Brutus was there, very close to her, and his body was glowing blue all over, pulsing actually, from a bright almost blinding blue light to a dim glow until the blue light almost winked out but then it came back into full brightness again and continued the cycle all over. He wasn’t Little Brutus anymore, he seemed to have jumped in size tenfold from the time he had first hatched, he seemed to be the size of Great Dane or Cheetah. Its body was hunched low to the floor and his jaws were clamped tightly around Maggie’s ankle with its metal teeth. It stared straight at her not moving or making a sound. Its tail swished violently just like a cat’s does when it gets agitated.
I yelled at it to get off her but the thing ignored me, it just kept looking straight ahead at her. I was afraid to do more on account of I thought it might snap her foot off in an instant. Maggie then started shaking her head back and forth like she was saying no to something. I yelled at her and asked her what was going on. She told me the thing was inside her head. She said it was talking to her. I asked her what it was saying to her.
She only said one thing to me, “Speak the truth and be free.” I imagined it was more than that, but that’s all she kept saying over and over again when I asked her.
She kept shaking her head no to the thing. Then she suddenly yelled out to it that she had nothing to say. Then it bit down on her foot and took off her leg. She didn’t scream like you’d expect. She just sat there numbly looking ahead. Her eyes looked distant as if remembering something then tears began to flow down her face and she began to mumble she was sorry.
The bottom of her leg where her foot should have been wasn’t bleeding; no blood flowed on to the floor. In fact it looked completely healed over like it hadn’t happened at all, except that the foot wasn’t there, just a leg ending in a knobby rounded white stump. I think I went crazy after seeing that. I jumped on the thing still sitting there crouched on the floor next to her leg.
It jumped up and knocked me down like I was nothing and turned on me pinning me to the ground with its front two legs. Its body wasn’t pulsing blue anymore it was just a dead metallic color. It looked me in the eyes like it had been doing to Maggie and bit down on my outstretched hand grabbing a hold of my pinky finger in its mouth and began to pulse again but not as deeply or as bright.
Then I heard it inside my own head. “Tell me truths you only tell yourself. Speak the truth and be free, the bigger the lie the more the piece.”
What truth, what lie I asked it. I didn’t know what it was talking about. Like her I found myself shaking my head no to it. Then it bit into me. There was no pain, just a euphoria which pervaded through my whole body and then into my mind, then suddenly my brain seemed to click into place and images of me flood in. The story book of my life paraded by, every action, every reaction from the time I was born till now, me growing up as a young child, a teenager to a young adult till now and all that went with it. I saw a perspective of myself of all the things that brought me to fruition, who I was at this point, I suddenly saw all sides of the puzzle that formed me and understood where I stood in the world, the universe for that matter. I saw my pettiness, my greed for what it was; most of all was my forced ignorance of what was going on at home. My wife had a greater truth than me that she was forced to see it seemed.
She had been abusing our daughter you see. Her truth had been going too far with disciplining our daughter. This wasn’t the occasional spanking mind you. This was the kind that’s bad enough that you feel you have to threaten your daughter with worst things if she ever told her daddy about what she was actually doing. She did just enough never to leave a mark or a scar but the marks and the scars were there none the less even though you couldn’t see ‘em. Deep down I knew, but I didn’t want to see it, so I just kept on not seeing.
She told me later, like me, she had her life laid bare for her to see. For her she said, it was almost magical in a way, like a lifetime of therapy all rolled into a just a few seconds of time. Still there’s something more there in what the creature does that gets removed when it bites into you. It takes something more than just your flesh. It seems to take the part you don’t wanna give up that’s causing you all this grief, the part you hold on to no matter what.
I’ve learned over these last couple of years it’s harder for some than others. The bad bits and pieces that make them up are more damaged and numerous than you can imagine and it’s hard to fit them all right again but it can be done. I’m a witness to it. It all depends on how badly you want to see the truth I guess and what you’re willing to lose to hold on to it still.
My wife died of cancer late last year. You might not believe it but she told me towards the end it was the best year of her life after what happened. The years before she said had been like a bad dream she could never wake from. The veil had been lifted she had said. I knew exactly what she meant. I held her hand as she passed and knew she was at peace.
Barry looked across at Charlie sitting in his chair in silence now done with his story. Charlie was looking down just staring down at his feet in front of him.
“That’s a good story Mister.” Charlie picked up his head and looked at Barry directly. Something Barry had not seen before in Charlie entered his face. Malice was the first word that came to mind. It made Barry turn cold.
Barry knew it was coming but hadn’t anticipated the speed or the ferocity of Charlie’s attack. The chair Charlie had been sitting on crashed up side Barry’s head and the world exploded in white.
“Paybacks a bitch isn’t it?” he heard Charlie ask knowing he wasn’t expecting any answer as Barry lay on the ground trying to focus and not lose consciousness.
Barry tried to get up but Charlie delivered a vicious kick to his ribcage. Barry’s breath went out of him and he fought to drag air into his lungs. He could hear his breathing come and go with a hollow raspy sound behind it.
Charlie circled him with a piece of the chair grasped in his hand. Charlie pushed at Barry with his foot to roll him over and reached into his pocket and took his keys.
Charlie bent down close to Barry’s ear as he continued to regain his breath “I see my life for what it is. You can tell me all the stories you wanna tell me but I’m the one that’s gonna be showing you the truth Mr. Keegan.” Charlie raised the chair over his head above Barry as if to smash it into him.
Barry looked up at him. “He’s coming for you, we’re connected me and him. He knows what I know and I know what he knows…” Barry whispered between ragged breaths and looked at Charlie directly into his eyes.
Charlie lowered his arms slowly and walked over to the door and opened it up looking out towards their house. Barry knew what Charlie saw coming for him.
Charlie dropped the keys and bolted to his left past the perimeter of the pole barn and plunged into the rows of corn adjacent to it, running flat out as fast he could never looking back. Brutus lopped past the pole barn almost lazily and plunged amongst the rows of corn in pursuit.
The night was swallowed in the sounds of crickets chirping, the quiet rustle of leaves being moved by a soft October breeze and the loud piercing cry of a man in the night with the cornfields around him beginning to glow a very bright blue.
“There better be a good reason you called me in from my day off Jerry, especially this early in the morning.” Max said as he shut the door of his car that was parked along the dirt road with all the rest of the vehicles already parked there. God, it was a circus out here, an ambulance, coroner’s van, three state trooper vehicles, one of his own local patrolman cars and two press vans from news three and eight.
The man Max called Jerry, a very round looking fellow who filled out his patrolman’s uniform very nicely walked over to him from his own car parked across the road.
“Sorry Chief, couldn’t be helped thought we might need your assistance on this one. First we thought it was just a regular mauling by a coyote or something but it turned out to be much more than we figured.” Jerry guided Max to the back of the coroners van and unzipped the black bag sitting on the gurney.
“Sheesh Jerry! He’s got no head, no arms, no legs, what the hell happened to him. Where’s the rest of him?” Max zipped him back up himself. Jerry then motioned to him to follow him over to the ambulance.
“It’s only gonna get weirder; we found his car, at least what we think is his car on the side of the road not far from where we found him in the cornfield. We tore through it trying to find some ID on the guy because his plates were bogus and the VIN number wasn’t on the car. Look what we what found when we got into the trunk.” Jerry and he came up on the ambulance with Medic attending somebody wrapped in a blanket standing back from them about twenty feet.
Max looked at the woman closely. She had long blond straight hair, about twenty yrs of age, probably five- foot three and pretty.
“Is that who I think it is?” Max asked Jerry in a whisper.
“Yeah, she’s been missing for a couple of days. She’s a little dehydrated and shook up and probably will be claustrophobic for the rest of her life but she’ll be okay.
“You let the parents know?” Max asked
“They’re driving in from Hutchinson, they should be here soon.”
“You think that’s the guy’s car for sure. Could just be coincidence?” Max asked.
Jerry shrugged “Don’t know. Both witnesses described it as a dark Ford LTD they saw that picked her up and that the fellow was a white male fairly tall and thin. Add arms and legs to the guy in that back of the coroners van and you might just get that.” Jerry smiled at Max acting like he had made a joke. Max didn’t smile back at him.
“Weirdest thing is, there’s not one drop of blood around the scene, not a lick and his wounds are healed like he was born that way but I just know that can’t be right.” Jerry added in.
“Yeah, I noticed that too.” Max didn’t add anything else to that.
“Maybe he had it coming, who knows what he would have done when he got her to wherever he was taking her.” Jerry said as he leaned against his patrol car.
“I imagine he might have, there are a lot of sick bastards out there. Maybe he ran into something a little meaner than himself and it wanted a little piece of him.” Max said.
“Perhaps, but it took more than a piece, if it did.” Jerry smiled like he was making a joke again.
“Guess it wasn’t satisfied with just one bite.” Max said, and this time he did smile back at Jerry.