Fan Fiction: First-Hand Accounts
by Michael Bryan (aka Mike, Field Agent)
The creek bed smelled of freshly turned earth. Last night's rain had been a quiet one. No lightening, no thunder. It just poured. Steady. Thick. The whole night through. His mommy always told him it was because God was crying. Yep. When it rained quiet like that it meant the good lord was looking down and something had made his eyes swell up with tears. Even the crickets and the unsettled animals, all of who were now in search of a dry place, were silent. Still. It was the only time that he could recall feeling bad about what he had done. What he was doing. And he wasn't ashamed to admit he had cried. Couldn't very well confess it to anyone else around there. Not in that shack. The minute you start talking to them, the white coats come and take you away. Just like they took away daddy. When you talk to them, you've lost it. You're nuts, mister. A loon.
He buried his face into his grass-swollen cot and let his stinging sobs come. Silence has a deafening roar. It bellows for the guilty…and for the innocent. He slept through the day. It was night again, but it didn't look like any more rain would be coming to bother him. He smiled, standing there in the hut's doorway with his fingers looped in his suspenders, like a master surveying his plantation. The moon was out and full. He could see the creek so clear. It was more a river now. Its reflection eased his worry. No, sir, no more rain. No more pain, no more memories, and no more guilt. His disappeared back into his ramshackle refuge. His fidgeting echoed around for miles. But, there was no one in those woods for miles to hear it. No one living.
He stepped once again into the moonlight, his shiny straight razor in hand, and started down to the creek. He walked with a sprightly purpose. His breaths were deep and husky. The humidity had brought out their smell. It was still so far away, but he could sense the tickle of that syrupy aroma tickling the hairs in his nostrils. Why, he could follow it like a trail of bed crumbs. Ah, no sir. We mustn't be a stingy hog. No sir, you wash up first, young man. He skipped sloppily up to the creek. As he leaned down, his boots started to sink into the moist earth. The mud was particularly soft. He crouched so not to dirty his pant legs. The first thing he caught was his pasty reflection; gaunt and bleached out. He had more hair on his face than on the top of his head. He frowned. He didn't like seeing himself. But, he wouldn't show them an unshaven face. Not that they'd mind. They needed shaves too. Wasn't hair growing on there, though. Girls didn't grow hair on their faces. But, they could grow colors. Such pretty colors like blue and purple. Green too, but he didn't like green.
He dipped the razor into the water. It felt so cool on his fingertips. The blade crooked open and he started to clean it. He had to dig at it. The red stuff on it had dried pretty hard, like clay. He used his fingernails to chip it. Once the moon's light shined off the steel into his eyes, he splashed some water on his face and started to scrape. Uncomfortable without shaving cream. You had to go to a barber for that. He lived off of his land. He didn't go into the city. He wouldn't. The city came to him. When it did it liked to come alone and wear pigtails. Sometimes it would skip on the road a few miles away on the edge of the woods, with its books trailing behind it, tied in a belt. And sometimes, it would sing. He loved when it sang. It reminded him of when he sat alone in the schoolyard and sang songs and made up stories about far away places like medieval England or the mysterious orient. There were people there, who could fight, sing, play, slay dragons, save princesses, and love him. He was their savior. Always the savior. They were the victims. He'd get really low and watch the city skip by and sometimes it would sing. And he would join in. The city would get closer. And closer.
"Altogether shout it now," he began as he stood and started on his way along the muddy shoreline, fresh and clean. "There's no one who can doubt it now. So let's tell the world about it now"
Happy days are here again....
He froze in his tracks. He knew it hadn't been his mind's voice, talking and going on like it usually did. He knew that because when you live by yourself for so long, you know the voice in your head really well and you can feel how a voice sounds when its chatting or whatever, and you know that its different when it's a thinking voice. The sound had occurred inside his head. Yes, he was sure. But, that voice, it didn't belong to him. That meant nobody was around. Nobody had found out. But, it did mean he was crazy. Yup. He shook his head and kept walking. That's what happens when you do what he was doing for such a long time. You finally went bonkers. Crazy, mister, crazy. Just a crazy man sitting on a street corner with a cup and an itch, just like daddy. Then one day your snaps go off and you show your privates to the first little girl that walks by, just like daddy, and then the white coats come and take you away. Or maybe your mind's…what is it they say…it's playing tricks. That's likely. When you live alone and don't talk to anybody, sometimes the mind, well that old codger, he starts having some fun at your expense. Yeah, that's all it was. That's right. He had to forget it, just forget it. Forget the voice the bellowed and whispered, the voice that had seemed to both threaten and mock in the same moment. Like the owner knew....
The smell took away the fear. Soon he didn't even remember what had raised the hairs on the back of his neck and made him cold despite the humid weather.
And finally, he was upon it. The cave's mouth looked like an array of jagged teeth, a set of powerful jaws. Tonight its breath was singularly bad. The opening was stuck out of a rock wall, the top of which was another place someone could walk. Not without difficulty, he'd been up there many times. The weed growth made it nearly impossible to scale. The wild grass was so big and long that it hung over the entrance like a bushy mustache. He chuckled at the thought.
Tucked by the edge of the fissure, he found the lantern. It didn't take him any time at all to light it. The moon saw to that. As he stepped in he began to sing again, this time to announce his arrival. "Your cares and troubles are all gone… they'll be no more from now on…from now on…" He paused and turned back and looked out of the hole. The hairs were standing up again. He had a squirmy feeling on his back, like someone was there. He shrugged it off and reasserted himself. "Happy days are here again."
The flies were the fat and lazy kind. Never had any reason to fear man. They buzzed around his ear, and above the DANGER: ROCK MINE sign that was settling the earth of a fresher grave. The place was actually very spacious. Shelves had been carved out. Cobwebs blanketed the contents. Bowls and spoons that hadn't been used in years. To one side there were rusty pick axes, the tools that had done the job before he was ever born. He'd often wondered who had worked the cave before him, not to any depth, of course, but he was thankful for the sanctum provided. At what was seemingly the end of his walk, he let the lantern's light dance along the wall until it found the puncture large enough for him to fit through.
He knew this womb like the back of his hand. He could walk it blindfolded. And would do so. He set the lantern on the ground and started to step unafraid, his arms outstretched. The sway of them caused the beam to moan in protest. Might as well have been a welcome home! Elation over took him too soon. His leg caught something and he found himself flat on his face. He hit his head hard.
He scrambled like a wild animal back the way he had come and plastered his back against the wall. Sweaty hands grabbed the lantern's handle. The first thing it illuminated was his razor. He snapped it up and put it in his pocket. He let the light go further until it found the faded and disheveled dress. It used to be bright red…when she had first joined her place among the others. Now as she lay there, he could see had turned a light pink. He stuck the lantern up higher to inspect the rest of them.
The other two hadn't fallen. They were still fresh, and their dresses bright and cheerful. Good. Her noose swayed conspicuously empty. He crawled over to the girl and turned her onto her back. It's a good thing he was in the mood tonight and found her. Too much longer, and she might have gone to waste. He didn't like them to get too loose. Just slack enough. Her skin was beginning to peel off. She had literally slid out of her rope. What was left of her lips stayed with it. Her lipless grin invited him, but before he could oblige her, the scuttle of his only living company interrupted him.
"Hush," he commanded looking into the dark in the direction of the cage he had built himself. He could see the whites of her eyes through the bars. Nothing else. But he knew how she looked. She was about nine. She had cute little dress like the others. Little tappy shoes, too. A bow in her hair. But, she was a black one. He'd never had that before. He wondered what she would look like once it was time, after the decay set in. He'd find out soon enough. That's what the razor was for. He would set her loose and then, well hell, he already had a noose ready for her remains to hang up and get nice and ready for him. "It's not yer turn," he sputtered. "You just watch...and wait and see." She had learned in her short time there to muffle her sobs in the crook of her arm. She disappeared in the darkness, having squeezed her eyes shut.
It took him only a moment to work himself out of his suspenders. He set the lantern right nearby. He wanted to see her. Once he was in place, he began to sway, almost to the rhythm of the others. Back and forth. Back and forth. Swaying. Swaying. So gently. If he went too hard, she would crumble.
It was never a long affair. He was always done after a few minutes. Tonight was better than usual, so far. Maybe he would last. Hah! And then he could go back to that old whore house on the other edge of the city and show that bitch...what was her name...Sally...Sally Ringwood...a thing or two this time. She wouldn't laugh this time. He was a real man. No laughing. Not ever. Not ever again. No one would laugh at him. He could hear her out there somewhere, right now. He pictured her standing out there on the porch of that whorehouse laughing under the moonlight. He heard her. God it was almost like it was real. Why, hun, you can't do nothing with that tiny, little thing! He got mad. He went harder. Harder. And it was holding up. Well, what do ya know! And he was still going. The rosy, made up face, and uneven lipstick faded, but the laughter stayed. He got madder, and then passion's hold took him. Suddenly, he could feel it tightening around him. The girl's legs were wrapping around him. And, by God, air started to gurgle from her vacuous throat. Her teeth parted and she began to heave all the way down her pink dress. Oh God, she wanted it. Harder. Faster. Her skeletal fingertips wrapped around his back. Her eye sockets stared him down coyly. She wanted him. He'd never been wanted, and she wanted it. If only that insipid laughing would stop. She pulled him close. Her teeth brushed against his ear. "Give it too me big boy!" She shouted then fell into sync with the echoic amusement that seemed to be mocking him from all around. He shot up and screamed. Then he growled and crushed her soggy head into his hands. The skull silenced. Everything silenced.
He crawled off of her, sweat pouring down his brow. He was so shaky he couldn't stand. Holy Christ, what was happening? His knees began to sink into the rock. It wasn't rock anymore. It was mush. Mud. He tried to stand but all it did was push him in faster. He clawed for something solid to hold onto. No use. It all pulled away, like the flesh from that little girl's bones. It enveloped him.
And the laughter began again. His mind was a million different places at once.
"Byron," his mother called to him from the door of his father's bedroom. "He wants to see you."
"No, mom," the future serial killer pleaded. "I don't want to."
"Where is he?!" His father's voice boomed like the voice of God.
His own mother. Why? Why did she let him do it? His mother took him by the hand and ushered him inside. His father was waiting for him. The room smelled, like it always did, like old shoe leather and smoke. His dad was rocking in his chair, waiting. He was a plaid wearing man. Byron had to lie on the bed. Just like always. His father turned on the radio real loud so he couldn't hear his mother leave and go cry at the table with a cigarette in one hand and bottle in the other. The song on the radio was so sweet. It took his mind away.
Altogether shout it now
There's no one who can doubt it now
So let's tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again!
His father got on top of him. And swayed. Oh god, no! He swayed back and forth. Oh God, it felt terrible. Feels terrible.
Is this why you did it? That familiar voice asked. Is this why they had to die? You never got the chance to kill him?
"They took him away before I could!" The child wailed. "They took him away!"
So you made them pay! And pay!
His father put a hand over his mouth and kept going. Swaying. Swaying.
His mind lit afire. His thoughts pleaded with the voice "Pity me! Pity me! I am a victim!"
Yes, Byron, I know. I know. The voice patronized him like a mother demeans a disorderly infant. You are a victim. You are helpless. You are dead and gone! The sins of the father have destroyed you. The Shadow Knows!
His father was finished. He spat him out like used chewing tobacco. He crawled off to one side, still panting. Thankfully, it was never a long affair. Neither would poor Bryon's life: a very short excursion with a few speed bumps along the way. Speed bumps big enough to hide in. This last one he could veil himself in forever.
Elation over took him too soon. His leg caught something and he found himself flat on his face. He hit his head hard. Too hard. Blood began to pool around it. He'd never gotten up. Never scrambled for his razor, his lantern. He had tripped. He had fallen.… into a cloud. And he had died.
The cage's occupant shuffled around in the grass bottom that had been arranged for her. The poor little girl tried her best to see. The evil man had fallen over. He wasn't getting back up. Not ever. She knew it. And she was trapped. She would be forced to watch the others fall and she would die too. Slowly. She had been doomed no matter what. No escape. No hope. What a way to go. Defeated, she sank down and began to cry into her green dress. The thick layers of perpetual sweat and fear suddenly began to subside like someone had flipped a switch or abruptly ignited a radio that didn't need warming up and her favorite daytime mystery program was coming on and she wouldn't miss a single second only she would be able to see it. She felt compelled to look up. She saw the dead girl in the pink dress and the bad man of course, and the two other kids hanging nearby from the beam. The lantern made sure of it. She didn't feel frightened of them anymore. It was still terrible, but she wasn't afraid. She was going to be just fine, she realized. Just fine. She felt like an undetected force was charming her, easing her. Someone, something, she could not see.
Suddenly, she saw the bad man started to get up. His back rose up quickly. He was on his hands and knees. Then he…he kept going. Soon his arms and legs were dangling, suspended in the air, and held by nothing. He flipped up like a marionette fastened at the collar and started to flap lifeless toward the empty noose. His neck popped inside, and once again, he became slack. Dead. The spark that reanimated him dissipated like a distant lightening strike. And he swayed. Back and forth. She heard footsteps. Yes. Unmistakable. Invisible hands finagled with her lock.
It snapped loose and the door opened forcefully. She felt herself lift up into a cloud, a dark and menacing storm cloud. But, this cloud's fury was over and receipted her warmly, albeit with a sense of hesitancy. She felt the cool brush of fabric envelop her and conquer her with exhaustion. A mixture of relief and joy came with it. She was in no harm. She was going home to her mother and father. When she awoke she would feel refreshed and none of the horrors she had seen would matter. For weeks to come she would try to explain where she was for the past week, but her memory would fail her. It wouldn't matter. She would be home. And happy. She knew it. No harm. Not anymore. Her eyes began to close softly, but not before catching a glimpse of her rescuer in the lantern's fading light. The wide brimmed fedora, his blood red scarf… and a hooked nose that, for some reason, made her want to giggle, but she was too tired. And what a glorious feeling. Just tired. And safe.
He knew how to get her home. He knew everything.
The Shadow's gloved hand gently brushed her hair. His girasol ring got caught in it ever so slightly. She didn't feel it. He cradled her in his arms and wrapped her in his cape. She, in turn, snuggled into his protective embrace and fell into a deep slumber.