Chapter Eight: A Nightmarish Encounter
I decided to go out the bridge, just some large tunnels under the road partially submerged by the water of a passing stream. It was four miles out of town, totally surrounded by a dense woods in every direction. At night there just seemed to be something surreal about this place. During my troubled youth, I had always come here to blow off some steam.
I was sitting on the hood of my truck, drinking from a bottle of vodka, the last bottle I ever bought and saved for such a time as this, when things where getting tough to handle and I just felt like deadening my senses and getting drunk. At that moment, I was dealing with several weighty issues.
One, with my place getting trashed, possibly the same perpetrator as who murdered Ma; who I surmised most people where assuming it was me; and that not for a second did I consider to leave town. The reasons for not leaving where vague to me then. But coming back was proving to be a rather bad series of events, but there was not any regret in me about my choice.
Before then, I always thought I would be burdened by my problems for life; but now I felt I was ramming those problems head on. If it was true that one person was responsible for what my mother was accused of, for killing Ma; then that one guy was responsible for all my problems. He was the one who took my mother away, who ruined my family name in that town; basically the one who fucked up my life. If he was real, I had already set my mind on finding him myself. Vindication, yes, I would finally have vindication.
But I didn't have to wait to find him, that particular night, he or it found me sitting on the bridge. I had just finished the bottle and I threw it out into the woods.
A voice spoke out in the night, it was alarming and distorted to a point where the gender of the speaker was undetectable; it sent a cold chill down my spine.
"Come back have you?"
I jumped down from the hood of my truck and started to look around for the interloper, the voice had come from the tunnels below the bridge. And now I could smell that exact rancid smell which I had encountered in my home.
"Little Luther has come back, now we can have some fun," it cooed.
I yelled, "show for yourself!"
Then it spoke again, I was frozen in fear and mutely listened as words slithered from its unseen lips.
"Remember," it maliciously said, "when they took your momma away, to the nuthouse. Remember all the horrible things they said about you and your family. Oh Luther, you always have been a source of endless fun. That is why I didn't kill you."
Then I accused, "you killed Ma! You did all of it."
I went into my truck and grabbed my tire iron out and started to pace about the bridge; I was pissed and it felt like a tide of repressed anger suddenly came to me all at once. I just wanted to smash it in the head; I believed I had found the unseen individual who was responsible for my problematic life and now it was my turn.
I vehemently screamed, "show yourself mother fucker!"
It laughed which echoed through the night, and it said, "if want to hurt me, then come down here."
I got out my pocket flashlight and held in one hand, tire iron in the other; I climbed down the side bridge and stood at the mouth of a large tunnel and looked into the darkness before me.
I said, "got you fucker."
I pointed the flashlight down the tunnel; deep inside I could see a roughly human silhouette, hunched down and I could see a tattered, yellow cloth covering it. Then it's eyes, blazing like two burning ambers, looked at me.
Maybe I should have felt afraid, but anger was all I felt then and I was determined to hurt it for hurting me. Not for one second did I doubt that this was he who was responsible for all of it.
It asked, "sure you want to see me any better then you do right now. Your feeble mind might not be able to handle it."
"Enough fucking talk," I told it.
I started to walk down the tunnel then my flashlight revealed the thing to me and I stopped dead in my tracks. I would have screamed if I hadn't been paralyzed by fear.
It was roughly the shape of a human, but I knew what I was looking at was not human. It had wet, slimy skin that was greenish and glistened in the light. It's face consisted of a roughly human face, yet it had an enlarged bottom jaw, agape and revealing two rows of jagged, ebony teeth. A long, serpentine tongue flicked about its mouth. It was bald accept for sparse white hairs. It had long arms, longer then it's legs, and they ended with a large hand with three fingers, each ended with an obsidian talon. Then I could see things that looked like worms, crawling, swarming all over this horrible thing. And it was wearing a tattered yellow dress.
I knew who's dress it was, it was the same one my great aunt Edna whore.
I began to slowly back away from it, the tire iron raised so I could defend myself if it chose to attack.
It asked, "aren't you going to give your aunty a kiss?"
I turned to run.
Then it said, "Luther, I could have killed you many times, but I wanted you to be here for the surprise. Something wonderful and terrible comes, I want you to see it."
For a reason I didn't know, I turned back to face it. Maybe any sane man would have run for his life, yet something compelled me to face this monstrosity.
I asked, "You're Edna, but you where killed. I saw you buried."
It triumphantly laughed and it told me, "yes, your mother, after she realized what I was, succeeded in killing only my mortal shell which concealed my true self. She actually set me free of that accursed body."
"What the fucking hell are you?"
"I'm" it said, "I'm the servant of my dark master and I am the one who must prepare for his arrival, him and his legion of minions. And we will have our revenge for being imprisoned."
I asked, "are you going to kill me."
"No, I will give you what you've always secretly wanted, I will let you live to see all in this town suffer, just how you have suffered because of them. You will die then, but first you will get to see them destroyed."
I defensively said, "no, I'm not like that."
"Lie to me, don't lie to yourself. Hatred hasn't crept into your heart. Or do you still deny that you don't hate them? Do you deny that you would like revenge."
I tightened my grip on the tire iron. "You're right, I do want some revenge; you are responsible for all of it. So who should I hate."
It started to joyfully clap its hands together and it said, "Luther, you surprise me endlessly. Most mortals surely go insane when they behold me, yet you want to fight even when you see me as I am."
I wasn't afraid, I was just angry.
I spat at it then said, "OK, let's just fucking settle it now."
I ran down the tunnel towards it, tire iron ready to strike; though it didn't seem to react to my advance. When I was close enough, I swung my blunt weapon into its head, then started to hit it repeatedly. Then it pulled back its arm and then punched me hard enough to send me flying back several feet. I landed on my back in shallow water and then it quickly came close enough to stand over me. It used a leg to pin me down. It lightly pressed a talon into my stomach.
It asked, "are you so ready to die?"
I muttered, "just fucking do it."
It laughed. "It would be so easy, so delicate you are. I could also easily kill precious Lizbeth as well."
My blood suddenly felt like ice water, and I was immensely afraid, not for myself but for Lizbeth. I really didn't care about what happened to me, I did care about what happened to her.
I demanded, "leave her alone!"
It cooed again. "You can't save her, you can't save anyone, not even yourself. Accept the true nature of life, that you will have to watch everything you love wither and die."
I begged, "just leave her alone."
It said, "stay, leave, you can't escape what is to come."
It started to back up away, then I quickly got up onto my feet and turned to face this thing only to find that it had vanished into the darkness leaving me alone.
It voice called out in the darkness, "time to play."
Then it was gone. I quickly climbed up the side of the bridge, got into my truck, and drove to Paul's. The pedal was to the floor the whole time.
I lay awake in bed all that night, questioning my own sanity, unable to get the image of that thing out of my mind. Nightmares end when the sun rises, but if this thing was real, then it was a nightmare which would not stop at dawn.
I once read the oldest and most ingrained type of fear is the fear of the unnatural. I guess everyone develops their own view on what exactly can and cannot be in our perception of reality, but when something happens which infringes on your sense of what is, then your view of reality is threatened.
I considered two possibilities. Either I had hallucinated and was insane, or I had really seen that terrible thing with my own eyes. Might sound odd, but I was really hoping that I was insane. The alternative was far too horrible to consider.
Chapter Nine: Ashley
I slept in, and it was just before noon when I finally got out of bed. I had a harsh hangover, and at first everything seemed right. Then I remembered what I had seen, or thought I saw, and suddenly a cold chill ran down to the base of my spine. I sneaked out of Paul's house, being careful to avoid anyone since I really didn't feel like talking to someone. I yearned just to get to my garage and lose myself in some work, alone with my thoughts.
So I arrived at my meager garage early in the noon, and decided to do a complete tune-up of Lizbeth's car. So I went over the engine alone for a few hours. I decided that maybe it was better to let go of what I had seen in my drunken stupor, just forget it. I wanted to believe it was just the result of a bad trip.
I was brooding deeply and failed to notice the side door open and someone enter.
"Hello Luther," a female voice said.
I was so surprised that jumped and banged my head on the hood of the car. I bellowed, "damn it!"
I turned to see that Ashley girl, dressed all in black, standing in my garage, looking at me with a joyous expression on her face.
I asked, "what in the hell do you want miss?"
She smiled and said, "I know you saw it last night."
"What?" I stammered.
She approached. "You saw it last night."
"I don't know what the hell you are talking about," I said deciding to play it dumb. I turned away from her and hunkered over the engine.
"Luther," she said, "most go insane when they behold someone who has been touched. You saw the thing who at once was family to you."
I turned to her, and I asked, "how in the hell do you know about it."
She looked at me and replied, "I am a practitioner of the dark arts."
I laughed. "Don't tell me, you worship Satan."
She shook her head. "I worship a god a darkness. But he does not rule some imaginary after-life, no, he will reign over these very lands. And his servants will be rewarded, such as you and me."
What she said unnerved me a little and I forcefully asked, "Have anything to say that isn't insane?"
Though what she said to me might have seemed like madness only a day ago, the prior night's events had left me open to consider unfathomable possibilities. Perhaps that is the definition of insanity, when your view of reality is intruded upon by things which should not be in any reasonable world. But if what I saw in the tunnel the night before was real, then my view of reality had been painfully naive.
She leaned toward me and asked, "would you like to know more?"
Though the answers of this enigma my life had become entangled in might not be anything a man should now, I was now in the middle of this somehow, and if she could enlighten me, I had to listen.
She said, "you saw the thing that had once been kin to you, though any scrap of its mortal existence is gone."
I looked at her in the eyes. "That thing, it is responsible for all the deaths around here, including the crime my mother was put away for?"
She nodded. "It is simply doing what its master commands in to do, the prepare the way for his coming."
"What in the hell are you talking about?"
She smiled. "It works through its chosen servants to prepare the way for its arrival."
I asked, "how do you now these things?"
"You see," she explained, "once in my youth I witnessed the creature you saw last night. Ever since then I have had a psychic link to the creature. That is how I know."
"This thing that is coming, what is it?"
"A being of absolute darkness, the withered one, the reaper of souls."
I said, "a demon or something?"
"No, not a demon, no, he is a god. He is our god Luther."
"What do you mean, my god?"
She smiled coyly and she said, "it is he who brought you home Luther, your hate of this pathetic village has bound you to him."
I turned away from her and went to my tool bench and started to arrange them. I muttered, "I could give a shit less about this town, I'm just here to run a business. This doesn't make any sense."
Then I felt her body press against my back and she placed her hands lightly on my shoulders, I could feel her heated breath against the back of my neck.
She whispered into my ear, "Luther, you and I a kindred souls, we both are despised by most here. You are like me, alone and hated. Don't you wish to see all those who vilified you suffer as you have suffered?"
I turned to face her, our faces where only inches apart and I admit that I found something about her deeply alluring, yet if what she said was true, then she was somehow in league with whatever forces had destroyed my mother, my father, and to some extent, myself as well. If this madness which had invaded my life was real, and this strange girl Ashley was part of it, then I should have been weary of her. But, though not knowing why, I did feel some connection to her and I'll admit I was attracted to her though for what reasons still baffle me.
I gently pushed her away and explained, "yeah, most people here hate me, my family, but I'm really past the point of caring enough to hate them back."
She seductively cooed and she asked, "why, why did you really come back?"
I replied, "just wanted to run a business."
"You where gone so long, why did you chose to come back at this particular time, why did you wait so long to return?"
Till that moment, my reasons for coming back changed often and where truthfully vague even to myself. Why did I come back? To escape the city like I first believed? To run my uncle's garage and maintain my own business? Or because of ancient feelings for Lizbeth? Maybe to finally absolve the curse which had hanged over me and those I had loved in the last day of their tortured lives? Why did I come back?
I asked, "listen, if this insanity is in any way related to reality, what is this thing you say is coming?"
Ashley said, "I will tell you if you go with me now."
She started to walk away and I watched her move farther away. I felt compelled to follow, maybe because she had the answers, but maybe because I was attracted to her.
We walked through the town square, side by side, and not a single word passed between us. Everyone we passed would stop a look at the two of us, their eyes thick with suspicion and animosity. That damn look I had endured from every day in my youth when I would see others, they where giving her that same look as well and I felt some compassion for her. I guess it is easier to be sympathetic to those of a similar lot in life.
This old guy was walking down the sidewalk, I knew him from way back, and he was a farmer who owned land right next to my boyhood home. His name was Ronald Donovan, when I walked to school sometimes, he would yell out how my mother was a murdering bitch and how I was no different. I used to hate the bastard passionately, now I just felt slight animosity.
Ronald, wearing mud stained overalls and with patches of streaking white hair on his mostly bald head, stopped and looked at the two of us, Ashley and I.
He grunted, "I heard the Redstone bastard child had returned, and look, he is with the slut witch. Why don't you two get the hell out of town!"
I looked at Ronald right in the eyes and bluntly stated, "Fuck off asshole."
Ashley then made an odd gesture with her hand and pressed it against Ronald's chest, over his heart, and she muttered something that I could not here. She then retracted her hand and smiled.
She advised, "your heart is old, you never know which heartbeat will be your last."
Ronald snorted, "get away from me."
I said, "come on Ashley, he isn't worth this shit."
So we walked on and Ronald said as we parted, "God will punish you, like he punishes all sinners."
I yelled back at him, "Drop dead you old bastard."
Ashley led me out of town and we walked down a dirt road, on either side of road where the poor homes of town, trailers, dilapidated hovels, surrounded by deep, dark woods which had always seemed strangely ominous to myself. Finally we arrived at a two story farm house which was in pretty bad shape.
Ashley said, "this is where I live, unfortunately."
"I've seen worse."
I asked, "you live alone?"
She shook her head. "No, I live with my alcoholic mother. Please come inside."
"Wait," I said, "I don't feel comfortable with this."
She took my arm and pulled me towards the front door, I didn't resist much though. So we entered.
Inside it was a mess of titanic proportions, garbage everywhere, and there was the sound of someone snoring in the next room. I looked in and saw an obese woman passed out on the couch with a vodka bottle in her hand, strangely, the same brand I used to drink incidentally.
I asked Ashley, "would you mother approve of you bringing a guy in his thirties home."
Ashley told me, "my mother doesn't give a shit about me and I don't give a shit about her. Please come upstairs."
So we went upstairs and she led me into her large bedroom which was much cleaner then the rest of the house, though its decor really indicated just how much of a odd duck Ashley was. It was dark, purple sheets covered the windows and blocked the sun. The room was adorned with candles, yet not ordinary candles, these candles where carved into figures which where both bizarre and alarming, and it reminded me much of that hellish thing I thought I saw the night before. In the center of the room was a large bed with black sheets.
I muttered to her, "Nice room."
She sat on the bed looked up at me. "Sit down with me."
I folded my arms across my chest and said, "I think I'll stand. Listen, I'm really on my last nerve here, so can we get to the point."
Ashley asked, "do you want some answers?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Fine, what would you like to know first?"
"Easy, what the fuck is going on in this god damn town?"
Ashley looked at me and said, "deep beneath this town, there is a power, a power of utter darkness, imprisoned and seeking escape."
Ashley told me, "I don't know exactly what it is, but I am empathic to it, I can feel what it feels. Rage, endless rage, for all who dwell in this town. And it wants to escape."
"Fine, evil buried beneath this town, what the hell does this have to do with Edna and what happened to my mother."
Ashley explained, "though this darkness is imprisoned somehow, it can occasionally taint those born here during a particular configuration of the planets. Like Edna, from birth, she was tainted. Though she began life as a mortal, when your mother destroyed her mortal form, she only unleashed her and now she stalks these lands, doing the will of her dark master."
I asked her, "can it be killed?"
Her eyes opened wide open and she seemed upset by this. "Why kill it?"
"Why," I said, "because that thing, if it is real, it took my mother away from me, it took everything away from me. I should hate the people in this town, they only looked down on and despised my family. Edna, or what ever the hell it is now, she is the one I should hate."
"Luther, it cannot be killed for it was never truly alive, and she would most certainly kill you."
"Ashley," I asked her, "do you care about anyone?"
She frowned. "I used to love my father, before he left us in the middle of the night."
I told her, "listen, I don't know what is going on, how much of what you told me is bullshit, or what it has to do with me now. All I know is I had to watch my mother wither away in that insane asylum, I had to watch her slowly die and knowing there wasn't a damn thing I could do for her. I can't bring her back, but, if I can destroy that thing which took everyone I loved away from me, then that is the only thing I will ever to be able to do for my family. I'll kill it, or her, just as it killed my parents."
Ashley dipped her hand into an urn which was full of a white powder and took out a handful and she stood up. She asked, "can I talk you out of this. Luther, we don't really know each other, but in some ways I know you better then anyone, if you oppose this power Luther, it will only cost you your life. To oppose it is your doom, but, to side with it will bring you things you can't possibly imagine."
She held the hand full of powder in front of my face and I asked her, "what is that?"
"Here is your answers Luther," she said then she blew the powder and it covered my face, going in both my mouth and my nose.
The damn stuff burned horribly and I tried to wipe it away from my eyes. I dropped to my knees and looked up at her.
I asked, "why?"
She ran her hand along my cheek. "Sleep now Luther."
I passed out.
The events which followed are hard to recall because I'm not sure of how much of what happened was a dream, and how much was reality. I was in a state where I seemed to change from the world of sleep to the world of wakefulness.
First I recall a black void, a nothingness which was full of a thunderous sound in the distance approaching me swiftly. Then the sound became more succinct, it sounded like the squealing of some kind of ungodly animal. Then a sexless, inhuman voice echoed out in the darkness.
The voice said, "to oppose us is death, for you and all you love."
Then I was in the waking world suddenly. I was lying on the bed facing up, my shirt unbuttoned and I was completely paralyzed. Ashley was straddling my thighs, she was now wearing nothing but black undergarments and she was kissing my chest.
She then whispered into my ear, "don't fight it, it is useless to try."
Back into the state of sleep. I'm standing in a muddy field outside Sanctuary Hill, its night and it is raining heavily. A flash of lightning reveals the surreal landscape around me.
The ominous voice said, "You can't stop us, nothing can."
Then I feel something grab my foot and I feel something sharp penetrate my shoe and tear into the flesh of my foot. I looked down when I saw skeletal hands, the fingers tipped with long obsidian talons, rising from the ground and grabbed my legs, tearing into me. Then they begin to pull me down into the damp mud. I screamed, yet all I could hear was this strange noise, sort of like the chattering of countless teeth emanating from below me. Then I completely sink beneath then surface and I can taste the dirt in my mouth.
That chilling voice spoke. "Join us."
Then the sensation of dirt filling my mouth is replaced with feeling something warm and moist. Again the waking world, Ashley was kissing me then she pulled back.
I tried to speak, what ever it was she used to knock me out seemed to keep me in a state of paralysis so I was unable to move. Though this should have been, I don't know, I guess pleasurable; it was actually terrifying.
She looked into my eyes and said, "be with me."
Then I'm again in the nightmare realm. It is the past and I'm sitting in the room where I would meet my tormented mother, we are separated by Plexiglas and we stare mutely at each other. She looks worn down, I stutter to say something but the words just won't come. I want to tell her I'm sorry.
The damned voice said, "she tried to stop us, see the fate of all who try."
I watch in mute horror as she suddenly begins to wither away in front of me until there is nothing left but a leering skeleton looking at me from the other side of the window.
The voice again. "Try, and you will die."
Then again I'm thrust into the waking world, Ashley is resting her head on my chest. I begin to feel the paralysis begin to fade away though I was still incapacitated, I could move my fingers slightly and I was able to mutter a single word.
Then again I'm plunged into the nightmare, and the worst was yet to come. I'm standing at the edge of the deep, dark forest which surrounded the town and it is night again. Standing at the tree line is Lizbeth, she is looking at me and smiling. I feel the need to warn her but the damn words would not come out of my mouth.
The voice jeered, "see the price of resistance."
I watch silently as that thing, the thing that had once been Edna, burst out from the trees and grabbed Lizbeth and pulled her away into the darkness between the trees.
Then I'm returned to the black void the nightmare had begun with. The howling and hissing of unseen monstrosities ring in my ears.
The voice, now fading, said, "Luther, choose, serve me and us and you will live. To fight us means only your death."
I yelled, "leave her alone!"
It laughed maniacally. "Your choice."
It ended finally.
I woke up on the floor of my garage, my face lying in a pool of my own drool. It was night now and I didn't have a clue on how I came to be there though I was relieved to see familiar surroundings. I got up onto my feet and felt something like a hangover. I carefully looked around then grabbed my crowbar of the wall. I wasn't sure if this horrible chain of events was real, or if I had finally cracked.
I wasn't going to take any chances.