Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Janus Perspective (formerly Reverse Haunting) – Kevin: 6

There is a familiarity about the girl that Kevin can’t quite connect to a particular time or place, but the fear is very real and shoots through him like lightning.  She appears to be in her very late teens or early twenties and the familiarity persists although he cannot clearly see her facial features through the stringy hair plastered on it.  Cold hands cling to the back of his neck with a steely grip.  Kevin slowly lifts the light and shines it on her face.  The light illuminates an unnaturally pale cheek and one dark eye peeking from between a small opening in the shredded blonde curtain for no more than a second.  Startled even more by her appearance, he flinches and drops the flashlight which hits her under her right eye with a dull thud before hitting the ground with a muddy splash.  Her unearthly scream pierces the darkness as she releases him to cradle her face with both hands.  The combination of Kevin reacting to the sonic assault on his ears and the release of the grip on his neck throws him off balance.

Kevin hits the ground next as he falls backward, landing uncomfortably on the backpack, which causes his head to jerk back violently.  He is a little dazed, but the image of the girl’s pale, grayish skin and the one black eye are still clear in his head.  Kevin feels around in the mud for the flashlight and lifts his head at just the right time to see the girl leap into the air from a crouch and land on top of him.  She practically pins him to the ground using the shoulder straps of the backpack.  Her face is concealed in shadows, but he can feel her soulless eye staring at him.

“I’m sorry!  Look, I didn’t mean to hit you with the flashlight.  It was an accident.”

The girl mumbles something that doesn’t sound like human language this time.  Things really get strange when she drops her pelvis onto his and starts grinding her hips.”

“Whoa!!” Kevin yells so loud, he startles himself.

Kevin is not sure if he is more disturbed by how wrong this feels or the fact that there is a passing sense of déjà vu.

Kevin struggles violently, “Get… off me… you crazy bitch!”

He grabs her by the waist and tries to throw her off but she quickly slides her hips down and nimbly wraps her legs around his while locking her feet at the ankles.  She still manages to keep his shoulders pinned to the ground although her arms are now at a severe angle.  Kevin is determined not to let such a petite female dominate him, so he grabs both of her arms and tries to pull them from his shoulder straps.  Her fingers dig into the straps and his raincoat, making this impossible.  Kevin’s frustration mounts as more rain drops fall into his eyes.  He groans loudly as he wildly tries anything he can, even pulling her hair, to get her off of him.  Nothing he tries works.

He notices the faint glow from the flashlight, off to the left, near his waist.  He reaches for it and firmly grasps the cylindrical salvation in his hand.  He lifts the light and shines it on her face again.  He is horrified when he sees that her eyes are not really dark in color.  They are just holes in her skull with eyelids occasionally closing over them when she blinks.  Suddenly, her face twists into an angry scowl as she releases a strap and backhands Kevin across the face.  The taste of blood overwhelms his mouth.

She’s going to regret that.

He can’t tell if his vision is doubled because of the slap or the water in his eyes.  He grabs her by the neck with his free hand and starts beating the girl in the head with the flashlight.  He can barely see her, but it looks like dark blood is running down her face.  She grabs his left arm with inhuman speed and pins it and the flashlight to the ground.  She shifts her body weight closer to his chest and grabs the back of his head with her other hand.  Kevin sees an unusually large mouth open, but instead of hearing a scream, he helplessly watches as it covers his mouth and nose.  Tears well up in his eyes as she sucks the air out of his lungs.  She is suffocating him.

I’m going to die out here… alone.

Kevin’s face feels like it is going completely numb.  The pain in his chest is excruciating.  He desperately needs to take a breath but there is no way to inhale.  Everything starts to fade to black as stars fill the periphery of his vision.  He knows he’s going to pass out soon.  Kevin then notices that his right forearm is still between them.  He slides it up to her chest and starts to push against her with every bit of strength he has left.  When she releases his left hand to grab the back of his head with her other hand, Kevin slides the flashlight under her chin and does a narrow bench press.  Everything goes completely black right before her mouth comes off his face.  Long gasps fills his lungs with humid air.  Breathing is almost as painful as having the air sucked out of him, but it is a good kind of pain.

His sight slowly returns as Kevin manages to roll them over on their sides.  The light shines on the ground and the beam bathes her face in a dim light.  Kevin notices that what he thought were streams of blood are actually large cracks in her face.

The ones that look human are the most deadly.

Kevin continues pushing against her neck with so much force that his muscles and tendons ache.  Then it happens.  He hears a sickening pop.  He can now hear her breathing, but it is a horrible, wheezing sound that inexplicably fills him with panic and fear.  His grip on the flashlight weakens enough for her to go in for another attack.  The flashlight falls between them, but Kevin manages to block her with an arm.  She bites into his wrist and he cries out in pain.  Instead of teeth sinking into his skin, it feels like a fleshy suction cup draining the life from his arm.  The pain is like someone pushing jagged needles under his skin in every direction.  As the pain moves along his arm, it is replaced by numbness.  The light catches his hand as it starts to resemble someone else’s hand.

Is that a woman’s hand?

Kevin decides not to wait to see whether or not this creature is trying to replicate.  As the pain creeps up to his shoulder, his right arm becomes completely useless.  He grabs the flashlight with the other hand.  Before she can block him, he jabs her in the eye with the back of it.  She continues to suck on his wrist as she wheezes more rapidly through her nose.  He jabs her repeatedly, watching in horror as a large chunk of her face breaks away.  The shadowy nothingness underneath appears to writhe eerily.  After releasing his arm, the girl rolls onto her back.  Kevin wants to get up and run, but he is so exhausted, he can barely sit up.  The light flickers a bit as he points it at his assailant.  She is in the mud shaking violently as pieces of her skin crack and fall off.  Kevin wishes he could sit there and rest, but doing so would guarantee his death.

He uses the flashlight to help himself up.  His right arm dangles heavily like a slab of dead flesh.  When the rapid splashing stops and the wheezing fades, Kevin aims the flashlight at the girl again.  He sees the white dress start to sit up with no human form in it.  After that endless struggle in the mud, there are no stains on the dress, which still looks dry as a bone.  Then he sees the thing that is now wearing the dress.  It is a shadow that blends well with the surrounding darkness.  A closer look at the arms reveals that they are now much longer than the rest of the body.  One of them is slithering on the ground toward him!

Kevin only makes it a few feet before he feels the cold tentacle wrap around his left ankle.  He falls, face first, in the mud.  Realizing the imminent danger, he flips over and quickly cleans the mud from his eyes and nose.  His vision is hazy, but he sees the dress still on the ground in a sitting position while the other tentacle is slithering his way.  Although his ankle is in severe pain, he barely feels it because of the massive amount of adrenaline coursing through him.  Fighting these things when they are shadows is like fighting thick smog and any part of his body that touches them will start to become paralyzed.  Then he remembers the cigarette lighter.

He recalls seeing Jenn use a small blowtorch on one of them in the past.  Why the hell didn’t I bring a blowtorch?  Kevin quickly fishes the lighter out of his pocket, flips it open and lights it on the underside of his leg where the tentacle is attached.  His pants are wet enough so that they won’t burn, but the flame flares up considerably around the tentacle.  It recoils along with the other tentacle as the shadow lets out a deafening scream.  It still has the same voice as the shattered girl, but much louder.  Even though he is still breathing heavily from exhaustion, he manages to use his left arm and right leg to get to his feet.  Kevin hobbles quickly down the road. Although there is no feeling in his foot or ankle, pain shoots through his calf and knee.

The shadow lets out a frightening wail as it follows him.  Kevin glances back briefly to see what looks like a floating white dress with the dark tentacles occasionally writhing in front of it.  He knows he has to focus on putting as much distance between him and it.  Stricken with fear, he thinks about another one stepping out of the woods in front of him to trap him between them.  What if this road comes to a dead end?  This thought is just as troubling until he recalls the tire tracks.  I have to make it back alive so I can confront Jenn.

The flashlight flickers constantly.  If it goes out, Kevin won’t be able to get the other one out of the backpack with his arm still recovering.  He presses on and hopes for the best.  Thankfully the shadow is not moving with the agile quickness it had when it was still a pale girl.  Kevin picks up speed as he starts to feel tingling in his foot.  After limping along for about 70 yards, he reaches a “T” intersection.  This road is much wider than the one he’s on.  He pauses for a few seconds to catch his breath.  The drumming of the rain, the wind blowing through the trees, and his heaving breath are the sounds of the moment.

“Go right.”

This thought feels more like a command than a normal inner voice.  Kevin obeys without hesitation.  It is at this time that he notices the fresh tire tracks going the same direction.  Maybe he unconsciously glanced at the tracks as he walked up, and his mind just knew what to do to survive.  He takes another look back down the road before turning the corner.  The dress still pursues him at a relentlessly steady pace.  The aches and pains from the attack and struggle are also steady as he quickly jogs down the new road.  It is rockier with fewer puddles and soft spots than the previous one.  The only question is, where does it lead?

This road doesn’t wind as much, so Kevin feels less apprehensive about what he might encounter up ahead.  He occasionally glances behind to make sure he is putting more distance between himself and his stalker.  There is a mysterious glow about the dress as it continues to pursue him.  The weaponized flashlight flickers more, so he decides to take off the muddy backpack to swap it for the one with the lantern feature.  He only slows to a brisk walk will doing this.  His arm is not 100%, but he, at least, has more mobility in it.  When he turns on the lantern, it enables him to see both sides of the road as well as a few yards in front without constantly swinging it around to look.

Kevin’s quick jog eventually turns into a fast pace walk down this long, lonely, unknown road.  The thing in the dress is so far behind that he can no longer see it, or it took off the dress and is still following him just out of reach of the light.  That’s a scary thought that Kevin dismisses outright.  His exhaustion and aching limbs would never allow him to resume his previous jogging speed.  The long walk allows his mind to wander, thinking again about how much he seemed to recognize the girl.  Kevin wracks his brain trying to remember the people he knew before the invasion of the shadow creatures.  Memories of anything from the time period before he met Jenn are spotty, at best.  Kevin feels like he should be very concerned about this, but he has been fine with it for a very long time.  He remembers general facts like where he is from, what high school he attended and his father’s name, but the visual details that flesh out those facts are missing.

For a very long stretch of road, Kevin’s only companions are the rain and his footsteps.  It is no longer very breezy.  He eventually encounters a sign on the side, indicating that the county road is only a quarter mile straight ahead.  This little bit of encouragement gives him a small boost.  He picks up the pace, making good time, until he reaches a steel gate and the main road.  The gate is clearly meant to only stop cars from entering.  There are only a few feet of barbed wire fencing on either side of it, but stepping into the thick woods to go around would be too risky.  He releases the heavy latch and opens gate, which barely makes a sound as it swings freely.  Kevin steps through the gate and closes it behind him.  He turns around to see a shadow creature on the road few feet away.  Startled but not panicked, he quickly runs away from it and heads down the road.  At least this one is paved.

He doesn’t know how far away the road leading to the cabin is.  Kevin doesn’t recall ever having a reason to come this way on the county road.  He also has only been on it three other times since they moved there.  The shadow moves slowly like the ones he normally sees.  Thankfully, tentacles or long spidery fingers are absent.  He walks quickly down the rainy road for at least a mile before reaching his dirt road.  It doesn’t have a name as far as he knows, so maybe he’ll start calling it Cabin Road.  Maybe I’ll make a sign for it.

For the remainder of the walk, Kevin encounters a few more of the slow shadows.  They follow him but fade into the darkness just as quickly as they appear.  His heart still pounds because any one of them could be the faster, deadlier kind.  He eventually reaches the ‘Keep Out’ sign just before the curve.  The intent of that sign couldn’t be any more real.

 What if ‘white dress’ backtracked down that trail to head me off?

The thought is frightening, so Kevin runs past the sign and around the curve so he can clearly see the path to the cabin.  Although his muscles ache and his breathing is beyond labored, he doesn’t stop running until he’s halfway to the cabin.  The light is not on again, but he has more urgent things to worry about.  He doesn’t see any more shadows, at least, between him and the cabin.  He gets his keys ready before opening the front gate.  When he tries to unlock the front door, he finds that it is already unlocked.  Did I leave that unlocked? Maybe I left the light off too.  Looking around the small, dirty cabin, he doesn’t see anything lurking.  Juan’s door is locked, so nothing is getting in there.  Jenn is in her room sound asleep.  Kevin walks back to the living room and drops the muddy backpack near the door.  He pulls off the raincoat, tosses it aside, and collapses on the floor.  He grabs his pillow off the couch and falls asleep in a matter of minutes.

Copyright 2019 Darrell Winfrey

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Janus Perspective (formerly Reverse Haunting) – Kevin: 5

The sound of rain pitter patters on the roof and the side of the cabin as the wind lightly blows.  It seems to rain on a fairly regular basis in the area.  Sometimes it rains heavily up river and the only evidence is the water level slightly above the watermarks that have painted themselves on the trunks of trees lucky enough to have grown near the bank.

As Kevin slowly opens his eyes, the sound of the rain remains the same as it did in his half-awakened state.  What surprises him is the fact that he is standing right outside of Jenn’s room.  Have I been stuck here?  How long has it been?  As Kevin looks around the living room, he notices a certain dreariness about it.  The room is definitely messier than it was before he went to sleep.  The pile of clothing is also back on the floor near the kitchen.  He can’t tell whether or not it is a new pile, but the clothes are definitely Jenn’s.

Nasty bitch.

Kevin steps over food wrappers and trash as he makes his way to the couch.  He sits there pondering whether or not he trashed the place during some kind of sleepwalking fit.  A more troubling thought is that Jenn did it when he and Juan were sleep, after failing to figure out what they were secretly meeting about.  Kevin was never one to keep secrets from friends, but has grown to favor them in response to Jenn’s behavior.

A roach sneaks across the end table next to the couch.  Kevin’s hand reflexively moves with blinding speed to smash the unsuspecting creature.  For a second, he feels a bit of dizziness hit him as he looks at the hand that’s still covering the mass of guts and exoskeleton.  His hand looks as if it belongs to someone else and his fingernails look completely black.  He blinks and everything returns to normal.  I must be still waking up.

Kevin almost wipes his hand on his clothes but instead heads to the kitchen.  Both sinks are full, so he has to shift dishes around to wash his hands.  The awful smell coming from the sink almost makes him gag.  Pale green fuzz is growing on some of the dishes.  Kevin dries his hands on his pants because he wouldn’t dare touch one of the dish towels on the counter for fear of what might be lurking inside them.  Kevin almost grabs a broom to clean up a bit but grudgingly tears himself away from the thought.  He imagines Juan in a karategi wagging an admonishing finger at him.  Staying on task is important if he is going to complete his investigation before Jenn awakens.

Kevin grabs a lantern-style flashlight as well as a heavy black, tactical flashlight.  The tactical part would be useless as a blunt force weapon against the wispy shadow creatures.  The light part makes it much easier to see them at night although they still rarely appear after dark.

He thinks about taking Jenn’s gun, which would be even more useless as a weapon than the flashlight.  If he happens to encounter a hostile person and doesn’t have a gun, he would be less likely to thin the already small human population.  There is also the small matter of waking Jenn to open the locked drawer where it rests.  Earlier that day, Jenn insinuated that Kevin might hurt her or Juan, so there is no question about it being locked.

Kevin abandons that thought and grabs a few other survivalist provisions that might prove useful should he find himself lost in the woods.  The junk food he stuffs in the bag might last a few days at least.  He fills a large thermos with fresh water although the constant rain should provide plenty of water if it comes to that.  The lighter he was using earlier is still in his pocket.  The last important item he needs is his raincoat hanging from a hook behind the bathroom door.

Kevin passes Jenn’s door and pauses as he peers through the small crack.  He thinks about getting her camera, which is beside her bed in the same locked drawer as her gun.  If he finds something compelling in the woods, photographic evidence would be useful.  No, I can’t chance it.  I can’t pick that lock without waking her.  What else is in that drawer that requires locking and a hidden key?  He grunts softly and hastily snatches his raincoat off the door and puts it on.  Jenn stirs momentarily, so he picks up the backpack and puts it on more quietly.

Kevin feels weighted down by the full backpack as he walks across the porch, down the path and out the gate.  He prefers being able to move quickly, if necessary, but he knows this is not a 'move quickly' kind of mission.  He must take his time and be methodical for as long as he can.  As he walks down the road, his boots sometimes make a sucking sound as he lifts them.  The mud is thicker than expected in some places.  The middle of the road is still a little stonier, so he drifts there.  Gripping the cold, steel body of the black flashlight tightly, he marks the path ahead with the intense beam.  The rain hitting the hood of his raincoat almost taps out a cadence to which he marches.  He realizes his teeth are tightly clenched to the point of almost grinding as he takes each step.

He eventually reaches the first major curve in the road and looks back at the cabin one last time before it becomes hidden behind the dense forest on the other side of the curve.  As he rounds it, the infamous ‘Keep Out’ sign becomes visible.  The main road would sort of fork at this point, if the trail wasn’t hidden.  The overgrown trail is much wider than the few hiking trails he has been on.

Kevin pauses in front of the sign in a way similar to how he paused in front of Jenn’s door earlier.   He shines the flashlight on the path and looks at the branches and vines that were clearly placed on it.  The light also illuminates the weather-beaten sign.  The paint is cracked and completely gone in some places.  The letters ‘P’ and ‘T’ are partially missing because of rotting wood where the paint wore away long ago.  Smudges of dirt and mud are all over it.  He wonders if it is possible that someone had recently made this sign, and it only looks really old.  Jenn has some art skills, but there’s no way she is that good.

He sets the flashlight by a tree and aims it in his direction as he clears the loose foliage.  He has a hard time gripping some of the branches in the rain.  After finishing, he picks up the flashlight and starts making his way down the forbidden lane.  The trail is wider than he expects.  Although tall grass has grown over it, the grass is much higher in the middle than on the sides, and no shrubs or bushes are growing on it.  Kevin walks slower than his usual pace as he scans from side to side with the flashlight.  ‘Slow’ is not his thing, but he keeps reminding himself, Slow and methodical, slow and methodical.

The bright beam sweeps from the trees on one side of the path to the path itself and then to the other side.  The overgrowth is very thick on both sides with some branches hanging so low across the road, Kevin has to duck to get under them.  He gets the eerie feeling that the forest is slowly enveloping the path behind him as he walks further down it.  The thought almost makes him turn around to check behind him, but he realizes how ridiculous that would be.  The only sounds are the rain hitting the leaves and his raincoat and the slosh of his boots when one hits a puddle hidden in the grass.  There’s no rustling or creaking of trees coming to life and closing in on him, but he feels like he really needs to look behind him every now and then.

He quickly turns around, allowing the light to halfway strobe like a lighthouse beam and rest slightly above the trail a few yards away.  Kevin starts to panic as he sees a wall of trees, but then remembers that the trail curved a couple of times.  The tall grass is disturbed, in places, by his careful treading.  The view is quite unremarkable although he is surprised by how far he has walked beyond the battered sign.  He becomes the lighthouse again and spins around to continue his journey.  As the flashlight beam passes a patch of grass up ahead, what he sees makes the hair on the back of his neck stand up.  Something white darts out of the light and into the woods.  Kevin freezes and grips the flashlight tightly with both hands.

Whatever that was, is large enough to do some damage if it is an animal.  Maybe it was just a coyote or a stray dog.  Kevin’s efforts to reassure himself fail as he feels the goosebumps spread to his shoulders and arms.  He walks forward as he shines the flashlight on the patch of grass where it first appeared and the tree where it darted.  He gives the patch of grass where the thing appeared a wide berth and shines the light on that spot as well as the place where it made its exit.  The patch of wet grass looks completely undisturbed.  The light can’t penetrate the dense foliage, so it is difficult to see very far into the woods where it may have gone.  After spending a minute, unsuccessfully, trying to get a good angle to shine light through the wall of leaves and bark, he gives up and continues along the path.

As he walks, he encounters a sharper curve.  Before the adrenalin from the previous sighting can completely wear off, he encounters another shocker just around the bend.  Some of the grass stops abruptly or at least appears to.  Closer inspection reveals tracts of grass on each side of the road flattened in the mud and worn away.  The grass in between these tracts is still long although more slanted than the grass he had already been walking through.  He doesn’t need to be an expert tracker to know what it looks like when someone has been repeatedly driving a car on a muddy road.

Anger wells up in him as he continues down what clearly is a road and not a wide path.  It is only slightly narrower than the main road leading to the cabin.  Kevin’s anger causes him to forget about the fast white thing.  Jenn fucking knows someone with a working car and didn’t tell us?  He can see tread marks in places where the grass is thinner.  These tracks are fresh.  He speeds up his pace, anxious to find out where the tracks lead.  He doesn’t get far before hearing the sound of wet footsteps behind him.

Kevin turns around and the light immediately lands on something that makes him scream.  Standing in the center of the road is a tall slender girl in all white.  Her wet, blonde hair covers most of her face in stringy tendrils.  She is wearing a white sun dress that is much frayed at the bottom.  She has no shoes on and her skin is as pale white as the clothes she’s wearing.  He start to walk toward her to see if she needs help, but there’s something about her that seems off.  It makes him walk back a couple of steps.  The weight of his backpack is more noticeable now than ever.

“Don’t go,” the young woman says, “I…”  She mumbles something as her voice trails off.

The girl staggers toward him in a way that is oddly quick as her feet make a slapping sound on the muddy road.  She mumbles the same unintelligible words as she reaches toward him with both hands.  Kevin quickens his backward pace but she closes the gap easily.  He thinks about turning around to run.  What if she really needs some help?  If she is dangerous, I’m pretty sure I can handle myself against a girl who is probably 120 pounds soaking wet.  That’s when he realizes what seems so off-kilter.  Now that she is closer he can see that her skin and hair are all wet, but her clothes are completely dry, even as the rain comes down harder.  Before Kevin can turn and run, she throws her arms around his neck and practically hangs from it.  As she looks up at him, her hair shifts, revealing a face that makes him shudder.

Copyright 2018 Darrell Winfrey

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Reverse Haunting (No title yet) – Kevin: 4

What Kevin sees is not a shadow on Juan’s face.  It looks very much like someone removed his face, scooped everything out of his head, and created a window into a vast nothingness.  Kevin doesn’t take any time to make sense of what he is seeing.  He shrieks, stumbles back toward the door, and immediately turns around to flee this madness.  As he runs away, he hears, “Are you crazy?”

Kevin stops, takes a few steps back to the bedroom, turns on the light, and looks in.  Juan’s face looks completely normal although confused as he says, “What the hell is wrong with you? You almost gave me a heart attack.”

He really shouldn’t joke about heart attacks.  Kevin gives him an uneasy smile as his heart is still beating a hundred times a second.  “No face.”


“Black… face,” Kevin manages to mutter, knowing that it might be even more confusing.

Juan shakes his head like he is trying to dislodge some of his thoughts.  “I’m glad you’re finally awake.  Step inside and close the door.  I need to tell you something.”

Kevin just stares at him and doesn’t move.

“What is up with you!?” Juan demands.

“Before I turned the light on, you looked like you were turning into one of those things,” Kevin says, now that he has calmed down a little.

Juan looks even more confused.  “If anything, I’m the one who should think you are turning into something.  You knocked on my door and when I opened it, you were just standing there staring at nothing.”

Now Kevin has the confused expression.

Juan continues, “I’m telling you.  You were just standing at the door completely still with one hand in the position it was in when you were knocking.  You stood there for what had to be about 5 or 6 minutes.  You weren’t responding to anything I said, so I figured you were in one of your catatonic states.”

“You’re talking crazy.  I’m not catatonic.”

“Of course you’re not right now.  We’re having a conversation.  But you do have your moments.  It’s like you freeze in the middle of doing something and just stay there for a while.  On a few occasions, I picked you up and you put on the couch because I was scared you might fall and hit your head.  I thought about getting one of Jenn’s giant dildos and putting it in your hand but figured that would be too cruel.  But yeah, it happens, just not very often.”

Kevin is very troubled by this revelation.  “How long have I been doing this?”

“Since we first met.  It happened a lot less back then.”

“Shit, man!  You didn’t think to mention something like that to me!?”

Juan shrugs.  “Why would I?  I figured it was something you knew about.  Since I barely knew you, it would have been out of place to ask you about something that was probably very personal.”

“Yeah but after you got to know me over time you would think a friend would show some concern,” Kevin says with irritation.  Kevin thinks about how he occasionally loses time daydreaming and wonders if that is when it happens.

“Look, we figured that was your thing and it didn’t seem like a big deal because it would only last a few seconds at best.  This time is the longest I have ever seen you frozen.  Since Jenn has known you longer, she might know more.”

That hadn’t occurred to Kevin.  If anyone should have brought it up, Jenn should have been the main one.  Kevin grew angrier at Jenn.  She doesn’t talk about herself much, but she is always candid when it comes to talking about him.

“This is my first time hearing about this.  Ever.  What if I had blacked out while driving?”

“Well, that would have been a problem, but you didn’t have a car, and I don’t recall ever seeing you drive anything since day one.”  Juan’s face changes like he suddenly remembers something.  “We can talk about this later.  I really need you to step inside and close the door.”

Kevin remembers that he met Juan only a couple of months before the whole world went to shit, and cars stopped working at that time.  He has known Jenn much longer and doesn’t recall her ever mentioning anything about catatonic episodes.  Maybe it is somehow related to these shadow creatures.  Am I turning into one?  Kevin shakes off the absurd thought.  He starts to close the door and then stops.  “Is closing the door really necessary?  What if you lose your face again and attack me before I can get out?”

“Yes, it is.  And I promise not to lose… my face.  Trust me.”

“Trust is something in short supply lately.  How ‘bout this.  If you happen to see me do anything unusual, I mean anything, like go catatonic, sprout wings, howl at the moon, would you be kind enough to tell me about it right away?”

“Will do.  Now can we get to the important stuff?”

Kevin is visibly annoyed by the dismissal but closes the door as instructed.  “OK then.  What’s so important?”

Juan lowers his voice to a whisper and says, “Listen, I think something is up with Jenn.   I think she’s hiding something.”

“No shit, Sherlock!” Kevin exclaims loudly, “She’s secretive about almost everything.”

“Dammit keep your voice down,” Juan whispers angrily.

Kevin can tell by the look on Juan’s face that it might be something serious, so he sits down next to Juan and decides to play along.  “Alright, what’s going on?” he whispers.

“Listen.  On days that Jenn leaves, she doesn’t always stay on the main road.  Sometimes she goes down that old trail with the broken ‘Keep Out’ sign.”

“How do you know that?  Did you come out the house to follow her?  How on earth did you keep her from seeing your big ass?”

“That’s not really important.  The main thing is that she does this when she’s going to get food and supplies.  As far as I know, that trail just goes deeper into the woods.  There’s no way to…”  Juan stops and looks toward the door for a short time before continuing.  “There’s no way to get back to the main road without going through miles of forest.  That wouldn’t make sense when she could just use the road instead.”

“So what do you think is her deal?” Kevin asks with more curiosity than before.

“Well, she always comes back with several bags of groceries and I can’t see her walking several miles through thick woods like that.  My guess is that there is another cabin in the woods where that trail once lead or…”


“Or there is another road beyond that trail where she meets someone,” Juan concludes.

Kevin ponders the implications and is still unsure why she would go through great pains to conceal where or how she gets groceries.  He already knows that there are a number of people still alive in town, so there’s nothing surprising about getting food and supplies from someone.  It’s not a big deal to him who that person might be.  He pressed her about her connections a while back, in case something were to happen to her.  He remembers her making an odd comment about how he and Juan would both die if something happened to her.  He is now thinking about possibly grilling her to find out more about what she does each day and why.

“So let’s both question her about it,” Kevin suggests.

Juan shakes his head, “That’s exactly what we should not do.”

“OK, what do you suggest?”

“I think you should wait for her to go to sleep.”

“And do what to her?” Kevin asked in disbelief.

Juan looks at Kevin sideways.  “Anyway.  Since you can’t follow her during the day without either being seen or getting yourself killed, we should make sure she is fully asleep.  That is very important.  Then you should grab a couple of flashlights and any other gear you need and head down that road.  Once you reach that pathway, clear it as much as you can and go down that road as far as you can or until you find something.  Once you find what you need, come on back.”

“Maybe I should snag her digital camera and bring it along,” Kevin suggests.  He is starting to get a little excited about the idea of some cloak and dagger action to break the monotony.  It might even decrease his insistent urge to play with blades.

“If you can do it without waking her, then go ahead.”

“If she wakes up, just tell her I went for a stroll.”

Juan looks at him admonishingly, “She cannot be awake when you do this.  She…  She seems to ‘know things’ when she’s not asleep.”

“What?  You mean awake like she is now.”  Kevin starts to wonder about Juan’s sanity.  At the same time, his own sanity can be called into question too.

“Yes.  Do you ever listen to her when she is rambling?”

“I do whatever I can not to listen to her crazy ass when she’s going on and on.  It’s like a cat trying to climb a metal flagpole.”

“That’s one of your biggest problems.  You hear but never listen,” Juan scolds him.

“Thanka yoo, sensei,” Kevin says with an offensive accent, “I wirr try much, much hahda to risten nexa time.”

Juan ignores the provocation, “When you think she’s rambling you really need to listen to what she is saying.  What sounds like gibberish really contains a lot more important stuff than you realize.”

“Do you know how you sound right now?  Tell me, does this happen when you smoke with her.”

“You’re the one who always complains about what she doesn’t tell you, but she tells you things all the time and you don’t even realize it.”

“So she kicks out these riddles that I’m supposed to solve in order to find my way to the Ark of the Covenant?  Better yet, will they help me get out of this fucking prison?”

“You act like a goddamned jackass at some of the worst times.  And lower your voice.”

“Maybe you can inform me of the most convenient time for jackassery.”

“Look, if you want to find a way out of this hell, wait until she is sleep, then go down that road.  If it’s not that important to you then sit in the cabin and just rot.”

“Like you, sensei?  I suppose it doesn’t take much effort.”

Juan’s face reddens.  Kevin realizes that he needs to stop with the snide comments.

“OK I’ll do it when she’s fast asleep,” Kevin says as he gives in, “Before I forget, what were you doing for the last hour or so before I knocked on the door?”

“I was sleep.  Why?”

“Jenn and I saw the really big shadow thing that I thought was after me last night.  I was wondering if you heard it clawing at the doors and windows.”

“It apparently wasn’t loud enough to…”

A loud knock at the bedroom door startles both of them.

“Honeys, I’m home,” says Jenn’s muffled, monotone voice through the door, “Can I come in or are you two still boinkin’ in there.”

“No, you missed all of our hot, sweaty boinking,” Juan says, “Come on in.”

They hear the knob twist a few times, but it doesn’t open.

“It’s locked,” Jenn replies.

Kevin hops up to unlock the door.  When it swings open, Jenn meekly waves and mouths the word ‘Hello’.  Then she plops down at the foot of the bed and sits hunched over with her arms and elbows close together resting on her knees.

“So what are we meeting about?” Jenn asks suspiciously.

“Meeting?  You call this a meeting?” Kevin says.

“Well, I can’t imagine any other reason why you would be locked in a room talking,” Jenn says with an accusatory tone.

“Kevin was just telling me about the large shadow thing you two saw earlier,” Juan says.

Jenn seems even more suspicious.  “Was that all he was telling you about?”

“Yup,” Kevin and Juan respond almost at the same time.

“Why lock the door then?” Jenn asks.

“Kevin probably locked it back without thinking because I had it locked, like usual, before he came in,” Juan replies

“Without thinking," 
Jenn says flatly, "Huh.”

They sit there in silence for a long time.  The tension probably could only be cut with an axe.  Kevin and Juan wait for Jenn to respond, but she just sits there staring at the floor.

Jenn startles them when she finally says, “OK.  You kids get back to it.  I need to get some sleep.  I have a long day at the office tomorrow.”

She gets up without looking at them and shuts the door behind her.  Kevin and Juan can only look at each other like they both just got in trouble for stealing cookies.

Kevin eventually whispers, “Do you think she heard anything.”

“I’m pretty sure she didn’t,” Juan concludes.

“OK.  I’ll go up front till its time.”

Kevin leaves Juan’s room and notices Jenn’s door slightly ajar.  He almost walks over to say ‘good-night’ but then thinks better of it.  He heads over to the couch instead and lies down, staring at the ceiling.  He needs to find something to do until Jenn goes to sleep, otherwise he’ll doze off too.

Copyright 2018 Darrell Winfrey

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Reverse Haunting (No title yet) – Kevin: 3

Kevin and Jenn continue to watch as the skeletal shadow walks around the outside of the house checking windows and scratching at doors.  Kevin notices that its walk is not really as bouncy as he originally expected.  With each step, its legs seem to crunch and break into joints under its weight only to crack back into place to extend to the next step.  The sound of creaking wood seems to emanate from all of its joints.

With his eyes glued to the shadow creature, Kevin whispers to Jenn, “What the hell is that thing?  Have you ever seen one before?”  When he looks back at Jenn, he sees the fearful expression gone and now replaced by what appears to be relief.  This strikes him as odd, but he doesn’t ask her about it.

Jenn nods her head slowly.  Kevin starts to ask another question but Jenn shakes her head slowly and puts a finger to her lips.  Kevin figures that she is trying not to make any noticeable movements as she cuts her eyes toward the creature.  Kevin slowly turns his head the same direction and notices that the creature is still as a statue behind the gate.  He can’t tell if he is looking at the front or back of its featureless form.  He can only assume that it is looking in their direction.  Kevin remains frozen and holds his breath a very long time.  He holds it as long as he can before having to slowly and silently let it out.  He almost gasps and puts his hand over his mouth after the creature suddenly turns and starts walking toward the right side of the cabin.

Kevin looks back at Jenn who is already looking at him with a very concerned look.  Kevin gives her a ‘what now?’ look to which Jenn responds by silently mouthing the words, ‘Don’t move’.  They wait in the dark until they hear the sound of the large centipede rustling away.  Kevin’s legs feel stiff from standing in the same position for so long.  He imagines them breaking in several places, like the shadow creature’s legs, once he starts walking.

They creep up the path toward the gate.  Kevin starts to open the gate as Jenn veers off to the right.  He hears Jenn hiss and looks over to see her shaking her head vigorously.  She beckons for him to follow her as she continuous on the outer perimeter of the fence.  When they can see that nothing or no one is in front of the cabin, they continue around the fence a little faster.  They probably could have slipped between the horizontal members of the farm-style fence, but the tight fit might prove fatal if something were to come after them.

When they make it to the front gate, which is already open, Jenn stops and stares down the road as if she is waiting for something.

“Come on inside,” Kevin whispers urgently.

Jenn starts speaking in normal voice that startles Kevin because of how loud it sounds, “You go in, and lock the door.  I’ll be there in a minute.”  She starts to walk down the dirt road.

“I’m coming with you,” Kevin says right before he starts feeling dizzy.

“No!  You need to go inside,” Jenn says enunciating each word as she waves him off like a child.

Kevin wants to argue but his brain feels a little scrambled at the moment.  He walks to the porch, occasionally looking back at Jenn who is now walking very fast down the dark road.  Kevin unlocks the door, goes in, and locks it back as instructed.  Kevin is a little worried about her for a second before reassuring himself that she always seems to do quite well on her own.  He looks at the door frame and chain and thinks, It’s not professional-looking work, but Jenn did a pretty good job fixing it.  Kevin notices that the house is much cleaner than it was before he went to sleep.  There’s no way Juan did this.  Then he remembers that he hasn’t seen or heard from Juan since he woke up.  He walks over to Juan’s bedroom door and knocks.

“Get your lazy ass up, man!” Kevin says sternly.

He puts his ear to the door and listens.  He doesn’t hear a sound, so he knocks again and waits.  There is still no sound that he can hear through the door.  Kevin starts getting a little concerned, but figures Juan might have his headphones on.  Even then Juan will usually yell something derogatory when we bang on the door.   He knocks again and listens, but there is still no sound coming from the other side.

“OK, dude.  You’re starting to worry me,” Kevin says and pauses before saying, “NOT!”

Kevin tries to hide the uneasiness in his voice.  He looks toward the bathroom but doesn’t check it when he remembers that Juan’s bedroom door only locks from inside when the door is already closed.  He tries to twist the knob again to confirm.

“I must have caught you in there pulling on your noodle to pictures of sea mammals.  I guess I’ll see you when you get done.  Just wash your hands first.”

Kevin is worried, but decides not to break another door.  He goes to the kitchen to look for something to eat.  He looks in the pantry and finds Raman Noodles, canned beans, sardines, and cereal among many other assorted items that don’t necessarily make a meal together.  He chooses cereal and uses the last of the milk.

As Kevin sits there, his mind starts to wander.  He thinks about a recurring dream that has never made any sense to him.

In the dream, he is near a river that is flowing quickly.  He can only guess that he is a toddler because a nearby folding chair is so large, he would have to climb onto it to sit down.  Sitting near him on the shore is a man whose face looks like a blur that has wispy smoke trails the same color as his skin rising from it.  An older little boy, with a face having the same smoky blur to it, is standing near the man.  They are talking loudly to each other in a language that sounds like it should be English, but very few of the words are recognizable.

After a while the man grabs the little boy by the jacket.  There is more gibberish yelling until the little boy pulls away and falls down.  He then gets up and starts running along the river bank.  The man chases after him yelling something loudly.  He then finds himself walking toward the river and following them along the bank before the dream fades.  It always seems to end there, although he feels like the original dream was much longer.

After breaking from his daydream, Kevin looks down and notices that his cereal is completely soggy.  How long have I been sitting here?  Before he can take a bite, the click of a lock makes him turn his head toward the front door.  He watches it, waiting for Jenn to come in, but realizes that the sound came from another part the house after he hears a door creak open.  Juan’s bedroom door is not visible from the kitchen, so Kevin yells in that direction.

“Damn, man, I thought you were in there dead!”

No answer or any other sounds come from the room. “Juan?”

Kevin gets up and slowly walks toward the bedrooms.  Jenn’s door is closed and he can’t see Juan’s door until he rounds the corner.  “Juan?” he calls again while trying to keep his voice from sounding shaky.  He pushes the door open, allowing the dim light to slowly reveal what is in the room.  When the door is almost completely opened, he can see Juan sitting on the edge of his bed, facing away with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands.  He is unnaturally still and doesn’t seem to notice Kevin entering the room.

“You OK?” Kevin asks cautiously.

The room is mostly dark and Juan still sits on the bed without moving a muscle.  Kevin creeps over to him and reaches out to touch him, but before he can get close, Juan puts his hands down and quickly turns around in a jerky, robotic manner.  Kevin shrieks at what he sees.  Where Juan’s face should be is a hole of pure darkness that is darker than any night sky could ever be.  On the outer edges are thin, dark tendrils extending away from the hole as they wave ominously.

Copyright 2018 Darrell Winfrey

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Reverse Haunting (No title yet) – Kevin: 2

Kevin’s eyes feel almost like they are stuck together as he slowly wakes up.  He hears breathing behind him with his back facing the front part of the couch.  He opens his eyes slightly but cannot move any other part of his body.  All he can see is that ugly flower pattern on the back of the couch, but the sound of the breathing behind him is chilling.  It is a very wet and raspy wheezing sound like an unusual amount of phlegm is in a scraggly, narrow throat.  Kevin tries to move his fingers and his toes but nothing happens.  He tries to cry out but his mouth stays closed and no sound escapes his lips.  The sickly breathing persists.  It sounds like whoever or whatever it is, is very close to Kevin, practically breathing down his neck.  He wants to turn his head but fears what kind of ghastly face this thing might possess.  After what feels like a full minute of this torture, Kevin is able to move his free arm.  He tries to talk, but only slight moaning sounds resonate within his throat.  For some reason he reaches toward his ear, only to find that his earmuffs are off.  As his waking brain starts to reorient itself, the wheezing slowly morphs into normal breathing that is barely audible.  When he gains full control of his body, he quickly rolls over to find Jenn sitting in a chair right in front of the couch, leaning forward and holding a hammer, of all things.

“What are you doing?  And why the hell do you have a hammer?” Kevin asks in a tone that doesn’t quite fit his alarm because he is still shaking off sleep.  He tries to figure out which is scarier, the awful breathing or Jenn staring at him.

Jenn looks at the hammer as if she just became aware of its existence.  She looks back at Kevin with eyes wide and slightly crazed. “Uh ah Uh,” she makes the ‘I don’t know’ sound, “I just kinda woke up a-holdin’ it.”

Jenn likes to use quotes from popular and not so popular movies.  Sometimes they are recognizable and sometimes they aren’t.  Kevin can’t tell if that was one or not and continues to stare at her with a very concerned look.

Jenn continues to eyeball him for a few seconds before sighing and rolling her eyes in an odd sideways manner.  “You goofball, somebody had to fix the door you broke.  I knew you weren’t gonna do it.”

Kevin looks back at the hammer and then back at her eyes which are no less crazed.

“A ‘thank you’ would be in order. And stop looking at me like that,” she smiles a little as she continues in a flat voice, “It’s not like I was about to bash your head in with it.”

She sometimes has very little change in her voice inflections as she shifts from saying something serious to joking to being totally outrageous.  This is one of her traits that makes it so difficult for him to get a read on her, especially when she says things that should be sarcastic but she is dead serious instead.  In a way, he finds it more intriguing than frustrating.  Something that is more unnerving is the way she studies a person’s face before she speaks, resulting in odd pauses and stares.  It seems like she scans a person’s face as if she were searching for the slightest twitch or hint that the person might be hiding something.  This just might be his own imagination and maybe she is just a nutty girl with a few strange tics.

“I would feel better if you just put that down.” Kevin says slowly.

Jenn stands up so fast with the hammer, it makes Kevin flinch.  “Hey, you notice something?” she asks in an inappropriately loud voice.

“Uh… I—“

She quickly turns and walks to the window.  She points to a peeled back corner of the black paper covering it and Kevin sees daylight shining through.  He immediately thinks, No screaming and howling.

Kevin allows Jenn to continue smiling at him with anticipation for a while before he finally whispers, “It’s quiet.”

“I know.  Right?” she says even more loudly, “While I was working on the door, I got sick of the noise, so I opened it and yelled ‘Shuuuut the hell uuuup!’ and they did!”  Her large eyes dart from side to side as she waits for another response from him.

The disbelief shows on his face followed by dismissal, but regardless of her reason, it doesn’t change the fact that for the first time in months, the sun is still up and it doesn’t sound like hell on earth out there.  He is elated at the thought, but before he can change his expression, Jenn zeroes in on him, “OH, you think I’m full of it!  Don’t ask me for any favors later.”

“I just figured you were joking around about telling them to shut up.  So you really yelled at them and they stopped just like that?  All this time, one of us could have just told them to keep it down and they would have obliged?”  It is still hard to hide his skepticism.

“I told them ‘shut the hell up’ not ‘keep it down’,” she then smiled awkwardly, “That would be messed up, though, wouldn’t it?  Anyway, it might be a coincidence that they stopped after I yelled or maybe I angered the gods and they are silently surrounding the house now.”  Her eyes grow bigger than Kevin ever thought possible.

The thought bothers Kevin slightly, but he tries not to show it. “So you have no idea why they stopped or if they are still out there.”  He mulls for a few seconds before saying, “Wait a minute.  Do you think we are finally at the end of this insanity?  Maybe they are gone for good.”

“I dunno.  Let’s have a look.“  Jenn sets the hammer down before she starts to unlock and open the door.

Kevin sits up so fast he feels lightheaded.  “What the?  You can’t just open the door like that when it’s still light out!”  He rushes to the door as she is messing with the chain.  He tries to keep her from opening it, but his lightheadedness quickly turns into severe dizziness.  Kevin sees his hands almost help her open the door wide instead of stopping her.

“Oh, calm down.”  Jenn steps out on the porch and twirls a couple of times before stopping and bobbing a curtsey for him.  “Look.  No monsters.  No shadows.  They went bye-bye.”

Kevin regains his balance and pushes the door mostly closed while leaving a small crack to peek out.  Feeling only slightly emboldened by the fact that everything is calm, he says, “You shouldn’t just open the door without checking first.  Some might be invisible.  Some of them are already kinda transparent.”

“I did check.  And they didn’t turn invisible.  They – are - gone.  Believe me.”  Jenn lets out a little chuckle before attempting a joke, “Besides, have you ever seen an invisible one?  No?”

If any one of them could possibly know, it would be Jenna.  She has gone out amongst the shadows during some of the most chaotic days.  She mostly goes out to get food and other supplies.  What angers Kevin the most is the fact that she goes out some days but comes back and acts very cagey about where she has been and why she was out there.  She also rarely shares what she finds out about the most dangerous ones and the world they inhabit.  She seems to know how to avoid them but has never given him a straight answer when he asks.

Jenn steps closer and asks, “Why don’t you come outside instead of being such a ---“

“Pussy?  I’m not a pussy,” Kevin protests, “I just have a stronger will to live than you.”

“I was going to say ‘such a hermit’, but if that’s how you see yourself…” Jenn says without looking directly at him.  Then she immediately mumbles something completely unintelligible.

“What did you just say?”

“Nothing.  Are you coming out here or not?”

Kevin opens the door a little wider as Jenn turns her back to him.  The door creaks loudly.  Maybe he did more damage than he thought, or Jenn botched the repair job.  He leans out and takes a long look to the right.  He then leans out a little further to look to the left.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAGH!” Jenn lets out a very piercing and terrified scream.

Kevin pulls his head back inside so fast that he bangs it on the door frame.  Before he slams the door, he looks toward Jenn and sees her laughing it up.

“What the fuck is wrong with you!” he exclaims.

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” she says while still laughing, “But it's messed up that you would just close the door after hearing me scream.  I mean, what’s up with that?”

“I wasn’t about to close it.”

“Suuure,” Jenn says humorlessly, “Did you hurt your head?  You hit it so hard, I think I felt it.”

Kevin sheepishly rubs it a few times and says, “I think it’ll be fine.”

“Seriously come on out here.  Heaven knows you could use some sunlight.  You’re like a vampire.”

“Hang on, let me get Juan so he can see this.”

Jenn rolls her eyes as she says, “Why?  You know he won’t come outside.  I figured we could just take short walk.  We’ll be back in no time.”

“I should at least let him know both of us are leaving?”  Kevin turns to go back in.

Jenn grabs his arm tightly and exclaims, “No!”

Kevin looks at her like she’s crazy again.

“I mean, he’s a big boy, a really big boy.  I think he’ll be fine,” she says with forced calmness.  “C’mon.  Let’s go for a walk before things turn ugly out here again.”

Kevin slowly steps outside as sunlight pokes through a small cloud.  The sky still has a greenish tint that it took on the first day the shadow creatures appeared.  When he steps out, he squints as the bright light hits his eyes.  The stained wood feels warm against his bare feet.  There is a slight breeze weaving through the trees as it carries the fresh aroma of cedar and pine.  He slowly pans the landscape, reminding himself how serene the forest could be.

“You know you could just take in the scene while we’re walking,” Jenn says with a bit of impatience and irritation in her voice.

Kevin looks down at his feet.  “Hold up.  Let me get my shoes.”

He steps back, grabs his boots and starts putting them on.  Jenna pushes the door a little wider and watches as he puts them on.  Her posture and body language say ‘hurry’ more than her voice did.  When Kevin is tying the last boot, he sees that she has left her post and is now standing on the steps with her back to him.  Once he steps onto the porch, she walks down the steps and turns toward the back of the house.  Kevin follows and doesn’t ask why she is headed there.

Jenn arrives at the back gate and waits for Kevin.  “I have trouble opening this sometimes.  Could you do the honors?” Jenn stands by as he forces the rusty lock open and pushes against the gate with his hip to open it wide enough for them to exit.  The hinges are nearly frozen from disuse.

“Close it back,” Jenn says as she steps out.  Kevin pushes the gate several times to shut it behind them.  Jenn is already several yards down the trail when he turns around.  He walks quickly to try catching up to her.  She continues to walk swiftly and acts as if she doesn’t see him walking with her.

“I thought the whole point of taking a walk with somebody is to actually take a walk with them,” Kevin says pointedly.

Jenn pauses briefly and only turns slightly toward him.  “I’m walking here.  If you keep up, I will be walking with you.”  She only waits a few more seconds for him to catch up before she turns and continues at the same pace down the path that is starting to gradually disappear.

They walk for a while stepping over a few fallen trees and their clothes occasionally snagging on thorny vines.  Kevin brushes against what he thinks is poison ivy.  Jenn hasn’t seemed in a mood to converse since they stepped outside the gate, so Kevin doesn’t press her.  He does get a little concerned about walking too far away from the cabin while there is still uncertainty about whether or not they will be safe for much longer.  His anxiety heightens as the forest gets thicker and it gets harder to tell whether or not something is lurking behind a tree.  Thankfully, he can hear the river up ahead, so he figures they aren’t going to walk much further.

“We probably should be heading back soon,” Kevin says as way to check for a pulse from her.

He thinks he hears Jenn mumble something as she continues walking at her frenzied pace.  After a few minutes, they reach the river.  Jenn navigates the thick underbrush and walks toward an old dry rotted pier.  I hope she’s not expecting me to get on that.  She looks toward him as she passes by the pier and walks toward a large, fallen tree that is mostly in the river.  Moss covers most of its surface and looks slightly damp, but Jenn sits down on top of it.

“This is a spot where I go to think sometimes.  Come sit down.”  Jenn pats the spot next to her.  She sounds far more inviting than he might expect considering the ice cold theme of their walk.

Kevin walks over and wonders if he is being set up for some new confrontation.  Although he has never been here, there is a sense of déjà vu.  He briefly has a strong sense of what Jenn is about to say next and what his reply will be.  The feeling lasts for a very short time before fading completely.

Jenn looks at him almost affectionately. “Are you sure your head is OK?

Kevin nods.  He is still wondering if this is the calm before the storm.

“I put a little something in your pocket.  It’s an extra special treat.”  Jenn watches him reach into his front pocket before saying, “Not that one.  Check the small one on your leg.”

Kevin reaches in and pulls out a joint.  “You know, if you wanted to smoke, we could have just sat on the porch.”

“Did you not hear what I originally said about this place?” Jenn asks as she looks at him out the corners of her eyes.

Kevin realizes that she is trying to open a tiny window to allow him to look in and see some small piece of her that she doesn’t reveal to just anyone.  If I question and probe she’ll just close and lock it again.

“I also think it is only a matter of time before you graduate from breaking doors.  Next it will be windows and walls.  Who knows after that?  Maybe people?”  Jenn doesn’t smile or blink.

That statement is pretty jarring and causes Kevin to think, OK this is not headed in the direction I expected.  “I was being chased by something for God’s sake!  I would never hurt—“

Jenn interrupted, “Yeah, yeah I know.  You were running from something and kicked the door in.  I know you would never deliberately hurt me or Juan.  That’s not what I—“

“Not deliberately?  Why would…  That’s even worse!  Am I some kind of rage monster who can’t control himself!?” Kevin notices that his voice is echoing off rocks on the other side of the river and lowers the volume.  “Yes, I break things when I get upset… sometimes, but I have never…  I would never hurt one of my friends.”

“That’s not what I was getting at,” says Jenn, who then looks at the joint that he has now crushed a little, “By the way, you probably should go ahead and light that.”

Kevin stares at it, “Maybe I should do that after this conversation.”

“Light it for me then.”

“So what were you about to say?  What were you really getting at?” Kevin inquires.

Jenn is staring at the river flowing calmly by.  She continues to look away when she says, “You’re cutting yourself again.”

Kevin remains silent for a while before asking, “Why would you ask that?”

“That was not a questions.”  Jenn shifts her body to face him more and looks directly into his eyes.  Her eyes are so intense, that Kevin only returns the gaze for a few seconds before looking down at the joint as he unsuccessfully tries to light it multiple times.  Jenn snatches it and the lighter from him and lights it after a couple of tries. 

“I need you to cut that shit out!” Jenn thinks for a few seconds about what sounds like a bad pun before rephrasing more calmly, “I need you…  I really need you to stop cutting yourself.”

Jenn takes a couple of long puffs before giving it to Kevin.  He doesn’t say anything for a long time and just smokes with her for a while.  The only other sounds are the river, the wind blowing the trees, and an occasional cricket keying up.  It is starting to get late.

“I don’t do that because I like it, ya know,“ Kevin eventually says, “It happens sometimes when I get really stressed.  Other times, I don’t know why I do it.  It’s like I’m not even aware I’m doing it until blood is everywhere.”  He looks down at his feet while he is talking.

“Well I’m worried because we both know where it can lead,” Jenn warns.

“Yeah, I remember what happened before we moved.”

“I know that being confined to this place can make you crazy.”

Kevin frowns at her, incredulous that she would say something like that.

Jenn tries to sound sympathetic while stumbling over her words a little.  “I don’t mean it like that.  Not you specifically.  It’s like being in a box day in and day out.  That’s unhealthy for anybody.  How could a person not end up bouncing off the walls?”

“I get it,” Kevin agrees, “So is this supposed to be my therapy?”

“NoOo,” says Jenn as she shakes her head exaggeratedly. “I probably needed this more than you.  I just figured you might want to tag along.”

Kevin cuts his eyes at her and nods.  “You know you’re going to have to help me through this.”

“For sure,” she nods, “Just let me know when things start to go sideways.”

“I know you have your own shit to deal with.  How ‘bout I return the favor some time?”

“That’s not a good idea.” Jenn turns and looks back at the river.

“I could probably go outside during the day more if you teach me how you avoid these things.”

“Not a good idea either.”  The little window closes again.

After a long silence filled with herbal enhancement, they start talking again about silly things and laughing.  Before they know it, it is dusk and they figure they should be getting back while they can still see where they are walking.  They dally a little longer before finally getting off the log and heading in the direction of the cabin.

Their mood is quite light as they walk back.  They both crack a few unfunny jokes and dance around a bit as they stroll down the path.  Although they are playing around, it seems like they are making better time than when they were speed walking in the other direction.  That probably is just a perception.  All of the fun and games comes to a halt when a loud piercing squeal slices through the trees from the direction of the cabin.


They both stop and look at each other, waiting for one or the other to say something.  They stay silent.  Kevin feels his heart about to jump out of his chest.  The sound is one that Kevin knows too well.  To him it sounds like a pig squealing in pain mixed with the sound of several metal rakes scratching thin sheet metal.  Jenn grabs Kevin by the hand and leads him slightly off the path as she continues toward the cabin.

“Why are you walking toward it!?” Kevin asks in a loud, angry whisper.

“SSSHH!’ Jenn hisses.

Jenn crouches slightly and continues a little further off the path so that they can occasionally hide behind a tree.  Kevin reluctantly allows her to lead him.  She’s squeezing his hand tightly.  He notices that her steps hardly make a sound while his feet seem to find every brittle twig and dried leaf in the forest.  When they finally reach the bottom of the hill where the cabin sits, they stop behind a large tree where Kevin stands and Jenn crouches low while they peer from behind it.  Kevin can tell that something is on the front side, but it’s partially obscured by the cabin.  It’s dusk so it is difficult to see, but he already knows, based on the sound, that it’s one of the large shadow creatures that resembles a giant centipede.  He’s not worried about it because it can’t maneuver through trees very well.  He’s more worried about the things that come out of it.  Sometimes it’s dozens of smaller ‘centipedes’.  Sometimes it’s something that looks more human.

They stay behind the tree for a long time watching and looking.  Kevin wonders if the things are going to switch to lurking at night instead of the day.  They are very difficult to see at night and are much darker than actual shadows.  No features can be seen anywhere and their darkness is so dark, it seems like it is capturing all light that comes near it.  It almost seems like it could siphon the soul of anyone who stands too close.

Then Kevin sees a second shadow coming from the location he thought he saw something the night before.  Its elongated head is slightly higher than the edge of the roof.  Unusually long, thin arms protrude from a slender body much lower than where one would expect shoulders to be, except there are no shoulders.  At the end of the boney arms, where one would expect to see hands, twelve inch fingers sprout directly from its wrists.  Its legs bend at the knee as well as three other places, giving it almost a springy appearance as it walks.  Each step is accompanied by the faint sound of creaking wood.  I would never want to have to outrun something like that, Kevin ponders.  All of the others pretty much look like shadows of regular people, but this one looks like something otherworldly.  Kevin looks down at Jenn but instead of looking at the creature, she is intensely looking back at him.  For the first time in a very long time, he actually sees fear in her eyes.

Copyright 2018 Darrell Winfrey