BOOK of SHADOWS

By CHAD FLEAGLE

The author unleashes a frightening vision of dark shadows in our brightly lighted environment. This collection of five short stories explores the nature of Human paranoia and the nerve-racking anatomy of psychological suspense. This is an exceptional collection clearly illustrating the author‟s ability to juggle science fiction and imperiling doom while spinning horror and fear into great entertainment. The author is a clever writer with a sharp sense of irony whose characters are strong, cunning and very believable. Such a talent is destined to go far in the literary world.

About The Author

Chad Fleagle is in his late twenties and has been writing since age ten. He is a masterful storyteller whom‟s screen and teleplays reveal a dynamic imagination. His experienced and urbane writing style evokes a sense of being there, which all writers strive for, but so few achieve.

Book of

Shadows
A

Collection of Five Short Stories

By

CHAD FLEAGLE

TERROR REVULSION SHOCK FRIGHT HORROR

www.mittymax.com

e-Book 2000

Copyright 2000

Book of Shadows

WHO‟S THERE
By

Chad Fleagle

Book One

e-Book 2000

“Who’s there?”

I ask the darkness beyond the living room. Where the long hallway sits looming. Something‟s there in the hall. I catch but a glimpse of it as it swiftly passes by the door.

“Who‟s there?” I call again.

Never do I get an answer.

Do I expect one?

That of a shadow, fleets by ever so quick. Night after night it catches my attention. Upon walking to the doorway, I peer up then down the hall. I find nothing but darkness beyond, mind boggling darkness, perplexing my senses.

I make the nightly trip to the door.

Nothing.

No door to close, hide the unknown. I make that trip down the hall to find nothing. Continue to my room.

The door is open.

It hadn‟t been so earlier.

Or have I forgotten to close it myself? Now have been awoken to my mistake. Something‟s wrong in my home. I just can‟t put my finger on it.

I enter my room. Make sure to search the usual hiding spots of monsters. Under the bed, in the closet. All is to my satisfaction, safe and sound.

I strip off my robe, sit on the bedside. Think on the nights strange activity.

A creak in the hall.

“Who‟s there?”

My eyes fix on the door. It passes the doorway in a blur. Damn it, I know something‟s there. I jump from my seat, run to the closet. The cold steel of the shotgun in my grasp, twin buckshot waiting to be shot. Barely noticeable is the weight of the gun. I lift it as I run to the doorway. Point it at a target that‟s nowhere to be seen.

What‟s going on?

A final glance tells me the inevitable. It‟s usual the intruder is nowhere to be seen.

Am I losing my mind?

Insanity slipping through the cracks of sanity. Manifests itself to me by planting visions before my eyes.

Should I begin to worry?

The gun rests on my shoulder. I make my way back to bed, place the gun against the dresser drawer. I resume my seat at bedside, attempt to figure this out.

The creak again.

Is it worth the look?

The outcome is rather predictable. Whatever this force is, it wants to be known.

The creak persists, grows louder. I lie flat, cover myself to the neck. Ignoring this thing will be this easy.

It gets much closer.

The minds eye has a way of making things seem nightmarish. Though I‟ve no way of knowing its appearance. My attention fixed on a single tile of the ceiling. The creak halts at my side. Fear is my companion at this moment, it lies next to me in bed. I have to push it to the far side of the bed.

Get some sleep, roll on my side away from the door. Just get some sleep.

The scrape of metal over wood.

What is it?

It grates slow across the floor.

The gun?

It crashes to the floor. I jump, but do not turn in the sounds direction. The suspense tears me up, I have to know, have to look.

I turn as quick as possible, almost roll from the bed. I stare to the floor, the guns gone.

As quickly as I can, I get to my feet. I have to find the gun. If this is a human he‟ll have the upper-hand. A full search of the room reveals nothing.

The gun has vanished.

Suddenly, the door to the room slams shut. Causes such a stir within me I lose my balance. I slam to the hardwood floor. Expect something to attack any minute. The light in the room flickers like a candle. One that can‟t be extinguished by a breeze. It must be a short in the wire. But this house is only a year old. Misfit wires can hardly be the blame. The glare returns to normal.

Tired...

The bed looks so inviting right now. The strangeness of this night can go to blazes. The realm of dreams will sweep me away, to somewhere safe, without unseen visitors.

I drift off on contact with the pillow.

Not one dream visits me, the night is peaceful.

The glare of the morning sun wakes me. Something heavy rests on my chest. I sit up to look. It‟s the shotgun, nothing about it has changed..

I rise, stretch my stiff muscles, knees pop like firecrackers. The room is cold, unnatural in a way. I always keep the thermostat at seventy. If it gets too cold, the heat kicks on, does so every half hour. Yet it‟s so cold. I pull my robe on, it gives some warmth. Place the shotgun back into the closet. It‟s rare anything happens in the morning hours.

Whatever it is it‟s not very active in the morning. Off to the kitchen I roam. Coffee is in order. Coffee and a muffin perhaps. I open the fridge, take from it a can of decaf coffee and a stick of butter.

An odor enters my nostrils. Not unlike that of rotted meat. Meat that has long since outlived its days of freshness. I place the coffee and butter on the table. Cover my nose with my hand, attempt to block the smell. It does little good. The smell is so powerful, I grow dizzy. I have to sit down.

I turn to the table, find a nightmare seated there. In no way is it human. It‟s a shadow with human form. I can‟t move, I‟m stuck in fears tight grip.

It makes no move, only stares. What it stares at is hard to say, with no visible eyes it makes it even harder to know.

Is this good or bad?

It stands, floats down the hall.

It takes five minutes for me to be able to move again. Things like this just don‟t happen.

There‟s no doubt that it just has though. what is the thing, what‟s its purpose for being here? Questions that will never obtain answers. What is the thing?

Why is it doing this to me?

Is this place haunted?

But I‟ve just bought this place, it‟s but a year old. Perhaps it‟s the ground it is built on. All this theory boggles the mind. I have to take a seat, or find myself dialing for the men with the straight-jackets. The seat I choose is that of the apparitions. I jump from the chair the instant my butt hits the wood. Not for the fact that an enigma of modern science just sat in it five minutes ago.

It‟s damn cold.

It‟s one of the coldest damn seats I‟ve ever sat in. It‟s like sitting on a block of ice with a bare ass. I sit in a different chair. wonder what‟s to come. With my breakfast spoiled by the smell of my phantasmal visitor.

Can someone help me with this problem?

Will they want to?

Will I let them?

I think I‟m losing my mind.

A laugh.

“Who‟s there?”

No response, as usual.

The laugh sounds as if it comes from a child. This one has me truly scared. I don‟t want to check it out. I think that‟s what it wants me to do, get on my nerves a little. Make me feel as if nothing can be done about it.

This is the way things are going to be. Its laughter is its way of mocking me. After all you can do little to that of the supernatural.

The laughter continues.

I rise from the chair to begin the search. It knew I‟d give in. The hall is shadowed even in the day. A mere deep breath isn‟t going to help. In my nerve-ridden state it‟s hard to breath. The thing can be anywhere in the hall, waiting, snickering.

The laughter is down the hall. In the bathroom. I rush down there, I‟m going to catch this thing. I stop at the doorway.

Nothing.

The laugh echoes away. “Leave me the hell alone.”

I slam my fist into the wall, cause more hurt to my fist than the wall. I walk into the bathroom. I need to shave and take a piss.

I relieve myself, find the room rather cold.

Is it still here?

I search the cabinet for a razor and shaving cream. I find what I need, shut the mirrored cabinet. I attempt to look at my reflection. Find the mirror steamed over.

“What?”

There‟s no way it should‟ve steamed over. You need running hot water for that, steam for that matter. I wipe my hand over it, reveal a blurred image of myself.

I use a towel to wipe it dry, my appearance returns to normal. The bathroom door slams shut, lock clicks, my heart slams from fright. The laughter beyond the door.

Why is it doing this?

Click-click. The bathroom door unlocks, swings open to reveal nothing. I swing the door wide. Return to the mirror.

Now what?

My face in the mirror is shadowed out. Not by steam build-up, shadowed out by a dark image. I touch the mirror, the image fades on my contact with the mirror. must keep my mind off it. I shake the can of shaving cream, spray a small foam ball into my palm. I apply it to my face, reach for the razor.

It‟s gone.

I replace the missing razor with a new one. Run the hot water. I start under my chin, slow, don‟t want to cut myself. I rinse the razor clean. Notice a thin line of blood on my right cheek. I felt no pain, no sensation of being cut.

Blood runs down my cheek, dots the water red. I use a piece of toilet paper, place it over the cut. It doesn‟t work, blood soaks through the tissue. I bleed heavier, gushing in a stream, dripping from the mirror. Another gash appears, gushes just as much. I‟m in a panic. Another then another, gash after gash. My flesh dangles in ribbons, skull exposed through shredded muscle. I close my eyes, open them to find a clean mirror, my face never slashed.

Another trick.

I check the sink for signs of blood, nothing at all. I turn the water off, wipe the shaving cream from my face. The water turns back on. I turn it off. I turn, head out. It turns back on.

“What the...”

I return to the faucet, move to turn it off. It does so before I touch it. This force is having fun with me. The shower comes on, goes off, comes on again. The toilet flushes, fills up slightly, flushes again. I have to leave the room. It‟s driving me crazy. I think it knows that. Why, does it want to see me suffer?

In the bedroom, I get dressed. The chill seems to follow my every move, haunts me with its bitterness. The closet door slams. I don‟t know how many more of these surprises I can take. I try to open it, find resistance on the other side. There‟s nothing but clothes on the other side. I use more force, it does as well. I put more strength into it. The laughter, beyond the door. I‟ll fight it out with you. It opens slightly, slams shut. Anger builds within, loud laughter, annoys me further. I give up, release the doorknob. I walk away, it creaks open slow, I turn to it.

“Why?” I shout. “Why are you doing this to me? Who are you?”

A mist of foul smelling air slams me in the face. Nausea hits me like an unseen fist. I have to sit, or I‟ll fall over. I‟m dizzy and disoriented, feel ill. A shadow flees from the closet, races out the bedroom door. The smell and ill feeling pass with it. Something has to be done, this has to be stopped. I‟ll find someone that can help

Who helps in these situations, who can?

I finish dressing, head for the phone. Sit on the couch, reach for the phone. I stare at the razor, the one that vanished.

I pick it up, it‟s real enough. Will “Ghost Hunter” be listed in the yellow pages? I open the telephone book, flip to the “G” section. My finger searches the listings. I find nothing but an appendix, see: “Parapsychologist.”

I turn to the “P” section, find each page blank. Every turned page shows nothing. It can‟t be, this being doesn‟t want to be discovered. A blank page fills in with a disturbing statement. “You will die soon.”

It wants to kill me now? I have to get some help. I head for the front door. The phone rings, should I answer it? The front door locks. I answer the phone.

“Hello...”

I get a busy signal in my ear. It must be the work of the entity, trying all it can to keep me here. I place the phone down, return to the door. Find it locked tight.

The laughter, a whispering. “Who‟s there?”

The whisper, as near as if it were next to me.

I have no desire to turn, see if my senses are correct. A hand touches my shoulder.

I turn, find no one. It still feels if someone has my shoulder. It whispers, like a chant, yet it‟s hard to make out any real words. My throat is gripped by unseen hands. I can‟t breath, it‟s trying to kill me. I struggle for my life, fall to the floor, unable to fight free, there‟s no one to fight.

A knock at the door, the hands leave. I struggle to my feet, answer the door, now unlocked. My girlfriend Kelly stands before me.

“What the hell happened to you?” She asks.

I hold my neck, rub the pain away. She examines it for herself. “It looks like someone choked you. Who did this to you?”

“You wouldn‟t believe me if I told you.” I sit on the couch, she joins me. “Why don‟t you try me.” She says. “We‟ll have to tell the Police of course.” “No way, Kelly.” I stand. “You have no idea how they‟d react to my report.”

“What happened here, Michael? Tell me.”

I don‟t want to tell her, include her in my abnormal problem. Chances are, I already have, by letting her enter this place.

“Fine, I‟ll tell you.”

“W e 11?”

“There‟s something in this house, Kelly.” I pace. “Something not human, something supernatural.” “What?” She smiles. Gives me a odd look. “You‟re saying your house is haunted and that‟s what choked you... a ghost?” “You see... I told you wouldn‟t believe me.” “I‟m not saying that, Michael.” She smiles. “It‟s just a little hard to believe is all.”

“It‟s true...” I grab her hand. “Come with me, I want you to feel something.”

“What are you doing? Where are you taking me?” bedroom, cold as ever.

We enter the

“I see.” She smiles. “What was it you said about feeling something?” She shivers. Hugs her own body. “I don‟t think so, pa1.”

“No.” I say. “It‟s not that, Kelly.” I touch her arms. “Can‟t you feel it... the cold.., it‟s unnatural.”

“It is cold in here.” She walks over to the thermostat.

“Try turning the heat up once and a while.”

“That‟s just the thing... I do turn it up.” I walk over to her. “Sometimes as high as ninety degrees, still this is how the room feels. The cold follows me as well.., from room to room.”

“It doesn‟t mean your house is haunted.”

“I saw the shadow entity with my own two eyes just this morning.” I take her to the kitchen. Point at the chair. “I turned., there it sat. It looked like a shadow you‟d see on a wall, yet in three dimensions.” “You‟re serious, aren‟t you?” She sits at the table, “You say it just sat there?”

“Uh-huh.” I say. Shake my head. “It gave off one hell of a stink as it did, like rotten meat and eggs.”

“You know.., now that I think of it. I think I‟ve heard of this somewhere before. Like on a television special on ghosts or something.”

“What‟s your point?”

“My point is... it sounds like you might have a case of demonic infestation.”

“Demonic what?”

“Demonic infestation.” She repeats. “It‟s when a demon has invaded your home.”

The shadow appears behind her. I stare in shock.

“It makes itself known in many different ways. Such as the foul odor you told me about...” She notices my look. “What‟s wrong... what is it?”

“It‟s behind you.”

“What?” Her eyes bug out. She feels unseen hands on her shoulders. “Help, Michael.”

I have no idea what to do. what can I do? If this is a demon, a mere mortal will find it difficult to accomplish anything against it, unless you‟re a Priest. That‟s it, I have to get a Priest.

The shadow lifts from the floor, Kelly rises into the air with it. An unseen wind gusts about. The fridge door opens and slams shut.

All the cupboards open and close. Every burner on the gas stove ignites. The flames shoot higher than ever. The table and chairs‟ bounce around.

“Let her go, damn you.”

The laughter of children fills the room. The knobs of the faucet spring into the air. Streams of water jet into the air. Plates and cups spin in the air, many explode. A multitude of sharp knives dance in the air.

Like a fool I attempt to rush the shadow.

The knives shoot towards me. A quick dive saves my life. The knives stick in the wall, a chair slides in my direction. I move, but not quick enough. It smashes into my legs. I fall to the floor with a yell. “You‟re going to die, you‟re going to die, you‟re going to die.” The voices chant. The voices of children.

Another chair heads for me. With my legs protesting in pain, I stand and jump clear of it. It topples as it slams into the cabinet. The shadow throws Kelly at me. I catch her, yet her weight causes me to fall to the floor.

The shadow flees down the hall. The laughter of children follows. Everything just stops, the dishes crash to the floor. The cupboard and fridge doors quit slamming, The stove burners flicker out, leave four scorched marks on the ceiling.

Kelly trembles in my arms. Tears streak her soft face. I tremble along with her. We have to get out of the house. I don‟t know why the entity has stopped, but it can come back any minute.

“Come on, honey.” I stand her up with me. “We‟re getting out of here.” She says nothing, allows me to guide her. Through the hall towards the living room. The hall begins to close in, on both sides it seeks to crush us. It gets more narrow by the minute.

We manage to squeeze into the bathroom. The door slams shut. I try to open it. It‟s a no go. Kelly appears as if she‟s going to be sick. She races for the toilet, drops to her knees. Lifts the lid, a skeletal hand grabs her hair. She screams, fights with the hand. It releases her, with a pull of the lever, it spins down the bowl. Not before giving them the middle finger.

I hold her in my arms. What can possibly happen next?

This is all to unreal, things like this just don‟t happen. A rumble of thunder. An approaching storm outside perhaps? Another long vibrating rumble. A drop of rain hits my face, another than another. The bathroom is filled with raindrops. It‟s raining in my bathroom. A mini bolt of lightning flashes before our eyes. The rumble soon follows.

This is highly a horrifying event. The rain changes, tastes salty and feels warm. Our reflections in the mirror reveal why. We‟re both covered in blood. The white room crimson with color. It‟s raining blood. The shower turns on, sprays streams of red. The faucet spews crimson full force. The toilet bubbles, geysers forth a stream of blood.

Kelly screams hysterically out of control, I try to keep my head, can‟t lose it. I have to be the strong one, for the both of us.

Blood gathers on the floor.

Instead of seeping out through the cracks in the door. It continues to rise, higher and higher. I try to turn the faucet knobs to an off position. They were never turned on.

With the rain, shower, faucet, and toilet spewing blood. We‟re soon waist deep in it. What‟s it going to do, drown us?

What am I going to do? What am I going to do? Think, think, think. The blood is now at our chins. Not only am I repulsed, I‟m scared out of my mind. I almost drown a year ago. It turned into a phobia for me. Somehow I think it knows.

In a flash of light I find myself alone. My surroundings have changed. Trees surround what appears to be a large rock quarry. I find myself in the water, at the very center of the lake.

“God no.” I gasp. My heart feels as if it‟s going to burst. I can‟t feel the bottom. “Not the quarry. No... God no.”

Somehow I‟ve been brought back to the quarry. Back to the very same spot in the lake where death almost took me.

I was with my friends. Thought I could swim across the length of the quarry lake. All started out fine. My friends being better swimmers pulled ahead, I lagged behind. Towards the center of the lake. I found myself extremely weak and gasping for air. Then it occurred to me, I couldn‟t touch bottom. The shore was a good seventy-five yards off. In my current condition, I knew I had little choice. Either I‟d make it to shore or die.

As I stroke toward shore, frantic prayers raced through my mind. I hadn‟t even swam fifteen feet, when my body couldn‟t take anymore. Muscles cried in pain, lungs burned for air, I had no more to give. The water was to be my grave. My head disappeared below the murky water.

Somehow, I believe through sheer instinct. I kicked for the surface. Upon arrival there I found a new strength within my body. My will to live was stronger than my will to die.

Lying on my back, directing my eyes to heaven, I kicked. It seemed for an eternity. Breath still coming in quick, panic—filled gasps. Muscles still burning in protest. I made it ten feet from shore.

My cry for help prompted my Brother to come for me. He leaped to my aid. Saw me the rest of the way in. He‟s still a life saver in my book. Though I never admit it to him. Now I find myself returned to the very same situation. Only the shore is nowhere in sight.

There‟s nothing but endless water all around. “I must get to the shore.” I cry. Begin to swim. God... I must.” I swim and swim. There‟s no shore in sight. I can‟t stop, have to keep going. A laughter of children. My strokes grow faster. Muscles begin to ache, It can‟t be happening again. My breath comes in quick gasps, still I see no shore. I stop, tread water on weak legs. My heart slams with intense fury. I can‟t seem to catch my breath. Must keep going, have to keep going. I push on, my level of energy drains to nothing. I‟m running on pure panic-filled adrenalin. Another ten yards and I turn to the backstroke. The one that saved my life the first time.

My eyes gaze up into a gray, cloudless sky. Not blue graced with sun and generous amount of cloud cover. I merely float, no power left to kick. I have to catch my breath. Think on something else besides panic.

A pair of hands explode from the water. Wrap around my waist, pull me beneath the water. They pull me deeper. I struggle for the surface, lungs burn for the taste of air. The hands are too strong. I take my last breath, my lungs fill with water.

Something shakes me, my eyes flash open. I gulp in huge breathes of air.

Find that I‟m on the bathroom floor. Kelly kneels at my side, worry in her eyes. “What happened?” I ask.

“The blood stopped filling the room. It got sucked back into the faucet and toilet. Then you wouldn‟t wake up,” she cries. “I thought you were dead. You wouldn‟t wake up.”

“I‟m fine now, honey.” I embrace her. “I‟m fine.” Why must I lie to her? I‟m far from fine, about as far as any man can get.

I get to my feet. The room shows no indication it was just filled with blood. It appears cleaner than it had been. I spot something on the mirror. A message in the moisture. “How about a swim?” It‟s like a kick in the balls. The moisture fades along with the message.

“Let‟s get out of here.”

I open the door, we rush into the hall. In a mad dash we clear the hallway. The living room is filled with corpses. Some hang from the ceiling by their wrists, ankles and throats. Each in their own degree of ripeness. Some craw with maggots and beetles. The odor is horribly foul. Moans and screams of agony fill the air.

“Why are you doing this?”

“You‟re going to die, you‟re going to die, you‟re going to die.” The children again.

All the corpses heads turn our direction. The heads shake, mouths open, spill maggots. The laughter of children flows from each decayed form.

“Shut up.” Kelly screams. “Shut up, shut up, shut up.” She cries. Starts to giggles along with the corpses.

I slap her back to sanity. The living room once again returns to normal. The front door refuses to open, like I expect it too? I kick at it.

The children laugh.

Kelly lets out a horrible scream. I turn to see what her problem is. The ceiling is alive. It wavers like the surface of a lake. Long tentacles of water rope down, faces appear at the ends. The faces have no fine features, nose, mouth, and eyes. The images waver and reflect the light of the room.

Two of them look us dead in the face. A smile appears on one of the faces. My fist separates the face closest to me, Hole in the image re-fills. My hand soaked with water.

The heads circle around us, squirt streams of water at us. They annoy us on purpose. Yelling does little good. The floor becomes that of water, we disappear beneath its surface. Crash to the basement floor. A head stares down at us. It smiles, returns to the living room above. The ceiling returns to normal.

We stare around the dankness of the basement. What will it throw at us next? I hear a sound, like someone moving near the furnace. Whomever it is their breath comes in heavy gasps.

“Who‟s there?” I ask.

“Who is it, Michael?”

“I don‟t know.”

“Who‟s there?” A voice returns. It comes in a raspy way. “Who‟s there... who is it, Michael?” An evil snicker. The basement fills with the sound of whispers. Four figures stand in the dark. “Look.., you can have the damn house. I‟m leaving.., never returning.”

The figures glide across the floor. Stop just before getting within two arms length.

The figures wear Nuns habits. Their arms folded, darkness beyond each hood. Circular pools of red glow within each hood, they surround us on all sides.

“You‟re going to die, you‟re going to die, you‟re going to die, you‟re going to die.” The children playfully chant.

“They close in on us and that‟s the last thing I know, Dr. Matthews.”

“What happened after you blacked out?”

“I‟m not truly sure. We found ourselves lying just beyond the front door of the house.” “You have no idea how you both got there?”

“None at all, sorry.”

“That‟s all right, Michael. It‟ll come back with time. You‟re time is up for today.”

“Dr. Matthews.. .“ I stand. “Yes?”

“Do you believe my story? Am I getting better?” “Of course I believe you, Michael.

You‟re showing wonderful progress with accepting what happened. Soon, I believe you‟ll be over it all together... don‟t worry.” He smiles.

“Thank you Doctor, see you next week.”

“Yes... next week.”

Dr. Matthews sighs, feels sorry for the young man. He‟s not a danger to himself or anyone else. But with hallucinations like his, he can easily harm someone else by mistake. The medication should help.

The young man can tell one helluva story though. Imagine that, four evil specters dressed as Nuns. Unseen entities wreaking havoc in his home. It‟s all utter nonsense, helluva story though.

The Doctor prepares to leave for the night. His watch reads 11:30. There‟s no one in the building with him. The clean-up crew doesn‟t arrive till twelve.

A knock at his door.

“I‟m no longer seeing patients.”

He approaches the door.

“Besides, how did you get in?” He opens the door. No one. “Very funny... very funny, Joe.” He stares down the hall, up then down. The hall is empty. “I know it‟s you, so you can stop now.”

He re-enters the office. There are a few files he needs to take home.

The knock again.

This time he views a shadow beyond the frosted glass of the door. He has no time for games. He opens the door. “Now listen here...” He shouts.

He stares upon one of the Nuns. Just as Michael had described them. The eyes, like burning embers.

“No.” He shouts.

He slams the door, turns to his desk. A Nun stares in through his window. The Nun at the door phases through. He hears the laughter of children and the whisper of many voices.

“Stay away.., stay away.” He cries.

“You‟re going to die, you‟re going to die, you‟re going to die.” The playful chant.

The Nuns close in.

The building is filled with the echoing scream of a non-believer.

Book of

Shadows

INFECTION UNKNOWN

By

Chad Fleagle

Book Two

e-Book 2000

IINFECTION UNKNOWN

The beeping of my watch warns me of another passing hour.

What time is it anyway?

Don‟t know why I stopped at a Motel. Tired of running I guess. I‟m glad the manager had no questions. His wondering stares alone showed suspicion. My wound is difficult to hide. Dress shirt exposes crimson. The bite is fresh, throbs with pain. The shirt has to come off. Damn pain killers wore off too soon. Have to get a stronger dose next time.

I sit, stare into the motel room mirror. No change so far. How long till it begins? Before me is the reflection of a man in torment. Mind trapped between fear and the questions of reality. I grab a mini-recorder from my backpack. Place it in front of me. Check the tape for free inches, space available for recording. The suitcase is next. I reach for it, click it open. Take the video equipment from it. Connect all the wires. Plug the power cord into a socket. I have to make sure the cameras in place. It has to scan my brain and heart. Where it all begins. I return to my chair. Press record on the camera. I make certain my image is displayed on the rooms monitor.

“It‟s one-thirty AM,” I examine the image. “It‟s been one hour and forty-five minutes since my bite. Infra-red imaging shows no sign of mutation.” I hold the mini-recorder close. “Early observation shows the human body going through radical changes within the first two hours of infection.”

I sit the recorder down. Take my shirt off painfully. The shirt material sticks to the wound. An infected one escaped its containment room and we met without a formal introduction. A blue, glowing substance runs down my chest. One of the signs to look for. The blue by-product of the infection. The substance is what‟s left behind once it begins its domination of the body.

“The wound has still to begin the process of healing.” I look at the bite. “The healing process seems broken down all together. Yet I‟ve viewed those in the final stage of infection take in human punishment and continue to function.

I prepare the dressing for the wound. “This I‟ve stated in earlier entries.” This will be my second attempt at covering the wound. The first try ended in failure. The bandage melted away as the blue by product fought against the antibiotic ointment on the bandage. Still, no one has any idea where this virus comes from or what it truly is. The recorder clicks to a stop. Damn it, that‟s the last tape. From now on infra-red video will have to do. The only problem is no audio and my image will be distorted as a result of the imaging.

Applying the second bandage is painful. Can expect it to dissolve in a half hour. No use having the camera. I shut it down. Walk to the window. Rain hammers against the pane. So far they haven‟t followed.

Perhaps I lost them back at the lab. A great driver I am not. For a change, maybe luck has gone my way. Highly doubtful. I was shit out of luck when I got bit. I prepare the dressing for the wound. This I‟ve stated in earlier entries.

In the bathroom, I get the shock of my life. As I piss. I notice the color of the urine isn‟t its usual yellow, it‟s dark blue. An outcome never anticipated. No doubt at all now, I‟m infected. My sides are itchy. It feels like tiny worms are under my skin. Something slithers from the irritated areas. Tentacles, I have freakin tentacles growing from my sides. They whip and grasp the air. I have to check the imaging. The camera is back on me. high Patterns of heat around the tentacle area. Infra-red shows

A knock at the door.

Can it be them?

There has to be another way out of here. I have to find it quick. Wait a minute, I don‟t think they would knock. Come through the door perhaps but not knock.

What about my appendages?

Hope my shirt will hide them.

The knock again, more insistent. The shirt will hide the tentacles, not their movement. Oh no, the image on the screen shows high heat around my stomach. The brain and heart are warmer than usual.

They mutate in the final stages.

Bang, bang, bang, bang.

Whomever it is he‟s intent on speaking with me.

“Yes?” I shout.

“Motel Manager,” His reply. “I need a moment to speak with you.”

“Just a minute.”

My, God, my stomach crams and itches. It‟ll be hard to answer the door without showing some discomfort.

I have to try, he won‟t leave otherwise. I know how difficult it‟s going to be keeping my tentacles still. Keep the pain induced expressions from my face. I stand before the door. Mind at work. I search for ways to hide my current problems.

Bang, bang, bang, bang.

“I know you‟re in there.”

I open the door to a skinny, long-haired Hippie. He puffs on a joint. Scowls at me in a daze.

“What‟s your problem, little man?” His fingers in my chest. “How long does it take you to answer a door? Damn slow poke.”

“I‟m truly sorry, sir.”

“You sure are, buddy.” He laughs. “Forgot to tell you your check out time.” He hits the joint. “You and your ass are out by six,”

“That‟s fine.” I say.

“Coming through.” He pushes his way in.

“What the hell you got going in here, man?” He stares at the image on the television. “You some kind of sicko?”

“No...” A cramp tears through me. “Ohh... it‟s my equipment.” My stomach retches with pain. “Ohh... would you mind leaving now, sir? I have some work to do.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?” He looks at me. “This is my Motel, asshole. If anyone‟s going to leave it‟s going to be you.” Me advances, grabs my shirt.

“I... meant nothing... nothing by it, sir.”

The cramps tear through me like a maniacs knife. Attempt to gut me. Yank my intestines from my body. I let out a loud groan.

“What‟s your problem, man?” He looks me over. “You sick or something?” The tentacles tear from my shirt. Wrap around his arm and waist. “What the hell are you, some kinda weirdo?” Me struggles to free himself. “Let me go, ya freak.” “I‟m truly sorry, sir. I have no way of stopping their actions. They run on their own accord.”

I want to stop my mutations actions. Only my body is immobile. The cramps are no longer a problem. It‟s now mind numbing pain, it shatters my being. “Get the fuck off me.” He swings his free fist, knocks me senseless. My stomach splits open. Shows its teeth and gnawing mouth. which it uses to feast on the Motel Manager. He screams and cries for help that will not arrive. Slowly but surely his back snaps in two. His body is pulled into mine. Blood showers the white walls in sprays and spurts. Then darkness greets me with its shadowy handshake.

The morning sun creeps through the blinds. I wake in intense pain. Head pounds like the hammer of a Blacksmith. Pounds the steel that will be the stabbing sword. Causes the impulse that will be pain. The blood about the room brings dark memory to light. I look to my stomach. Which shows no sign of life. My existence being its life monitor for the present time.

No one heard the Managers screams. The place had been empty.

To my knowledge, the final stage is yet to happen. During the final stages the brain is invaded by the virus. From then on the virus enhances the adrenaline and increases muscle mass. Gives the infected subject unnatural abilities. In turn comes the suffering. An infected person must infect others in order to survive. They‟ll do anything to accomplish their goal. At the lab where we discovered this amazing yet deadly virus. We had subjects in the final stages of infection. Placed in containment rooms where twenty-four hour watch could be preformed. We knew so little of the virus final affects on the body or the manner in which it may be spread.

We realized the drastic affect this virus would have on a city or state of high population. The end result, a world wide catastrophe. I was a scientist with the chance of a lifetime. Getting bit by an infected subject on my first interesting job. When the time came for our superior security team to see things secure. They ran faster than the scientists. I watched those infected subjects escape. One being the cause of my health change. Few brave guards did their job. Dropped the virus ridden bodies where they stood.

Soon enough the head scientist discovered how the virus transferred itself. It can only transfer through the bite of an infected subject, on that of a uninfected one. I was bitten, once they learned of my unfortunate accident. I would have a containment room of my own. That I didn‟t want. Besides, I was feeling fine.

In no time they caught onto my problem. I had to escape, and do it quick. The security team chased me from the building. Guns blazing all the way. The virus acts fast on the body. I was beginning to weaken. Lucky for me my car was un-locked and I had the keys. I managed to elude them on the streets. Ended up at the Motel.

Now, I sit faced with a dilemma. I‟ve no idea what‟s next. What to do in the meantime. They‟ll find me, when they do I‟m dead. So far, I‟d eaten someone but hadn‟t infected anyone. They know it‟s only a matter of time before I do. They can‟t have me running around infecting people, now can they?

Voices outside, the front door is filled with bullet holes.

I have to escape somehow or this is it. The door burst inward. The security team point automatic weapons. They wear full body environmental suits, as a means of protection.

“Hold it right there.” A man shouts. “He‟s here, men.”

I jump into the bathroom for cover. The airconditioner shatters into pieces from gunfire. They want my ass and they want it bad. There‟s no way out. The damn window is too small to fit through. They point their guns at me. I back into the shower. My stomach roars, tentacles whip at them.

“He‟s already mutating.” The man notes. “Waste his ass.”

Panic overcomes me, the wall my only obstruction. Perhaps it doesn‟t have to be. Using the strength the virus gives. I explode through brick and plaster with ease. The security team follows through the hole. They spray the outside with bullets. Enhanced strength brings lightning quick reflexes. My speed isn‟t enough to escape three bullets that enter my chest. I should be dead, still I live.

I spring from the rubble. Race from the scene. Rain in my face, stray bullets at my back.

“Damn it.” The man shouts. “He‟s getting away.”

I hear his shout and hope he‟s right. Pain courses through me, like blood courses through the veins. I have no idea where to go. It has to be a place minus of people. What the hell does it matter? Once my brain is taken over I no longer control my actions. I‟m hot and the rain is cold. An awful pain in my chest. Stops me in my tracks. Can‟t stop now, they‟re right behind me. They‟ll show no mercy. To them I‟m a threat that needs to be terminated. I have to find a car, any

form of transportation. The pain is immeasurable. My heart must be mutating. Perhaps it‟ll be better if they end my suffering. I can think of no better of an escape than death.

“There he is.”

In the illumination of lightning I see them. They come up behind quick. Weapons raised and ready. I try to run. My pain too intense to gain proper footing. I collapse to the muddy street.

They come up on me. Aim their weapons, in fear no doubt.

“Look out.” The man shouts. “He may be going through another change.”

The way I feel. They better shoot soon. Or they may have more trouble than they want. Bullets tear my body to pieces. A second of pain then my mutated form crumbles. Death, yet my mind still functions. My body is frozen and placed in cryocontainment. I‟m transported with haste back to the lab. stored in a room with others. Our bodies are to be used as test subjects. They need to know more about the virus. Still, they know nothing that can help them find a cure.

All I know, the color blue. I know, most people talk of tunnels of light when they die. I have knowledge of a blue haze. I don‟t think I‟m dead. Perhaps in a state of rejuvenation brought on by the virus. All I know for sure. Revenge is on my mind. It isn‟t my fault I became infected.

They didn‟t have to kill me. A live subject is better than a dead one. There‟s no way I‟m dead, my mind functions. I‟m using it. The blue color fades. I‟m standing, inside a container. I stare out the small window on the lid.

I‟m alive.

I try to move. Find my limbs too frozen to do so. My body temperature rises. The thin ice coat melts from my body.

“Now is our time.” A voice says. “Our revenge is close at hand. AS close as escaping these containers.”

Where‟s this voice coming from? It seems to be in my head. I‟m able to move, escape will be mine. Up and out of the container. Metal lid clangs to the floor. Red lights flash and sirens wail there warning to the others of our awakening.

“Warning, warning...” A female voice echoes. “There has been anescape of a biological entity in containment room five.

I repeat, there has been an escape of a biological entity in containment room five.”

I know what this means. The security team will be on their way with their guns and no mercy attitudes.

There‟s no doubt I‟ve changed appearance. No longer do I have human skin, it‟s exposed muscle tissue. My tentacles are longer and I‟m taller, about ten foot tall. It won‟t be long till the security team arrives. Have to act fast.

I reach for the door. My fingers extended arid pointed. Another lid hits the floor. The sound comes from behind. I turn to a startling sight. The other containers have popped there lids. Four others stand before me, each one different in appearance. They look like demons from hell. True nightmares no longer human. This virus is an unforgiving one. Another thing of life that gives no mercy.

“Behind you.” A voice shouts.

The warning comes too late.

I‟m torn to shreds by bullets. I‟m face down on the cold steel floor. Eyesight casts over with the blueness so fondly remembered. Static like electrical sensation in and around each bullet hole. The wounds close, I‟m healing.

“Get up, brother.” A thick tentacle reaches down. “You‟re not dead, the virus sees to it.”

I grab the tentacle. It wraps around my hand. Pulls me to my feet. It‟s the others, blood drips from their mouths, their bodies.

Pile of twisted flesh at our feet. Choice areas eaten away. “Soon they‟ll be like us.” He says. “One step closer to world infection.”

His body is skinny. Four thick arms, normal head with eyes of blue. all must be infected. My mind fights impulses. So confused.

“Your mind isn‟t on the task at hand. All here must be infected.” What?

The flash of the warning lights, wail of the sirens. confusion. Cause my head to spin. What should I do?

They increase my

What?

They leave the room. In route to the closest uninfected human. I feel I should follow. There‟s nothing wrong with infecting others, nothing at all. My mind is my enemy. With its evil suggestions, virus induced data, synoptic misfires.

“You‟ll die if you don‟t infect. Giving in is so much easier.., give in.”

“Huh?” I look up, see him in the hail. “Give in?” I ask. “Follow us, brother.” His tentacle motions for me. “Infect with us.”

“No.” My head throbs in sudden pain.

“Ohh... the pain.” “It‟ll kill you if you don‟t infect, join us. The pain will leave with your first infection.”

The pain in my temple is like a knife. It rams in and out of my temples, in time with my heartbeat. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. It gains in strength, threatens to split my skull. I give in, enter the hall. Gunfire ahead, roars and screams.

Must infect soon.

“Warning, warring.., there has been an escape of a biological entity in containment room five.” The computer warns. “Correction, there has been an escape of multiple biological entities in containment room five. Emergency actions recommended at present time.”

A lit room ahead. It‟s familiar to me. Very few human thoughts remain to remind me it‟s the lab. Protective Plexiglas door will slide into place. Protect those within from escaped bio-hazards. Their eyes glare at our forms beyond the door. They‟ve no idea what to do. This is so new to them. The others bang on the Plexiglas.

It won‟t be long now.

“Hit them with it.” A scientist shouts.

Above our heads a steady leaking gas of some kind emits from the sprinkler system. The mist is cold on my flesh. Their skin bubbles, they roar in pain. What is this spray? They melt, squirt fluids all over. Skeletal remains drop to a steaming mass at my feet. I‟m unharmed, a little cold, but unharmed.

They‟re stumped, somehow I feel this.

I‟m different from the others. The spray should‟ve killed me as well. “What‟s going on?” The scientist asks. “One is still alive. I thought you said it would kill them all?”

“It was supposed to, sir.” A man shrugs his shoulders. “His genetic structure must be different, it‟s the only explanation.”

“Administer the cryogenic gas, freeze the subject.”

“What are we going to do with it?” “We can study it closer, see how far this thing goes.” He points at the man. “Start the damn gas.”

The spray from above gets cold. My limbs gather a thin ice coat. They want to freeze me, it‟s working. Soon I‟m frozen solid. It‟ll take a while for my body to reach the right temperature, melt myself free.

“Okay.” The lead scientist says. “Get him, haul to room four. Make sure to place it in the bio-cell, we don‟t want it escaping again.”

Security team members come for my body. Their approach causes me to squirm. I want to infect them so much. Pain courses through my body. My head no longer its only home. I have to infect soon. The virus is going to kill me. One man holds a infra-red monitor. Waves it around my body, examines the readout.

“We better hurry, he‟s registering high patterns of heat. He‟s mutating again.” “What‟s going on out there, Captain?” The head man asks. “What‟s the hold up?” “We‟re moving it now, sir. Infra-red shows its body in a stage of mutation; we‟re being cautious.” “There‟s no time for caution, Captain. Get it in the bio-cell, now.”

“Yes, sir.”

They have to lift my body using an anti-gravity platform. It pushes off any surface, lifts weights in a excess of one ton. What his monitor said is correct. I feel myself changing again. Perhaps to aid me in escape from my ice cell. I find myself in a new room. Surrounded by numerous forms of monitoring equipment. The men leave me to myself. Soon scientists file in, bring unwanted company.

The head scientist noticeable through his black lab coat. White coats man their station.. The head man stares at me. His thoughts a blur of unthinkable images and phrases. What do they want with me?

“Power up the bio-cell.” Black coat says. “Enable its highest setting, biofiltration units up. Don‟t want unknown germs escaping from its body.”

“But, sir...” A white coat begins. “With its current heat pattern readout...” “Don‟t attempt to explain the situation.” He looks at me. “This virus is in a state of constant change, its structure unlike any other, very unstable and highly unpredictable to say the least.”

My body changes, grows in temperature, glows a dim red. Ice falls to the floor in chunks. The white coats stare in awe. Dark coat doesn‟t seem surprised. His mind tells me this. Tells me something else as well.

He hides something from his human companions. “Would you look at

that?” Dark coat smiles. “That must be how he and his companions escaped their containers.”

I‟m free. Tentacles come in contact with the laser bars of the cell.

Three are burned, one is cut from my body. I roar in pain. When they shot me I experienced none.

“You see my infected friend,” Dark coat laughs. “This is a bio-cell, the newest in virus controlled environments.” He walks close to the humming bars. “These bars are known to destroy any known virus and unknown virus they come in contact with.., namely you.”

My body continues to glow. A new mutation, does it ever stop?

“No.” Dark coat says. “Did you say something, sir?”

“What... no.” He looks around • “What‟s the purpose of the slit in its stomach?”

He hears my thoughts. How can he hear my thoughts? Can he be infected and not know about it? He has to know more than he‟s telling. His mind releases no secrets.

“I‟m sure it‟s a mouth, sir.” “I know that you fool.” “How can you know that, sir?” You‟re caught now, your men are catching onto you. Open up, tell them what you‟re hiding. Tell me, open your mind.

“I don‟t... I‟m guessing, that‟s what it Is... only guessing.” The pain becomes unbearable. This cell is escapable. There are no bars overhead. It‟s my way out.

“Close off the top of the cell.” Dark coat shouts. “Now.” I leap for the ceiling, claws and feet dig in. The cell closes below. I‟m losing my grip. Can‟t do that, or I‟m toast. The scientists scramble for safety. I leap, land beyond the cell. My tentacle grabs a near-by man. My pain will leave with his infection. I sink my teeth into his shoulder, tear flesh and muscle free. Spraying blood covers my body in warm rivulets of crimson pain.

Dark coat doesn‟t run. He has no fear of me, or the chance of me infecting him. I throw the body from me. Head in his direction. Still he doesn‟t run.

“You don‟t frighten me, fool.” His voice is different, has a rumble to it. “How do you think the virus got into the lab, the outside air for that matter?” He raises his hands. “I released the virus.” His body changes. Flesh rips from his hands like paper. He smiles, sharp needle—like fangs glisten. “It was never a plan of mine. I came to your planet to make contact with your race.” His body gains height and width. “It seems my presence around humans has the affect you and the others are going through. I‟ve brought along a germ from my world, not unlike your common cold.” His eyes blaze blue. “Who thought it would have such a affect on humans...?”

“I knew something was strange about you.” I say, in my head. The pain returns to my body. “You‟re the cause of all this? What... do you plan on dominating the planet or something?”

“I know the way to cure your race of my sickness.”

His eyes flash, smile shows fangs. “Only... I now realize the potential of the situation. I can control any infected person through a little mind manipulation. Then I can own this world and its people.” “You think I‟ll let that happen?” I ask, advance on him.

“You think you can stop me?”

Two beams of blue energy burst from his eyes. They strike my body, engulf me in extreme pain. I can‟t move. “You‟ll do as I say.” He commands. “Or the pain will be monumental.” (unbearable) An explosion tears the wall to the room open. Debris showers me and him, breaks his concentration. The eyebeams cut off, I‟m able to move. The security team comes through the hole.

“Fire.” someone shouts.

Gunfire rips the lab to shreds, equipment bursts and sparks. Bullets tear through bodies. A grenade explodes in the room‟s center, we‟re pushed to the floor.

The alien re-forms his human appearance. “Don‟t shoot, please.” He shouts. Don‟t fall for his trickery, he‟ll kill you. I can‟t warn them, I can no longer talk. They‟ll not listen to an infected person. They halt their assault, long enough for him to get to safety.

“Kill it.” The alien points to me. “Kill it, before it escapes,” That bastard, those fools think he‟s human. They open fire again. He attacks the men, kills all five in a single blow. I‟m on him in the blink of a eye. Tentacles wrap around his neck, his head, block his eyes

“You will die.” My mind shouts. “The human race will survive.”

“That‟s impossible, fool.” He growls. “If you continue to live, so shall the virus. You‟ll continue to spread it... or die.”

That‟s the sick truth. Normal society will never accept my kind. If I kill him, I‟ll be the killer of my race. Spread to survive another day.

Can I give my life for the sake of mankind?

I force him towards the only means of killing this creature and myself at the same time, the bio-cell bars. “I know what you have in mind, fool.” He says. “Do you feel me resisting you? I‟ll die willingly, for a purpose you‟ve yet to discover.”

I‟ve no idea what he‟s talking about. I don‟t care, he has to be stopped and so do I. I jump into the bars, pull him with me. He laughs until our deaths, bodies incinerate into ash as we hit. At least the human race will no longer have to suffer.

The one thing that slips my mind before committing suicide. The fact that the security team and the man I killed were infected with the virus. I perish for nothing at all. The one thing the alien spoke of before dying. A cure can only be created by taking a gene sample from his body. He‟s gone and no others exist on his world. The infection will spread, our species will die out.

Somehow my mind still works. I can think.

“What was that?” A fatigued guard says.

His words break the silence. Did he hear me?

“Did I hear who?” He asks.

Book of Shadows

CARNIVAL
By

Chad Fleagle

Book Three

e-Book 2000

CARNIVAL

Oak Park Cemetery New Castle, Pennsylvania
12:00 PM. October 31, 1950

The man enters the cemetery, his long black suit and top hat soaked with rain, his skin white yet young, wrinkle free. He continues to walk, lightning crashes, he doesn‟t flinch, continues to walk. He stops in the center of the cemetery, looks around and smiles.

“Rise.” He says. “Rise and be part of my carnival.”

He sits on a headstone, the earth begins to tremble, he smiles, adjusts his mirrored sunglasses and waits. The earth rises beneath his feet, bulges, a head breaks ground, decomposed and dirt ridden. The cemetery comes alive with rotted corpses and they gather around him.

“You shall be my carnies. Wait for the tents, the rides, games, all will appear in due time.” He jumps from the headstone. “You‟ll work for me, help me spread the news and gather souls.” “There‟s a carnival coming to town.” He smiles.

The corpses change appearance. They all look normal, just like when they were alive.

The tremble grows more powerful; tents explode from the earth, rides and games, food stands, multi-colored lights, all burst from the damp earth.

All clean and free from any form of damage and each piece gives off white smoke which disappears with the wind.

“It‟s show time.” He says.

Lightning crashes!

The rides begin to move, lights flash, music plays, the corpses man their rides and stands. A carnival has appeared out of nowhere, and a stranger has raised the dead; something‟s not right this night.

The cemetery caretaker is in his home, drinks his bottle of Jack Daniels, hears odd music, It comes from outside. “What the hell is that music?” He stands, almost falls. “Those damn kids again!” He grabs a shotgun from a wall mount, heads for the door; a man stands in his way. This man is dressed in a black suit and top hat, the man bows. “Hello, sir.” The man smiles. “I would like to welcome you to my carnival.” He unrolls a carnival poster. “We open tomorrow night, I hope to see you there.”

“Who the hell are you?” The caretaker asks. “What are you talking about?”

“A carnival!”

“My, my, don‟t you remember the carnival, sir?” The man smiles, opens the door. Clowns with balloons, jugglers, a popcorn vendor, woman with pink cotton candy, all enter the house. “The carnival, sir.” He puts his arms around two clowns. “A place of happiness and joy, of clowns and balloons.” He laughs. “You like clowns don‟t you, sir?” “Yeah.” The caretaker smiles. “I like clowns and balloons.” “Yeah?” The man smiles, appears beside the caretaker, places an arm around his shoulder. “You like balloons? What‟s your favorite color, sir? If you tell me your favorite color, I‟ll have one of the clowns get you a balloon of that color. “Really?”

“Yes indeedy!” He shakes his head. “So, what is it?” “Blue, my favorite color is, blue. Do you have a blue balloon?” “How about it, clown?” The man approaches the clown. “Do you have a blue balloon for my friend here?” The clown looks in its bunch of balloons, large smile on its face, stares at the caretaker, points to the man and continues to search. “Do you have one, clown?” The caretaker asks. “Do you have one, clown?” The man asks. “Do you, do you?” The clown shakes its head in a “Yes” manner, continues to search, and looks at the caretaker, motions for the man to come closer. “Go on, sir.” The man shoves lightly. “Go get your balloon. I believe he‟s found your color.” The caretaker hands the man his shotgun and bottle of Jack Daniels, the man drinks some, shakes his head in acceptance. The caretaker approaches the clown, its face hidden by the balloons. They float to the ceiling, reveal a horrific nightmare, the clowns face is different, its painted mouth unnaturally wide and split open, teeth long and sharp, saliva drips to the floor.

“Oh my, I don‟t think mister clown wants to part with his blue balloon.”

“My, God!” The caretaker stares at the man. “What‟s it going to do to me?

“Don‟t look at me, sir. Look at the clown, ask him.” “You can keep your blue balloon if you want, mister clown.” The clown‟s head turns to the side, as if it attempts to understand, it springs forward and teeth clamp into the Caretaker‟s neck.

Blood sprays the air, half the caretaker‟s neck and shoulder is torn free.

The man looks at the clown feast, shrugs his shoulders, exits the house and shuts the door behind.

“He likes his balloons, that clown does.”

As the night passes, the carnival still stands; no one has noticed its sudden appearance.

The man in the black suit walks into town, roll of posters under his arm, dress shoes click on the sidewalk. It‟s too early in the morning for citizens to be out and about, save a few delivery trucks. He begins to place posters around, the posters stick on their own. There‟s not one pole, wall, or space without a poster.

“A carnival, eh?” Someone asks.

“Yes, sir.” He turns to the voice. “One you‟re not likely to ever see in your time.” “Yeah, yeah.” The deliveryman says. “All you carnival people say that. It makes your carnival sound impressive.” “I assure you, sir. It‟ll be a experience you shall never forget.” The deliveryman takes a poster from the wall, looks it over and looks the man over. “It‟s at the cemetery, that‟s different.

How much for a ticket?”

“Nothing, sir.” The man smiles. Nothing at all, all I ask is you bring as many friends as you wish. “Their enjoyment is payment enough.” “You‟re serious, aren‟t you?” “Dead serious, sir.” He walks on. “Dead serious.” “You just might see me there tonight.” “I hope so, sir.” The man turns. “Remember to bring friends, sir.” “Sure, no problem. It says here it starts at nightfall, what time exact?” “Just as it states, sir. When the night falls, everyone is welcome. Can I ask you what your favorite balloon is, sir?” “Red, why?”

“Nothing important, sir. Do you like clowns?”

“They‟re all right, I guess.”

“Good, you must remember to say “Hi” to the clowns while you‟re at the carnival tonight.”

“Yeah, sure.” He smiles. “I have to get back to work.”

“You do that, sir. Good morning.”

The poster the deliveryman held bursts into flames at his feet. “What the hell?” He jumps. He finds his arm minus of posters, on mere thought his arm is once again filled with posters, he continues.

Just down the street, traveling at fifty miles per hour, in a twenty mile per hour zone, is Jeff Baker in his Ford Mustang convertible. The car is full, Amy, Marica, Terry, and Malcolm, all whoop it up, pass a joint around. “Give me the joint, fool!” Jeff laughs. “You just watch the damn road, Jeff.” Terry says. “Check this guy out, guys.” Jeff slows the car, points to the man. “What‟s he putting up, what does that poster say?” “Pull over, lets check it out.” Malcolm adds.

“Oh, come on, guys.” Amy whines.

“Lets just leave the guy alone.”

The man smiles, knows of their intentions, welcomes the opportunity. The car pulls along side him as he stops and unfolds a poster for all to see.

“Hey, man!” Jeff shouts.

“Greetings.” The man smiles, sunglasses reflect a ray of sunlight. “I would like to welcome you all to my carnival tonight. It‟s free of charge and all I ask is you bring a friend or two.”

“Say what?” Jeff asks. “A carnival is for kids, man!”

“Whomever gave you that idea, young man?” The poster vanishes. “A carnival is for all ages, are we not all young at heart?” “Did you see that shit, man?” Malcolm asks. “The poster disappeared from his hands.”

“It‟s just a magic trick, man.” Jeff says. “He‟s probably a magician with the carnival.”

“Life is a magic trick, young man. For is it not all but an illusion, a trick of God himself?”

“You‟re strange, man!” “Will I see you at the carnival tonight?” “1 doubt it, asshole!” “What‟s your favorite color?” “What?” “Do you happen to like clowns?”

“Fuck you, man!”

The tires lay rubber as he leaves; the men laugh, and the women stare at the strange man, whom waves at them. “See you all tonight.”

The posters gain much interest throughout the day, most from children and teens. A lot of adults show interest as well, many remember the fun they had going to their first carnival.

They wish to experience it all over again. The day is filled with excitement and anticipation, children do work, be as behaved as possible, and all so they can make it to the carnival. Teens find dates for the night; adults decide if they have the time and money to take their children.

The night comes; slight fog shrouds the carnival grounds and enhances the mystery of it. Multi colored lights and music echoes about.

The dark suited man stands in the center of a large red and yellow striped tent. He raises his hands and dead slaves surround him. “The time is at hand my carnies! Soon, the people will arrive!” He stops, looks to the air, smiles. “The first family has arrived.

“Go my carnies, bring them the happiness they desire and the souls I want.”

His carnies leave the tent; the man vanishes in a cloud of smoke, reappears at the entrance of the carnival. He startles the family, the young boys of the family love the display, and they think it‟s just a magic trick.

“Wow!” One boy says. “Did you see that, Dad?” “Did you like that, young man?” The black suited man kneels. “Do you like magic, boys?” “Yeah, it‟s cool!”

“Then I hope you catch our magic show within the carnival tonight.” He moves from their line of sight, points into the carnival, a glittering tent separated from all. “That tent there, boys. Within you‟ll find Dark Cloak the Magnificent, the worlds greatest illusionist.”

“Can we go now, Dad?”

“Not just yet, Son.

Lets enjoy some of the other attractions first.” “Your father‟s right, boys.” He looks to the boy‟s father. “First, you must enjoy all my carnival has to offer. Dark Cloak the Magnificent will await your appearance.” He stands from their path.

“Welcome to my carnival.”

The family enters with a smile; clowns approach them, dance about, hand out balloons and fool around.

Jeff Baker searches for a parking spot, there‟s no space at all near the graveyard, and he has to park a block and a half away. “I can‟t believe you girls really wanted to come to this carnival.” He lights a cigarette. “Not only that, I have to park this far away.” “Come on, Jeff.” Malcolm opens his door. “It might not be too bad, it might even be fun.”

“Besides everyone else seems to be parking here.” He exits. Terry‟s head appears. “I kinda like carnivals, man. Especially the freak show tent, you know it‟s all-fake, but I have to see it. Not only that…., he pats Jeff‟s shoulder. “We get in free.” He exits. “Get out of the car, Jeff!”

Marica hits the back of his seat, “I‟m not getting out on the passenger side.” “All right, girl!” He opens his door, takes his time getting out and folds the seat down for her.

“Come on! You were dying to get out, so get out already!”

“Hold your horses, asshole!”

Her legs swing out, she pulls herself from the seat, and he holds a helping hand out.

She smacks it away. “Get that away from me! If you can‟t help me when I need it, forget it now, buddy.” “Excuse me!” He holds up both hands. “What about you, Amy? Can I give you a hand getting out?” “Of course you can.” She reaches for his hand. “I „11 never turn down the hand of a handsome man.” He pulls her from the car, she presses up against him, stares him down, and places her hands on his chest. Marica scowls at this, pushes her away. “That‟s enough, Amy!” She protests. “Remember, this handsome man is taken!”

“I‟m not moving in on your territory, girl friend.” “You better not be.”

Jeff slams the door. “Lets just go already!” Halfway, they smell the smells of a carnival. Popcorn, cotton candy, Philly steak and hot sausage sandwiches, it‟s heavenly. “Damn!” Jeff sniffs the air. “You smell that? Doesn‟t that shit smell great? I knew there was a reason I liked carnivals.” “Food, huh?” Malcolm smiles.

“Not me, I‟m here for the games and rides. I hope they have one of those haunted house attractions, I love those.”

“I like the animals.” Amy says. “Those lions and tigers turn me on, with their power and agility.

“If a man could be like that, I‟d lose all self control.” She stares at the men. “Give me a break, Amy.” Marica says. “You‟re such a slut sometimes, the monkeys can turn you on.” “Ohh, harsh words!” Malcolm laughs. Amy places her hand in Marica's face. “Talk to the hand, girl.”

They approach the entrance, suited man smiles. “So, I see you‟ve made it after all.” The man says, voice higher than theirs. “People cannot resist the undeniable pull a carnival has on them.” “I‟m not here for fun and games, man.” Jeff comments. “I‟m here for some food.”

“Ah, yes. The food does have its own special place in the hearts of some.” He points to Malcolm. “And some of us enjoy the attractions. If you‟ll just look...” The man points to an old mansion in the distance, once the caretaker‟s house, modified into an attraction.

“You see, we have something to satisfy everyone‟s need.”

“All right!” Malcolm smiles.

“You‟ll find no one in cheap Halloween masks within, young man.” “It‟s a sure scare, buddy.” Jeff smirks. “I‟m there.” Malcolm says. “Anyone else?”

“I‟ll tag along.” Terry says. “I don‟t see a freak show tent anyhow.”

“If it‟s a show of oddities you wish to see, young man.” He points. “That tent over there will supply your need.” A tent stands where one had not been but ten minutes ago. Its tarp sides display painted pictures of the freaks within. The Son of Satan, Living Skeleton, Blob Boy, Human Razor, all peak his interest. “I thought that might interest you.” The man grins. “Keep in mind, young man. Those oddities within the tent are real and dangerous to those normal. “When you enter… he disappears, re-appears behind Terry… watch your back!” He snickers.

“How the hell did he get behind me, without me seeing him?” Terry asks, shock in his question. “No matter, young man. Please, enter my carnival and enjoy.”

Most of the town‟s citizens grace the carnival with their presence; give in to an unknown plot of evil. Laughter echoes throughout the grounds, screams of excitement. The suited man stands at the entrance, over looks his creation at work, smiles.

“Welcome to my carnival.”

The earth trembles, a steel gate bursts from the ground, rises, surrounds the entire carnival, fifteen foot in height, topped off by spikes. The man touches the fence, a bolt of electricity jumps out, crawls about his arm, his takes his hand away, it smokes. “Shocking!”

He laughs. Malcolm smiles, stands before the haunted mansion, Amy tags along. A wind blows, real lightning flashes about. “I don‟t know, Malcolm.” Amy looks to the sky. “This seems a little too real.” “Lets go inside.” He pulls her. “This is great!”

It begins to rain; they‟re soaked in an instant by the downpour. Malcolm bursts through the front door. “Holy shit!” He shakes himself off.

“This place is better than the Disney World haunted mansion.” “Where‟s everyone else?” Amy asks, walks into the living room, and screams. “Oh my, God!”

“What is it?” Malcolm rushes to her side, looks to the floor. A body lies in a pool of blood, its shoulder and neck torn out.

“Eww, these effects are great.”

Little do they know, this body is real, it‟s the body of the caretaker, blue balloon clenched in his right hand. Amy can‟t take the gore, walks away, holds her mouth; a clown stands in the entrance.

“Give me a break, okay?” She asks, looks at the clown. “I know it‟s your job to scare people, but I‟m not in the mood.” “Who are you talking to, Amy?” He turns to her. His eyes cannot believe what they

see, a tall clown with a massive smile. It grabs Amy by the head, snaps her neck with a twist, and continues to twist till the head tears free from the body. “What the hell‟s going on?”

The clown laughs, tosses the head at him, he jumps from its path.

He steps on the corpse with the balloon, it grabs his ankle, he tumbles to the floor. The corpse gets to its feet, strands of slimy blood dangle from the open wounds, it groans and reaches for him.

“This shit is fucking real!”

The clown charges with a lion-like roar, Malcolm stands, pushes the balloon corpse to the floor.

Finds himself in the kitchen, two options, find a knife, or run down into the cellar. The cellar door bursts open, corpses, twenty or more, reach for him. The cellar is out, a knife; he searches the countertop, as the clown stands in the doorway. The clown holds a purple balloon. Purple is Malcolm‟s favorite color. The clown points to the balloon and then to him.

No cellar, no knife, the only possible escape is to jump head first through the kitchen window. He runs, leaps, crashes through, lands in the yard. Neither the clown nor corpses follow. He takes a moment to regain his senses, he stands, stares at the window, the clown stares at him. He sticks his middle finger up, the windows shattered condition returns to normal.

“Fuck you!”

“It seems you‟ve had an accident, young man.” “Who?” Malcolm turns.

“It is I, young man.” He bows. “It appears you had an accident, are you injured?” “Your carnival‟s fucked up!” Malcolm points. “You tricked us into coming here, didn‟t you?”

“Trick?” He shrugs.

“You came of your own free will, young man.” Malcolm becomes enraged, steps in his face, the man doesn‟t flinch.

“You‟re going to pay for Amy‟s death, you son of a bitch!”

“How do you plan on making me pay, young man?” “With your ass fool!” Malcolm swings on him, hits the man dead in the jaw, another blow snaps his head back, hat and sunglasses fly off, reveal his shimmering eyes. A kick knocks the man to the muddy ground; he continues to kick, over and over.

The man laughs Malcolm is shocked.

“Impressive display of violence, young man.” He stares at Malcolm, purple eyes ablaze. “Now it‟s only fair to give me my turn.” He stands, his hat jumps from the ground, returns to his hand and the sunglasses follow.

The man s1ams one fist into Malcolm‟s chest, his heart explodes out his back, plops on the ground, Malcolm doesn‟t realize it at first. “Good night, young man.” The man smiles, points to Malcolm‟s heart. “You might want to pick that up.”

Malcolm turns, looks to the ground, there‟s blood everywhere, and a human heart.

“Oh my God.” He groans, puts a hand through the hole in his chest. “Shit.” He drops face first into the mud.

Jeff stands at the end of a long line, just to get a Philly steak sub, the smell and wait drives him crazy. “Give me a fucking break, people!” He shouts. “How long does it take someone to make a Philly steak sub?” “Chill, honey.” Marica says. People from the line turn, stare at him, some scowl, shake their heads and find him annoying.

“You have a problem with me?” He asks. “Well, does anyone? He gets no reply.

“That‟ s what I thought.” He takes Marica by the arm. “Lets get the hell out of here! We‟ll find a stand that moves a lot faster.” He stares at the man in the food camper. “His steaks probably suck anyway!”

The man eyes Jeff.

“Why do you have to act the way you do, Jeff?” “That was a bunch of shit back there, Marica.”

He points to the line. “No one should be that slow!” “Give the guy a break. He was the only one making the food.” “He was too damn slow.” He points to another food stand. This one is shaped like a clown‟s head.

A real clown with rainbow hair waits on people. “Lets try that one. A clown might be the cook, but he looks fast.”

They don‟t have to wait in line, Jeff approaches the stand. The clown smiles, shakes its head, slides two plastic baskets towards them, each contain a Philly steak-sub surrounded by fries just the way they like.

“What the hell is this?” Jeff questions, looks at the food.

“It‟s what I wanted, but how did you know?” The clown doesn‟t answer, it keeps busy. “Doesn‟t he want to be paid?”

Jeff takes some money from his wallet, tosses it on the counter. “That should cover it.” He takes the basket, she takes hers, and they sit. He takes a large bite of the sandwich. “Son of a bitch!” He smiles. “This is the best damn Philly steak I‟ve ever tasted!” He points to hers. “You‟ve got to try it.”

“No, I‟m not hungry.”

“I hate it when you do this shit.” He takes another bite. “Every time I buy you food, you let it go to waste. This one‟s not, girl. You understand me?”

“I don‟t want to eat!” “Eat, damn it!”

The customers stare; he could cares less and stares in return.

“Mind your own fucking business, people!”

She picks up her sandwich, takes a small bite, her expression of disgust changes to one of delight. “You‟re right!” She smiles. “This sandwich is great!”

They continue to eat, till nothing remains, she even finishes the French fries, quite rare.

“I think I‟m going to get...,” his words cannot be finished; the clown sits another basket down, as a steak sandwich steams within. ...” Another sandwich.” He stares at the clown, which shakes its head. Jeff gets his wallet, the clown shakes its head no. “I‟m not going to argue with him.” He takes the sandwich, begins to eat. “I guess you didn‟t want another, or he would‟ve brought you one.” “No, I‟m full.”

Terry stands before the oddity tent, stares at the painted portraits of each freak within. The Son of Satan, red skin, muscular body, horns protrude from his forehead, hooves for feet. The Living Skeleton, just as to be expected, a living skeleton. The Blob Boy, painted as a pile of clear, vein trailed, ooze, face barely noticeable, yet can be made out.

The Human Razor, painted as a seemingly normal human female, yet her skin springs forth-sharp razor-like appendages.

“I have to see this.” He enters all is dark. “Lets get on with the show!”

“He‟s said to be the spawn of the devil himself.” A spotlight hits a demonic vision, eyes bright red, it roars, charges.

“Holy shit!”

A thick chain around its neck stops the creature; it wants Terry, snaps and snarls. The spotlight fades, area grows dark. “The next oddity is one of a supernatural nature.

The bones of a human skeleton remain animated after the flesh and muscle have long since rotted away. Behold, the Living Skeleton!”

The spotlight illuminates a skeleton; it hangs like one you‟d see in a science lab. It begins to move, takes itself from the hook, stares at Terry, yells, charges. The spotlight winks out, the skeleton seems to vanish with it. “No one can say where the next oddity came from, it‟s known only by one name, Blob Boy. I must warn you all, this next display may disturb some.“

The spotlight re-appears, displays a small glass cabinet, roughly the size of a room, a teenage girl stares out, spots Terry. She screams, bangs on the glass. “Help me, help me!”

“This has to be a act.” Terry comments. The girl continues to yell, something falls from the ceiling, gains her attention. She turns to it; Terry can‟t see what the thing looks like. Something leaps on her head, envelopes it, she turns, bangs on glass. “This has to be a act.” He smiles, not sure at all. “It has to be!” Her face begins to melt; soon her whole body has melted away and only her skeleton remains.

The Blob Boy stares at Terry and smiles. “Oh, man!” He gasps, as he vomits on the floor. “That had to be real, had to be!”

He heads for the exit. “I have to get out!” approaches.

“It‟s okay.” A woman

“It was all an act. None of it was real, all a put on.” “Who are you?” “My name‟s, Mary. Just calm down, everything‟s all right.”

“You‟re beautiful.” “Thank you.” She smiles. He feels a sharp pain in his stomach, chest, crotch, her body presses close, and pain increases.

He looks down, spike-like appendages spring from her body and enter his. She kisses him, her tongue turns into a spike, exits out the back of his head, she pushes him from her with a smile.

“And the final oddity, Miss Mary, The Human Razor! That lucky viewer aided her in her demonstration of her freakish talent.

Give him a round of applause.”

Jeff and Marica walk the carnival, something isn‟t right. He doesn‟t feel well and his stomach turns. “Damn.” He groans, holds his stomach. “I don‟t feel so hot.” “I know what you mean.” She holds her stomach as well. “I think something was wrong with those sandwiches.”

“I‟m... going,” He stops, holds his mouth. “I‟m going...” He vomits violently into a trashcan as his back arches with each retch. “What the...,” she gasps, puts a hand on his back. The smell gives her the urge to join him in losing her sandwich. Together, they are arched over the trashcan, people pass by in disgust and some just steer clear of them.

“Oh shit!”

He gasps, raises his head from the can, lips covered in blood, he wipes them clean, notices the crimson.

“Blood? What the hell was wrong with those sandwiches?”

Marica stops, blood on her lips, he dabs it on his finger, shows her. “Blood?” She questions. “What‟s going on, Jeff? I still don‟t feel good.” “We‟re going back to that stand and find out what the hell he fed us!”

On their way to the stand, he retches, a tearing sound in his gut, he spews blood all over. He falls to his knees, more ripping, more blood, he has no control. Marica falls in pain as her stomach splits open, gushing streams of blood.

“Oh God,” what‟s happening to me?

A tiny gloved hand emerges from Jeff‟s stomach, and then another one as a bloody little clown climbs from his open belly. Another clown pulls itself from Marica‟s ripped open stomach, its tiny body covered with blood and slime.

The black suited man walks up to their bodies, looks down and smiles as he watches four more little clowns pull themselves from the bodies. The clowns continue to appear one after another as he walks away..

“I guess they ate something that didn‟t agree with them.” He laughs, humming a carnival tune as he walks away.

“Everyone loves a carnival.”

In a nearby town a television set blares out “The Morning News.”

A young woman reports on an increasing phenomenon. “Yet another town‟s population has seemingly vanished without a trace.”

“This is the tenth city to have this occur in the last two months. Authorities have yet to explain the disappearances and their cause.”

“The investigation continues.”

She takes a breath.

“And in a lighter mode:”

“A carnival is coming to town.” “It will be moving in tomorrow night”.

“Admission is free.”

“Everyone is invited.”

“Bring all of your friends.”

Book of Shadows

MADNESS
By

Chad Fleagle

Book Four

e-Book 2000

MADNESS

My name is, Dr. Terry Roland, I‟m a therapist. The story I‟m about to tell is true, it all happened quite sudden, a unexpected fluke in the normal way of things. I‟ll be reading excerpts from my case log, all written as the occurrence takes place.

11:OO PM. December 18, 1997 New Castle Institute of Modern Neurology

The patient I‟m seeing at this moment is, Randal Dawson. A man with suicidal tendencies, heavy delusions, and claims his madness isn‟t of his own doing. The traditional voice inside his head tells him to do things he‟ll otherwise not do, it repeats over and over, till the only way of stopping the voice, is to give into its commands. Lucky for me the medication I‟ve prescribed for him has helped keep him from giving in, though I don‟t fully trust the medications horrid side effects. Dream deprivation, tremors, sleeplessness, edginess, all manage to keep his condition in the potential danger zone.

I can‟t speak with him face to face, we must be separated by a clear glass shield, he can be very unpredictable, yet he‟s never attacked me. His moods calm today, he‟s comprehensible and open minded, in the mood to answer questions. In other instances the voice has threatened him during our conversations. Informing him it‟d be wise not to speak. I believe the voice is a manifestation of his inner-feelings, the true-self he finds hard to bring out into the open. Today, I plan on centering on the inner-feelings of Randal in hopes of making him more open to me, easier to predict.

“How are we today, Randal?” I ask. Attempt to relax. The young man doesn‟t answer, he stares about the room as if searching for someone other than himself or I. The only other person being a male nurse outside

the door, in case Randal were to get out of hand, which has only happened once.

“Randal?” I try to gain his attention. “I asked you a question, Randal.” “I‟m sorry, Doctor.” He says, head jerks my direction. “Sorry, Doctor. Sorry.”

“Well, how are you today, Randal?” “Sorry, Doctor.” He looks around. “Sorry.” His mood changes so sudden, it‟s not unlikely, a man in his mental state tends to jump from good to bad all so sudden, if he gets too bad, I‟ll have him sedated.

“I‟m fine, Doctor.” He smiles. “I‟m glad you asked.” This is a prime example of sudden change, no? His state appears normal, like an average person, hardly the portrait of a madman. “That‟s great, Randal.” It pleases me to see him this way. “I‟m glad you‟re feeling good. And the voice, do you still hear it?” “No!” He shouts, stares at a fixed point in the room. “Don‟t say that about him‟ I‟ll not do as you say! I could never do that to him... never!” He stands. “Leave me alone, leave me alone!” He shuts his eyes, blocks off his ears. “Be quiet! Quiet!”

“Calm down, Randal. It‟s all right, calm down.” All I can hope is that he‟s taking his medication, and that it still follows its prescribed function. He still puzzles me, talks as if there‟s someone in the room with him. I would believe that the voice, through his minds manipulation, can and will in fact take on a solid form, seen only by him of course. Like the imaginary friend of childhood, which their creator can describe to the fullest detail.

“What has the voice told you to do, Randal?” “I could never do it, Doctor. I could never do what it says.” “What has it said, Randal?”

I‟m interested, the “voice-self” can reveal clues to Randal‟s inner feelings and alert me to his present intentions.

“It wants me to kill you, Doctor. It says you‟re telling lies and feeding me drugs, just so you can take my money. That you don‟t care if I‟m sane or mad. Is he telling the truth, Doctor? Is he telling the truth?” “Of course not, Randal. I care if you‟re well or not, and I‟m not taking your money. You must believe me, Randal.”

He always refers to his voice as “He”, as if it‟s a real person, can it be that he‟s imaginary. “She was beautiful, Doctor.” He smiles, she was beautiful. The voice wanted me to do things to her. I didn‟t want to do those things. They were so horrible.”

I can tell that the acts he committed must‟ve been disturbing; he doesn‟t want to discuss them freely. How much has he hidden from me, what dark secrets does he conceal?

“Tell me, Randal. Your secret‟s safe with me. Nothing we discuss leaves this room, you know that.” “He told me to ask her to my home, so I did, she accepted. It all started out quite normal, it was nice, a change of pace for me.” “It sounds nice, Randal. Please continue.”

“We talked, had a couple of drinks.” He runs a hand through his hair. “That‟s when he started talking to me. He said she was nothing but a sluttish little whore whom cared about no one but herself. She would go out with me, until she tired of me. Then she‟d toss me aside like unwanted rubbish.

After all that‟s what I am, unwanted rubbish.” “You‟re not rubbish, Randal. Try to relax, continue with the story. Once you finish, our session will be finished for the day.”

“That‟s when the lights went out, they just went out. He told me they would. The girl was frightened. She asked why the lights went out? Of course, I could hardly tell her. I had no idea myself, all I knew is I didn‟t like it.”

“What happened next, Randal?”

“He thanked me for bringing him the girl.” He looks at me. “He thanked me, Doctor. Then he killed her, I didn‟t see how, but I heard every second.” He hides his face in his arms. “She screamed and moaned in pain. The sound of flesh being cut open, hot liquid splashed over my body, in my open mouth.

The tearing sounds, Doctor. The chewing. That‟s when I blacked out. Those horrid, horrid sounds!”

My patient is in worst condition than I first anticipated him to be; perhaps he should be committed for further testing. I‟m truly disturbed by his revealed secret. This is more like a case for a Homicide Detective. He must really believe someone other than himself killed that young girl.

That happened when you woke up, Randal?” “It‟s too horrible to talk about, Doctor.” He shakes his head. “Just too horrible.” “You‟ll feel better about yourself after you tell me. And I‟ll be able to help you more.”

“She was hanging from the ceiling, nailed there by spikes through her ankles. Parts of her body torn free, strangled by her own intestines.” He stares at the rooms ceiling. “Blood dripped from her body, covered my walls and furniture.

“It was all over, all over. There‟s no way I could‟ve done that to another human being, Doctor.” “I understand, Randal. I believe you. You said you blacked out during all this?” “Yes, Doctor. I‟m glad that I did, 1 wouldn‟t have wanted to see what he did to that poor girl.”

To be honest, I want to keep him for closer observation; it might not be wise to allow him to go. I read the newspaper article on the girl‟s death, ruled a homicide by local authorities.

If they only knew, I have the killer right here, if only I could tell them.

“Okay, Randal.” I stand. Continue with your current medications and come to see me in two days. I don‟t blame you for any of what you just told me. You shouldn‟t blame yourself either. If you feel strange or need any help, don‟t hesitate to come here or call me.

“Yes, Doctor.” He smiles. “I‟ll call you if I don‟t feel like myself, I‟ll call.” He heads for the door, nurse sees him out.

I think I‟ll admit him to the Institute; I‟ll try to break it to him easy. If I break it to him the wrong way, he‟ll think I feel him incurable, our bond will be broken, and he‟ll close his world to me.

3:00 AM. December 23, 1997 New Castle Institute of Modern Neurology

Unfortunately, I‟m forced to admit Randal to the Institute, under my care of course. He calls me out of the blue, in a panic, the voice will not let him alone and he‟s done something awful, even more awful than the murder of the young girl.

We have to strap him to the bed, this is the worst I‟ve seen him.

He‟s covered with fresh blood. The Police didn‟t want him, they locked him in a cell, his call made on a cellular, and they don‟t want to get too close. “Your patient seems more upset than usual, Dr. Roland.” Doctor Smith smiles, looks through the metal peephole. “What did you say to upset him so?” “I don‟t think my patients current state is any of your business, Dr. Smith.” I look at him. “What are you doing here anyway? You have no patients on this wing.” “Your nutcase has me intrigued. He‟s the most interesting case anyone‟s ever had, or wants to have.”

“I‟ll appreciate it if you‟d keep your Comments about my patients to yourself.” I slide the peephole shut. “I happen to have respect for my patients.” “Doctor?” Randal‟s voice sounds out. “Is that you, Doctor Roland?”

“Your nutcase beckons, Dr. Roland.”

“He says Dr. Smith‟s out there as well. They are you calling me a nutcase, Dr. Smith?”

“How in the hell?” Dr. Smith stares at me, in shock. “How does he know I‟m out here?”

“Perhaps he knows your voice.”

“He‟s never heard my voice before, man.” “Maybe he‟s not only a nutcase, but can read minds as well. What do you think, Dr. Smith?”

“I can‟t, but he can.” Randal notes. “He‟s watching you now, Doctor. He‟s watching you both, he wants to bathe in your blood.”

“Tell him to take a normal bath like everyone else. Take care of your patient, Dr. Roland.” Dr. Smith walks away.

“Yes, take care of him, Dr. Roland.” This voice I‟ve never heard before, it comes from inside Randal‟s room. Can he change his voice that much, I‟ve never heard him change it, and I don‟t even think he‟s capable of doing so. “He‟s not, Dr. Roland.” It snickers. “He‟s not.”

There‟s someone in the room with him! But that‟s impossible, I saw him put in there myself, there was no one in there when I left, no one at all. “Who‟s in there?” I ask, slide the peephole open. “Is someone in there?”

A pair of glowing white eyes meet with mine, they‟re not human, I yell, jump away from the door. “It‟s only me, Dr. Roland.” It laughs. “Try and relax.” I return to the peephole, it‟s gone, am I seeing things?

Is my patient getting to me, does he have a way of making me see what he wants me too? “Randal?” I call to him. “Is there someone in there with you?” “You know there is, Doctor.”

He answers. “It‟s the one I‟ve been telling you about, the one who speaks to me.”

“But he‟s just a figment of your imagination, Randal.”

“I know. Randal says, only not replying to me. “I know he saw you. Why did you let him see you? You told me he couldn‟t see you.” He yells out. “No Please! I‟m sorry, I‟m sorry! No more pain, no more!”

“Nurse!” I call out. “Open this door at once!” “Yes, Doctor!”

The male nurse unlocks the door, I enter the room. Find Randal on the ceiling, eyes wide, he stares at me. He floats, held against the ceiling by an unseen force.

“Close the door, nurse!” I shout, not wanting anyone else to witness this. “Shut it!”

“No!” Randal shouts. “Don‟t shut the door! Don‟t shut it, that‟s what it wants.”

The door shuts, Randal drops to the floor. The room fills with strong wind, foul stench, laughter, the bed lifts from the floor, floats about the room in circles. It slams into the nurse, crushes his head in a bloody spray all over the white wall.

The bed drops, covers the convulsing body.

This is unheard of; nothing like this happens in reality, this isn‟t the movies. I must get out of the room and take Randal with me. I grab his arm, he resists.

“No, Doctor!” He shouts. “I must not leave him, it wouldn‟t be wise!”

“You can‟t think on that now, Randal!” I pull on him. “It‟s dangerous to stay in here!” “Where are you taking him, Doctor?” The voice asked. “Let me take you somewhere, Doctor. The realm where sane men are driven mad.”

Electricity jumps about the room, sparks fly, a great pulsating nimbus in the room‟s center, vacuum-like suction pulls us towards the nimbus. I crawl for the door, suction gains strength; I reach for the doorframe. It‟s overwhelming, I‟m pulled into the nimbus with Randal, when we land, it seems we‟ve been transported nowhere at all.

“Thank, God.” I stand. “It‟s over.” I lift Randal from the floor. “Are you all right, Randal?”

“It‟s far from over, Doctor.” He trembles, stares about the room. “Far from over, he‟s taken us to a place I‟ve been to too many times.” “Where, Randal?” “Madness, Doctor.”

He looks at me.

“He‟s taken us to the realm of madness. Where normal men and women have their minds taken from them by the demons of madness and insanity. Your mind will soon be theirs, Doctor.”

“We‟ll see about that, Randal. I still believe we‟re not in another realm; we‟re in your room at the Institute. That strange display was a form of electrical disturbance, you‟ll see.”

I walk into the hall, I‟ll admit, the lights are a little duller than usual. A unusual sound comes from the hall, somewhat ahead, screams, moans, coughs, gags, thunderous rolling.

“Get out of the hall, Doctor!” Randal grabs me, pulls me into the room. “Now!”

“What is it, Randal?”

“The beast of lunacy.” He points, to the door. “Look, but not for long, its many eyes can drive you instantly mad.”

The beast rolls into view, the most horrid thing I‟ve ever seen. A mass of human limbs, legs, arms, heads, balled into one mass of pink muscle. Its hands grip air; toes wiggle, eyes and mouths open and close, its enough to drive anyone mad.

“That‟s enough, Doctor!” I turn from it as the beast rolls away, causes more noise than before. “The beast will tell the others of our presence here. Then you‟ll no doubt lose your mind, you‟ll become a vegetable.”

“Is there a way out of this realm?”

The lights in the room wink in and out, follow the maniacal laughter that flows through the stale air.

“There‟s a way out, Doctor. But we must travel to the center of this insane realm. The creatures here will not kill, but what they can do to your mind will make you welcome death.”

“Do you know how to get there, Randal?” “Of course, Doctor. Only, they may have changed the way since last time.”

“The last time, there was a last time?” “You don‟t think I‟m really mad, do you, Doctor?” He looks at me. “I‟m a twenty-two year old young man, what reasons do I have to be mad?” He stares around the room. “This place is the cause of my madness.” I still find this hard to believe, another reality, where madness and insanity are living beings. The cause of all mental instability in the world.

Wait a minute, erase the reality, erase mental instability in the world, end the term of “Mental Disorder” all together.

“We have to stay here, Randal. We can stop any and all mental disorder in the world. All we have to do is put a end to this realm and its creatures.”

“That‟s impossible, Doctor. you can‟t stop madness, you just can‟t. You don‟t think others have tried?”

“It‟s too late for you now, Doctor.” The white eyed specter appears. “Your mind shall be mine.” I have to continue writing some other time, now I must run for my sanity, or lose it.

Unknown Month-Unknown Day-Time Unknown.

Realm of Unknown Origin.

Randal and I run for what seems an eternity, numerous creatures on our tail. We now rest, hide in a lunchroom, one for the sick and demented. The food is full of maggots, earthworms, beetles, and mealworms. Others contain human body parts, eyeballs that turn our direction, fingers, toes, and internal organs.

“You can‟t hide your mind from me, Doctor. Your body interests me not, only your mind.”

My sight clouds over, a vision, razors cut into soft flesh, wide slits form, blood seeps out in spurts. Another vision, a man in a straight jacket slams his bloody head into a white wall, laughs insanely as he does. Another vision, a man plunges a butcher knife into a woman, finishes, goes for the man and two children, their screams rip through his mind.

“Noooo!” I scream, bang on my head with my fists. “Get out of my mind, damn you! You‟ll not drive me insane, you‟ll not!”

“Try to block them out, Doctor. You can if you try hard enough.” Randal says.

“You, Randal Dawson!” The specter points. “It‟s time you lose your mind all together!” The specters mouth widens, engulfs Randal‟s head in its jaws. The man's mind floods with unimaginable horrors, images the human mind was never meant to stand. He screams in agony, muffled by the entities head encasing his. He struggles, slams about the room, entity remains attached the whole time. He drops to the floor, sits Indian style.

The entity releases his head, Randal‟s eyes stare blankly, and color drained from them, saliva drips from his open mouth.

With his mind consumed, I‟m released from the entities mental grip. I fall at first, mind ablaze with pain and disorientation; I shake it off, stand to my feet.

“Randal?” I stare, at a hollow shell of a man, a vegetable. “I‟m sorry, Randal.”

He doesn‟t acknowledge my presence, I run, blind into this unreal realm, no way of knowing how to get to its center.

With the loss of Randal, I lost my way out, any knowledge he had possessed. There must be others, others like me, brought here through the same means. Perhaps if I search every room I come by, I might get lucky and find someone, someone with more than one visit up their sleeve.

The first room reveals nothing, the next holds a woman, kneeling in the corner. I enter the room, she moans to herself, some strange tune.

“Are you all right?” I reach out to her, my hand trembles.

She doesn‟t answer, only moans the tune, she reveals her features. I back away, her face isn‟t human, multiple small tentacles wiggle about. I race from the room, slam the door shut.

The next room reveals yet another horror, a beast of lunacy feasts on the mind of a black man. As much as I want to help, there‟s nothing I can do. I must leave the room, or be discovered. Out of thirty rooms I check, each one holds a scene of maddening horror. On my thirty-first door check, I come upon a normal person, at least I hope. It‟s a young woman perhaps in her twenties, jaw length dark hair, blue jeans, white shirt, and black leather jacket.

I enter quietly, don‟t want to startle her, her mental state may be worst than Randal‟s.

Then she might be in better shape, which will be a blessing. She stares about the room, as if listening for her personal voice.

“Don‟t be afraid.” I say. “I‟m not going to hurt you. I‟m stuck here just like you.”

“Who are you?” She asks, takes a step back. “What the hell is this place?”

“Just calm down. I am Dr. Terry Roland. Before I ended up here, I was a therapist at the New Castle Institute of Neurology.”

“That answers my first question, Doctor. But what about my second one?”

“Well...,” I explain everything to her. “And that‟s where we are, if you can believe it?”

“A place where people are driven mad by creatures that feed off your brain. Do they really eat your brain?” “No, not as far as I can tell. They seem to drain emotion and life experiences from the host, these memories seem to house an energy of their own. This is what they consume, when it leaves the brain, it drives you mad.” “You‟re serious about all this, aren‟t you?”

“I‟m afraid so. We need to get to the center of this realm, it‟s the only way out.

I want to bring you with me, will you come?”

“Of course, I‟ll come.” She jumps at the question. “I want out of this place as bad as you do.” “Lets go.”

We exit the room, the beast of lunacy rolls our direction, she stares. “What the fuck is that?” “Don‟t stare at it!” I pull her down the hall. “Come on!” The hall never seems to end, we run and run, the hall seems to expand and grow longer. The beast of lunacy is on our tail, we must pick a door to escape.

“Pick a door!” I shout. “What?” “Pick a door, it‟s our only chance of escape!” She opens a door, I push her in, slam the door shut. We find ourselves in a morgue-like room, rusted, bloody instruments lie scattered about metal tables. Blood soaked, white sheets cover bodies, the rooms full of them. Hanging lights sway back and forth, shadows elongate and constrict, grow thin then wide.

“Just great.” She groans. “I don‟t believe this.”

“Everything‟s all right.” I look around. “There doesn‟t seem to be anything here that can harm us.” All the bodies sit up. “You were saying, Doctor?” She stands close. “Now what?”

“I‟m open to suggestions right now.”

“How about we get the hell out of here, Doctor?” “Good suggestion.”

We turn to find the door gone, there‟s no way of escape.

The corpses don‟t step from their examining tables, they laugh, sheets vibrate with their bellows. Of course, who wants to be in a room filled with laughing corpses, it‟s just another way of driving us mad. “Shut up, shut up!” She shouts. “Come on!” I pull on her, run through the center of the room. “Run!” I shout. “What are you doing?” She yells. “Are you crazy?”

“No, that‟s what I‟m trying to avoid.”

Ahead, two double-doors, they‟re our only bet, we burst through them. I grab onto her arm, just in time, she falls over a ledge, I slip, fall to the floor. I go over, grab onto the ledge, she dangles from my right leg, below, a three hundred foot deadfall.

“Pull me up!” She cries, voice echoes about the large room. “Pull us up, damn it! Pull us up!” This isn‟t going to be easy, pull her weight using one leg. I pull, grunt and groan, she‟s pulled up enough to grab onto the ledge. “Grab the ledge!” I shout. “I can‟t hold on any longer.”

She pulls herself up, grabs my wrist, and helps me to safety, stares at something in awe.

“What is it?” I turn to her field of view.

“What do you see?” Within the rooms center pulsates a bright sphere of light, wisps of energy drift from it, walkways cross the deep chasm, each enter the sphere at all angles, different heights.

“This must be the way out Randal was talking about.” “Way out?” She questions. “This is the way out? How would you know?”

“The last patient I had, he‟s been here more times than anyone, I believe. He told me of this place.” “Lets get the hell out of here then.” She walks down one of the steel walkways. “Come on, Doctor!" I stare around the area, there are thousands of walkways, perhaps more, there‟s no way it can be this easy. All these walkways can only mean one thing each walkway is for each person driven mad here. Everyone that‟s ever been driven mad has a walkway of his or her very own.

I have to stop her, if she enters the wrong one, she enters the mind of another, becomes but a memory, a dream that person has and forgets. Thus she‟s no more, her body becomes like Randal‟s. “Stop!” I shout. “Don‟t go through yet!” I grab her wrist; the rest of her body vanishes into the sphere. “No!” I jerk; the force sends me to my ass. “At least I got you out of there in time.” All I find is her severed hand in mine, I try to drop it, find the grip rather tight, and I pry it from my hand.

I‟ve only known her for thirty minutes, still, it‟s a damn shame I‟ve lost her, and she didn‟t deserve to die like this, damn it!

“How in the hell am I supposed to find the exit?”

Unknown Month, Unknown Day, Unknown Time

Possible Exit Point of Realm I‟m surprised; I can still make these entries. The creatures of this place seem to have disappeared, so far, I‟ve checked five to six walkways, and I don‟t know what I‟m searching for anyhow. The chance of me finding the right exit point, is one in however many walkways there are, might as well say my chances are pretty slim. There has to be a way of finding my exit point, there has to be, if only I can discover it.

“If I ever get out of here, I‟ll tell the

World what really causes mental disorder.”

A beacon of light shines bright, not too high above, perhaps two or three walkways up. The walkways are so close together I can

easily climb them. Perhaps this light is an exit point, if so, I must get up there. I begin my climb, first walkway passed easily.

I leap for the second, grab it, my grip slips; I regain it, knowing what a fall meant. I pull myself up, rest, one more to go, just above, a glow illuminates my face.

I pull myself onto the final walkway with little effort. Do I trust the strange light before me?

It can easily be a trap, I wish I knew for sure. Something appears in the light, an image, hard to make out. Wait a minute, it becomes clear, it‟s the room at the Institute. The one where Randal and I disappeared from, but from who‟s perspective, Randal‟s or mine? A mistake cannot be afforded or I‟ll become a memory just as easy as the girl. There! The sign I‟ve hoped for, I spot a faint reflection of myself in the rooms glass shielding. I waste no time jumping into the sphere. I feel nothing at all, just the feeling as if I‟ve been sitting in the room the entire time.

“It worked!” I stand. “I‟m back!”

“Calm down, Roland.” A calm voice orders. “Everything‟s all right now.”

“Who said that?”

“I did, Roland. It‟s Doctor Smith. You remember me, don‟t you?” I turn to find Dr. Smith sitting at the table where I sit to talk with Randal.

Wait a minute.

“You‟ll never believe what just happened, Dr. Smith.” “Explain it to me, Roland.” “There‟s a solid reason for all the mental disorder in the world.

There‟s a dimension beyond ours where insanity and madness are living beings. I was there with my patient Randal Dawson.” I show him where we vanished. “We disappeared here, I have no idea how long I was gone, but I just escaped.”

“Interesting, Roland.” He plays with a pen. “Where‟s Randal?”

“One of the beings, the one that spoke to him all the time, it finished him off. He was a vegetable when it was through with him. It was terrible.

“Uh-huh,” he says. “That‟s a very interesting story Roland. Why do you insist on hiding the truth?” “Are you calling me a liar, Dr. Smith?”

“Well, Roland, that‟s not how the Police report describes it.”

“Police report?” I question. “I‟m a therapist, you don‟t think I know the current condition of my own patient?” “You used to be a therapist, Roland. After you sadistically murdered Randal Dawson your title of Doctor was revoked. You don‟t remember this? I can prescribe a

medication for that.” “I didn‟t kill Randal Dawson. That thing in the other dimension did.”

“If your story is true, why do we have video tape of you committing the crime?” This is just too much for Terry to handle. Now they have video of him killing his former patient, something must‟ve went wrong coming through the exit of the dimension. Did he even truly make it back?

“Listen to me, Dr. Smith. Why would I kill a patient I was making progress with? It‟s illogical.” “People make illogical decisions when pushed to the brink by a patient. It happens. Denying it only makes the burden weigh heavier upon your chest.”

“But how? I can‟t believe this is happening. I wasn‟t even here and Randal was with me. We weren‟t even here!”

“Oh, you were here all right. After we heard the strange sounds coming from this room, we rushed in. We found you over Randal and the nurses head crushed. End of story.”

“Perhaps I didn‟t escape from that damn dimension.” I say to myself. “I know I didn‟t kill Randal. I saw what happened to him, saw it with my own two eyes.” “He doesn‟t know what he‟s talking about, Dr. Roland. He‟s a fool.. .1 say you kill him.” A voice comments. “What? Did you say something, Dr. Smith?” The man looks up from his notepad.

“No, Roland. Why? Are you hearing voices in your head?”

Terry turns to stare at the rear of the room. There stands Randal Dawson with a wide grin. Eyes dark, blood covering his clothes, dripping from his mouth. Randal approaches Terry placing an arm around the stunned mans shoulders.

“The truth is you know you didn‟t kill me, doc. It was that damn creature from the dimension of madness. Only it influenced the video camera here to make it appear as if you committed the murder. I‟ll forgive you. Hell.. .I already do.”

“The creature can do that, Randal? He nods.

“Terry? Who are you talking to, Terry? Answer me.” Randal points his finger at Dr. Smith behind the glass shield.

“He laughs behind your back and calls you incompetent. He‟s been waiting for your breakdown so he could take your position. I liked you a lot Dr. Roland. Hell, they think you‟re mad. You‟ll probably never get out of this Institution ever again. I did say probably… “ He grins.

“What are you talking about, Randal?”

Dr. Smith shakes his head in major disbelief. The damn whacko thinks he‟s talking with the patient he murdered. He‟s in for a life stay, no doubting that fact. He writes this in his notepad as Randal watches.

“Told you, Dr. Roland. He just wrote it on his little pad. Something about a life stay.”

“Terry.. .Terry you‟re not speaking with Randal Dawson. He‟s dead. Now please——”

“Randal says you laugh behind my back, Smith! Is that true?” “Not at all, Terry. Why would I--” “Shut the fuck up, Smith! Randal wouldn‟t lie to me!”

Terry is touched by the unseen Randal. A surge of darkness enters his body, making his eyes glaze over black.

“A gift for you, Dr. Roland. For trying to help me. Madness has its advantages, insanity is it‟s power. Enjoy.”

Terry‟s straightjacket splits down its center as if being cut with a blade. Dr. Smith cannot believe his eyes. Before he has the chance to call for the male nurse, Terry‟s hands smash through the glass shield, clamping onto his arms pulling him through the shattered window into the room. His strength is highly unnatural. Smith cannot break free. “No, Terry! Stop this!”

The orderly, a giant of man races into the room. He‟s lifted off his feet by the throat, Roland twists his wrist and the mans neck cracks. Dropping the man he returns his attention to Smith.

“I told you I didn‟t kill Randal Dawson, Smith. The creatures of the dimension manipulated the video camera to make it appear as if I did. But you,” Terry grabs both sides of his head. “I kill willingly, you incompetent fuck!”

CRUNCH!

Dr. Smith‟s skull caves-in upon itself.

“Nice kill, Dr. Roland. Now.. .Let‟s get the hell out of this place and see what kind of madness we can stir up.” Randal laughs.

Terry walks out the door, no one gives him a second glance, but they should have; he‟s a killer.

But why? When you possess the face of Dr. Smith and the mind of Terry Roland.

If by change you encounter him practicing in New Castle, be on the safe side. Don‟t ask about his friend Randal!

Book of Shadows

1893
By

Chad Fleagle

Book Five

e-Book 2000

1893

The desert is restless tonight, tumbleweeds race their never ending race across the desert sands. Wolves remain in their close-knit packs, stopping to scan the night at every sound.

Though the desert doesn‟t go untouched by the cooling breezes. Tonight, the

element of wind sweeps its hands across the dry, water starved, grains of sand, the meager patches of plant life they harbor.

The wolves cry out, fleeing into the ensuing sand storm. Running blindly into the night, attempting to escape what‟s approaching. A bolt of lightning splits a mesquite tree in two. The flames licking the branches spread the bitter sweet scent into the air.

The brewing storm will satisfy the deserts desperate thirst.

I sit in the Sheriffs office; my office I should say.

Listen to the wind bang the shutters against the building. I‟ve been meaning to fix them for some time now. They can be quite annoying at times.

Now is one of those times. But I‟m lazy by heart. I haven‟t even dug my outhouse yet. I use the Saloon‟ outhouse when I have too. I don‟t have far to go, just down the street a apiece..

Tex the saloon keeper don‟t mind none.

I‟m not lazy when it comes to upholding the law. It‟s my sworn duty, and I put all I have into it.

The banging intensifies as the wind grows stronger. It‟s going to be one helluva storm from the way it sounds. Standing from my chair, I walk to the window. Looking out I watch my Sheriffs sign swinging wildly back and forth.

Most of the horses that lined the street are gone. No doubt taken to their stables, or now galloping all out for their owners homesteads.

A flash of lightning illuminates my face. I gain a quick glimpse of my unshaven face in the window glass. It just reminds me that I should visit Hank the town barber. The angry rumble of thunder shakes the window panes. It‟s been a long while since the town of Rotwood has had a storm. Damn near close to a year and a half now I believe.

I inhale the last bit of tobacco my cigarette will provide, toss it to the floor, crush the firery life from it. My spurs clink against the floor as I make my way to the door. Opening the door causes a great gust of wind to rush in. I hold onto my hat so it doesn‟t fly from my head. Storms have always intrigued me. The raw power they display is fantastic. I however fear them just as much as I admire them. For many storms can produce the deadly twister. One saw to my Brothers death not a year ago.

Stepping into the wind I discover it has yet to rain. In another flash of lightning I spot the shadow of a person walking down the street. Who the hell would be out in this? He can‟t be in his right mind.

“Who is that?” I yell out. I gain no answer.

The person disappears into the darkness as the lightning light fades. The persons footsteps grow closer. I think on pulling my irons.

But that wouldn‟t be very smart if it happens to be a townsperson caught in the storm.

“Caught in the storm, huh?” I ask. “why don‟t you come inside my office till it lightens up.” The person stops short of the porch steps. The sky bursts forth a great explosion of rain. The person is unmoved.

“Hurry up, sir.” I shout. “Get out of that downpour.” He doesn‟t move. “What‟s wrong, sir? Why don‟t you get out of the storm? You‟ll catch your death out there.” I hear a chuckle. Something isn‟t right with this guy. Why would he just stand in a storm and laugh about it?

Lightning illuminates his form once again. Only this time two other men are at his side. I know they weren‟t there a moment ago. Where did they come from? I heard no boot heels on the road. The urge to pull my guns resurfaces a second time. “Would you gentlemen please get out of the storm.”

Nothing.

“Where are you gentlemen from?” I approach the edge of the porch. “Texas, New Mexico...Arizona?”

The banging of my shutters spooks me.

“Look, gentlemen. Being the Sheriff I‟ll have to advise you to get out of this storm. It‟s for your own safety, you understand?” I jab my thumb towards the Saloon. “Tex in the Saloon will put you up for the night. Tell him to put it on my tab.” That‟s when I notice that there are no lights in the Saloon. A quick glance around town also shows an absence of light. The Saloon doesn‟t close till dawn.

Max always has his lights burning bright till then.

Lightning illuminates the three figures.

The three have become six.

I pull my guns. “What‟s going on here?” I aim at them. “Give me some answers.” Silence. All but the deafening rumble of thunder. Another flash.

Two more men appear to make eight.

“What‟s going on?” I shout. “who are you guys? Answer me, damn you.” One steps forward- the very first to arrive. but not too far. Not far enough to reveal himself in the light from my office.

The person throws something onto the porch. It lands at my feet with a thud. I can‟t make out what it is in the dim light.

“1893,” a dry voice says.

I bend down to pick the object up. A closer inspection shows it‟s a noose - a hangman‟s noose- covered with mud.

I‟ve only had one hanging in my town.

It was a mass hanging. After a posse and I tracked down and caught the gang known as... The Brothers Eight.

They would ride into new towns, rob the Bank. Then begin killing everyone in the town-women and children included.

It can‟t be them. I watched them all hang by their necks myself. I watched their bodies spasm and jerk as they swung. Doc Grey checked them one after another once they had been cut down. He said they were all dead, dead, dead. They were buried together in unmarked graves out by the old mine. The one in the desert.

“1893,” the voice again.

I look at the person to see his eyes glow like hot coals in a fire.

The thumping of the broken shutters matches my heartbeat.

In a flash of angry lightning I see the cause of the thumping.

The bodies of the townspeople-women and children-all hang like convicted criminals outside their porches. Their limp bodies banging against their homes in the harsh wind. Tex bangs against the front door of his Saloon. Eyes fixed toward my office. All his women sway in a ballet of death. Their slender bodies to never again know pleasure. Each neck as thin as a swans, snapped in two like old branches. “God, no.” I gasp.

I‟m in a state of panic. Every sound amplified, every flicker of motion sped up. I fire hollow clicks at a hissing tumbleweed as it rolls down the road in a hurry. The crash of my Sheriff sign causes me to yell out, as it falls to the porch from weak fixtures.

“1893,” the voice‟ again.

It seems to drift on the wind itself. “No,” I yell aloud. I rush into my lit office. slam and bolt the door behind me. I‟ll be safe in here. The light and walls will keep me safe. Keep me from the thumping of the hung corpses. The townspeople. The people I was sworn to protect. “That‟s what I did,” I shout. I protected my people by hanging the Brothers Eight. It‟s not my fault the souls of the murderers I hung can‟t rest. It‟s not my fault they feel they need some form of revenge. Why should they? I did my job as a lawman.

They were cold blooded killers and deserved what they got. Thy each deserved every inch of their ropes. “It‟s not my fault.” I shout.

I race to the glass gun case-the one my Daddy built for me-and shatter the glass.

Reaching into the case, I pull the Winchester repeating rifle from it. She‟ always fully loaded and ready for action. “You‟ll keep me safe.”

The sound of boot heels clicking on the porch. I sink behind the desk in the hopes of hiding from whomever it is. Winchester close to my chest, both hands locked, one on the trigger, the other on it‟s barrel.

The lantern flickers above my head. “Don‟t go out, please.” I hiss. The boot heels grow near the front door. Lightning flashes, casting a human-like shadow on the wall where I hide. The frame of the door encasing the shadow tells me it‟s still outside.

As the light fades from the flickering lightning. The lantern dies. I‟m hit with darkness.

It surrounds me on all sides, like unwanted bandits, seeks to beat me and rob me of my senses. Replacing my mental stability, once filled with courage and nerve, with fear and cowardice.

The sound of the front door- known to have been locked-creaking on its unoiled hinges fills my heart with terror. The thumping of the hung corpses • The banging of the shutter. The moaning gale of the wind. All maddening.

For a brief moment I place the barrel under my chin. It‟s the only way out, the only possible escape. All will be silent and still. No. Death is not the answer to this nightmare.

The boot heels click across the room, head in my direction. Rising with a yell.

I fire upon the thing. There is nothing there. A corpse sways in the wind just beyond the front door. Its boot: banging against the banister.

I‟m afraid to look.

I can‟t.

The door has been opened. And the wind slams my sweat-filled brow, chilling me to the bone. It causes the body to turn my direction with the creaking sound of a tight rope. I hold my breath. Lightning illuminates the face. My face.

“Nooo,” I cry out.

Dry laughter echoes about the room, drifts in between the buildings of town.

I laugh with them.

There‟s no way I can be dead. I‟m standing in my office, holding a rifle, and bleeding from when I shattered the gun case. Ghosts don‟t bleed.

Dead men don‟t bleed.

The hanged me is no longer there.

I walk over to the Saloon. “Sorry, Max.” I look at the swaying man. I touch the thigh of a lovely young woman. “Sorry, ladies. It‟s not my fault, you know? I‟m going inside to have a drink, Max. You can put it on my tab.” I laugh.

An hour passes. I‟m so drunk that the thumping of the corpses sounds like the beat of a grand song. I keep beat with my left hand. Tapping it on time with each thump. I even attempt to make up words to a song that doesn‟t exist.

“You said you loved me -”Thump. Thump. “But you didn‟t care-”Thump. Thump. “But I... I need another drink over here-”Thump. Thump. “But you‟re a bitch”Thump. Thump.

“You „re dead, dead, dead.” I laugh.

Thump. Thump.

“Put this on my tab, Tex. I want to buy everyone a round.” I raise my shot glass. “Just put it on my tab. Tex.., you‟re a bitch. You hear me? Sorry... I forgot you‟re hung up at the moment.”

I laugh like a madman. “1893,” the voice returns. “The population of Texas... I think.” I burp. “1893,” the voice growls. It‟s overlapped with other voices.

I slam both fists into the bar. Lightning flashes, strikes something in the distance.

“What the hell happened in 1893?” I shout. Glancing to the mirror behind the bottle display reveals the Brothers Eight standing at my back. Their eyes glowing red. “The Brothers Eight,” I gasp. The image in the mirror changes. It shows the day the Brothers were hung on the large gallows built for the occasion.

I watch myself give the okay. The trap doors open and their bodies jerk and twitch. Three of the Brothers die instantly as their necks snap in unison.

“Nooo,” I roar.

The mirror shatters into thousands of glimmering pieces as I hurl the whiskey bottle into it. I race into the raging downpour. The swinging bodies greet me with their dead stares. A horse also waits. The horse and I flee the town. The swinging bodies give no waves of goodbye. with their scents and stares. Their constant musical beat.

All left behind for memories. Hours pass.

The riders eyes bug out.

“The ghost story is true,” one cries. “The ghost of the hung lawman does exist.” As they flee back to town. A book drops from one of their saddles.

What are they talking about? The hanged lawman? I dismount and pick the book up. It‟s covered with mud. Wiping the cover clear. I discover it‟s a book about spooks. All the stories are said to be true.

Opening it to the book marked page. I find a story entitled: The Hanged Lawman of Rotwood. It can‟t be. I begin to read. The story tells of a sheriff that is haunted by the restless ghosts of eight Brothers he had hung in the year of 1893 for numerous counts of murder. It says he nearly went mad with the constant hounding the spirit: gave him.

One night the Sheriff discovered all the people of his town had been hanged. Almost as if the Brothers Eight had hanged all the towns-people out of

vengeance.

The Sheriff himself was found hanged on his very own porch the following day. In his dead hand he held a muddy hangman‟s noose, in the other a Winchester rifle.

The book says the ghost of the lawman ride: the night trying to escape: the horrors that happened in his town. And the vengeful spirits of the Brothers Eight.

I drop the book. Dry laughter echoes throughout the night.

The laughter of eight deadmen.

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