The smell of hot dogs and stale popcorn filled
the otherwise dry, clean air. Only I could smell
them, and I hated hot dogs and popcorn.
It was starting over again, and all I could
think was ‘we make our own hell…we make our own
It had once been simple.
Go to work.
Go to bed.
The pattern fell apart during ‘go to work’
number whatever, a particularly regrettable weekend
day on which I had been covering my friend’s
patients for him while he was on vacation out of
the Shawnee Nation. Cross coverage is a standard
practice among physicians, and you do it for others
if you ever have hopes of taking vacation yourself.
That, or pay through the nose for a locums doctor
and have complaints from your patients for months
afterwards because let’s face it, a temp is a temp.
Patients would generally rather have their own
doctor, but in their doctor’s absence, they
preferred a handpicked local colleague over a temp
any day. It’s reasonable. Opening up the details
of your bladder, bowel habits and everything else
medical is rough on a person. Throw in some
diarrhea and a little STD or some sexual
dysfunction and, well you get the picture. Having
to cross that ‘Hello, this is me and this is my
disgusting and embarrassing problem’ bridge once in
a lifetime with a stranger is already one too many.
That aside, I was filling in for my friend and had
to take a quick ride to Marion to do hospital
rounds on the few patients he had there. This
entailed a short drive north up the congested
Internation freeway, and then another short hop to
We have to insert “CRASH” at this point.
Actually, not just “CRASH”, but “CRASH WITH LIFE-
THREATENING, COMA-INDUCING, PLATE IN MY SKULL HEAD
It started like this…the smell of hotdogs and
The accident had been horrific. Thirty-two
dead, a hundred and seventeen injured. Fog had
been to blame, or at least fog, and a long convoy
of eighteen-wheelers. It had been early A.M., and
a high-speed traffic stream had been headed up the
freeway towards Chicago. Crazy fog lulled us all
into a driving stupor. Then, one mistake led to
another, and..well, I think the picture has been
made pretty clear..
I was one of the lucky ones, not dead, but not
really all that alive either. You see, I was in a
coma. Peacefulness and bliss under the influence
of morphine poured into my veins to sooth my
horrifically broken body. Outward appearances
could be deceiving, but not in my case. That was
as good as it would get for me after that wreck.
Or, at least, that was as peaceful as it was going
to be for me from then on. Of course, I didn’t
know this at the time because I was in a coma.
Like I said, peacefulness…bliss…
Life sucks, and then you die, but only if
For me, the smell of hotdogs and stale popcorn
filled the air.
O.K., here we go…Rhythmic, but uncontrolled
‘flopping’ (i.e. seizure), and my coma world
shifted. The horrid smell of hot dogs and stale
popcorn faintly lingered, but nothing else was
That was what it was like the first time it
happened I can theorize, and one of several times I
don’t really recall because of the coma. Even so,
the beginning is always the same now, and I can
speculate that it was always the same when I was
comatose because it hasn’t changed since. At least
not until the next painfully fateful day I have to
tell you about. This one truly changed everything.
As with me, I suspect that reliving the past
is a tremendous nightmare for most people. I doubt
that very many people would honestly want to go
back and repeat a stretch of their lives without
being able to edit as they crawled back through the
seconds of that time. Imagine my misery as I
recalled and related that brief period in my past
to you. Not the best example of a good day in my
life, to say the least. Now imagine even the best
day of your own life…take the time to imagine that
single, wonderful day….and then, fill the spaces
left between those very fleeting moments which you
actually choose to remember. What do you come up
with but another crappy, miserable day that you
desperately cling to for the shear sake of
preserving your sanity? All in all, as I said,
life sucks, if you haven’t heard it and actually
acknowledged it before now.
My name is Marcus by the way…Marcus Lemonte.
Doctor Marcus Lemonte as if anyone particularly
cares at this point. Welcome to my own personal
hell. And so we begin…
Spring had arrived in the Shawnee Nation, a
generally beautiful time in a part of the country
which includes virtually every inch of the region
between the Sioux Nation to the west, the Cherokee
and Chickasaw Nations to the south, and the
Iroquois Nation to the north and east. The
emergence of the leaves and the green fields could
easily hold your attention, if you weren’t
otherwise occupied with the many cruelties of life.
Unfortunately, this cruelty swallows up most
people, and few actually acknowledge the good
inherent to their environment until they’re
destined to leave it, i.e. a foot in the grave or
more horrendous in some respects, a trip to the
Shawnee Nation’s epicenter, Chicago. Whatever the
case, the Lemontes had no encroaching plans for
either. The warm, bright day took them
unhesitatingly to one of the region’s most
beautiful locations, and they were soon scrambling
up a steep slope towards Camel Rock.
Camel Rock, so named because it looks very
much like a giant stone camel, is one of the
Shawnee Nation’s many scenic areas, and is
swallowed up by the Shawnee Forest that spans the
lower portion of the Shawnee Nation. Although
Camel Rock is the most prominent feature, because
how can you miss a giant camel, the region has many
interesting and beautiful rock formations and
multiple scenic viewpoints where the countryside
can be seen for miles in most directions. Having
done the top of the rock thing more times than they
could count, the Lemontes started at the base of
the hills for a change, and Marcus was soon lost in
his own thoughts.
Struggling through the tall grass of the
hillside, he felt the uncomfortable sensation of
eyes probing his back. He had climbed nearly three
hundred feet, but the feeling had not diminished
since he first hit the densely overgrown trail. It
was becoming unbearable, but he would go on to the
top of the hill like a trooper. Nikki wouldn’t
understand if he suddenly gave up the climb, and he
didn’t think he would blame her. This insidious
paranoia had been slipping in to his life since the
crash, and hearing about the eyes boring into his
back at the moment would only piss her off, to put
Behind him, a small rustling briefly caught
his attention, and his heart took a sudden lurch
into overdrive with a new surge of adrenaline. His
fear and anxiety would have been blatantly apparent
to Nikki if she weren’t so preoccupied with the
very real struggle of maneuvering up the damn hill.
The pounding in his chest drove him frantically to
within a foot of her back.
“Hey, Nik.. do you want to take a break?” He
blurted out in breathless desperation.
But she kept scrambling further up the hill,
slipping in the loose rock as if fleeing from his
question. She had to have heard him, he thought.
He was only a few feet from her.
“NIKKI!” He screamed at the top of his lungs,
nearly losing his balance in the process.
With a swish of blond hair, her sweat-drenched
face was suddenly glaring back at him. Her eyes
blasted him with annoyance as she plopped down
among the bug-infested weeds. He began to itch
just looking at her slim, grass engulfed form.
“We’re almost to the top.” She stated matter
“I…I know.” He stuttered, trying to mask his
panic. “I just need a second.” But he knew she
saw through him. She had become very familiar with
his wide-eyed paranoia, a little too familiar for
his own fleeting comfort.
Suddenly, a multi-legged form the size of a
small truck scuttled down his arm, and the
sensation sent him into a wild, flailing frenzy.
Before he could even begin to get control of
himself, he savagely smacked his arms and legs as
the crawling seemed to overtake his entire body.
The loose earth beneath his feet quickly began to
give way and he slid backwards hopelessly. He felt
the damn bug insistently driving towards his brain
as he struggled to grab hold of any solid and
stationary object in his path. But then the grass
that had been a struggle to crawl up through gave
way like open-air to his crazed attempts to stop
his backward slide. Within seconds he plummeted to
a rock ledge one hundred feet below Nikki, cracking
his skull on the unforgiving stone when he landed.
The ledge was a lucky break, if you could call it
that, considering how far they had already crept up
from the bottom.
His blackout was brief, but still long enough
for him to find Nikki’s hysterical face hovering
over him when he came to. The pain rapidly
engulfed his few coherent thoughts as he tried to
get a grasp of what had just happened. No good,
the pain was too much. He needed to go to sleep if
he wanted to escape it. Drowsiness swept in, and
he gratefully started to close his eyes. Nikki
grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him, shook
him hard. His pain multiplied beyond belief! She
was trying to kill him as surely as the bugs had
been boring toward his brain. With an enormous
effort, he forced his eyes open to the blinding
sunlight and tried weakly to lift his head.
“Marcus, are you all right?” she begged, tears
rolling down her face and fear apparent in her
voice even in his dazed and semiconscious state.
“Uhhh..” The sound of his own voice pounded
the throbbing melon that had once been his head.
“I don’t think so..” He forced out before he could
be swallowed back up in darkness, the smell of
popcorn and hotdogs nauseatingly taking a backseat
to the pain.
The sudden onset of trembling in the rock
ledge under his head quickly compounded the roaring
pain that ate voraciously at his battered brain.
The bugs had burrowed in somehow and were doing
some massive damage! The violent tremors scared
him into opening his eyes again, and he vaguely
realized that Nikki was no longer hovering over
him, if she ever had been. His pain became so
severe that he believed he could literally feel
waves of searing agony rushing through his body.
The whole world surrounding him vibrated with a
horrendous roar that made him feel like death was
imminent, and he could clearly taste the rancid
hotdogs whose stench filled his nose to the point
In what seemed like an eternity, but could in
reality only have been minutes later, a gradual
calm claimed the earth and slowed the small
avalanche of rocks that had painfully showered
Nikki and Marcus. By Shawnee Nation standards, it
had been one hell of a quake, a six at least, and
unheard of in the area for lifetimes. In fact, the
last time this part of the Nations had shaken so
hard, reports were that the Mississippi River had
actually flown backwards for a while. Any
buildings in the surrounding area would have eaten
the full force of the quake, but stranded there on
the ledge two hundred feet from the base and at
what seemed to be the center of the earthen
distress, the ability of any local building to take
the quake was far from the first thing on Nikki’s
mind. Marcus was out cold, and judging by the
quickly swelling mass on his forehead, he had a
concussion at the least. Even though she wasn’t
formally medically trained herself, the years of
her life she had spent with Marcus had blessed her
with enough superficial knowledge to bring a list
of pretty damn scary thoughts to her head as he lay
there unconscious. She knew it was proof that
sometimes a little bit of knowledge could really be
a bad thing.
Gently lifting his head, she discovered his
hair was completely dry and his head was devoid of
oozing or spurting blood. She tried her best to
scan for any obvious damage, but knowing the names
of injuries and having the ability to find evidence
of their presence were two very different things
and the latter was well beyond her superficial
knowledge. The anguish of uncertainty quickly
filled her mind as the helplessness of her
situation gradually settled in on her. He was the
doctor, damnit, and he couldn’t do a damn thing for
himself now! Tears refilled her eyes as their life
together flashed through her thoughts.
Had she not been so distractedly terrified
during the quake, Nikki would have seen Marcus’s
eyes roll back into his head and tonic-clonic
movements rattle his body almost in time with the
shaking of the ground. The seizure had been as
brief as the quake, but just as troubling. Marcus
hadn’t experienced a full-blown generalized seizure
since waking from the coma after the freeway
tragedy. Up to that point, his foul-smelling auras
had only preceded lapses in awareness that were
extremely short-lived for the most part. Even
then, their frequency had been serious enough to
make him question his own ability to drive on
several occasions since the coma. He was all too
aware of the impact losing his driver’s license
would have on his ability to practice medicine as
well as on his life in general, and had
deliberately not followed up with his own
neurologist after leaving the hospital for that
specific reason. Seizure disorders always had to
be reported to the DMV when confirmed, and he
wasn’t about to let that happen to him. He was
still in possession of his full mental faculties,
and his driving was generally limited to short hops
from his home to the clinic or to the nearest
hospital most of the time. The wreck had put his
friend permanently in his debt for cross-coverage
without any need to reciprocate up until now. He
knew it was primarily in response to guilt on his
friend’s part, but every effort to change his
friend’s mind had failed.
With a loud groan, Marcus’s eyes flickered
open to instantly squint at the glaring sun in
confusion. Blinking rapidly, he struggled slowly
to his elbows, dizziness tempting his eyelids back
“What the hell!” he muttered in disbelief.
“Where am I?”
“Just take it easy, Marcus,” Nikki sighed with
relief, “you’ve had a nasty fall and been out of it
Ignoring her attempts to care for him, Marcus
tried to clumsily get to his feet. Waves of nausea
passed over him as he nearly blacked out a second
later, but years of fighting back the same
sensations induced on by a deluge of disgusting
experiences in medicine remarkably carried him all
the way to his feet. The brain-rattling headache
that also seemed to make the ground shake beneath
him was another story. Ibuprofen wouldn’t take
care of this one, to say the least.
The thought of another fall scaring the hell
out of her, Nikki jumped up and grabbed his arm
before he stumbled over the rock ledge in obvious
confusion. A major aftershock nearly sent both of
them to their knees before she managed to wrangle
him to safer ground at the back of the ledge.
Marcus swayed in her arms as he kept up a failing
effort to fight off sleep. She had to get him down
off the hill before something worse happened.
Stepping off the relatively safe ledge, she forced
his sagging body into a sitting position and pushed
him ahead of her as they slid down the hill using
the loose rock skittering beneath their bodies as
transport. A few nerve-wracking minutes later,
they managed to make it to the base of the hill
before another aftershock rumbled a ton of stone
into a small landslide that traveled the same path.
Before the next round of shaking could hit them,
she managed to steer Marcus’s barely responsive
body to her car where she finally pushed him into
the back seat with a desperate groan.
“I’m taking you to the hospital, Marcus,” She
blurted out breathlessly as the engine revved
kicking the car harshly onto the road.
Marcus didn’t respond… He had been swallowed
into the post-ictal darkness of sleep.
The day had begun slowly at Krepp’s Corner
Market on Main Street in Hawthorne, Shawnee Nation.
The days always began slowly there, and the Krepps
had no desire to change it. They had taken up the
slow life for the best of all reasons. Once a busy
psychiatrist in Chicago, Ray’s life had been
uncontrollably speeding like a locomotive without
brakes, or at least it had been until his doctor
warned him that his severe heart condition was
insidiously taking over and stealing days from his
life. He had known about his high blood pressure
for several years, but even as a doctor, hadn’t
taken it seriously until his stress test revealed
significant ischemic changes. Even then, he had
plowed on until the tightness gripped his chest,
sending tendrils of dull pain down his arm and up
into his neck like a creeping dread. Several days
in the hospital doped up with morphine and
subjected to a cardiac cath had changed his
perspective. He had to make a life change, or not
have a life worth living. The little town of
Hawthorne had been the answer, and he had
difficulty imagining anyplace better now. With a
mostly immigrant population pushing a whopping
3000, and nestled in the depths of the Shawnee
Nation Forest, peacefulness and isolation were
their only options.
Of course, his wife Hedda had been thrilled
with the idea of returning to her old hometown.
She had wanted to move back for several years, and
his health gave them the best reason they would
ever get to make such a dramatic change.
Fortunately, they had been preparing for retirement
since Ray’s first day of work, and they were
financially well off, particularly for a town the
size of Hawthorne and in the rapidly declining
Shawnee Nation. Running the old corner store put
them casually to work, introduced them to the
people of the town, and gave Hedda something to do
to occupy the time she had never been able to
adequately fill after their children left home.
They couldn’t over-do-it, and they would probably
lose money with the prices they marked to keep
people from traveling off so far for their
groceries. The point was, they were together, and
Ray was still alive.
The low rumble that caught her ear as the
shelves began to rattle brought a memory back from
her childhood. She had felt a small quake or two
as a girl, but earthquakes were relatively uncommon
in the Shawnee Nation, even though the hills of the
Shawnee Nation Forest straddled a major fault line
in the region. A big one had been predicted a few
years back, but its predicted time had come and
gone without the rattling of a teacup. As most of
the unsecured store shelves wobbled violently and
some eventually toppled, she also had trouble
staying off the floor. The quake was magnitudes
worse than those in her past and about as
unexpected as a dead man sitting up in his coffin.
In less than a minute, a large portion of the
store’s contents had tumbled to the floor. The
panic she felt in her stomach slowly faded after
the vibrations stopped. The old brick building was
built to withstand the tests of time. The sirens
that were already blaring outside ominously told a
different story for other parts of the town.
Seconds later, she felt Ray’s arms wrap firmly
around her from behind, and she knew everything was
O.K. for now.
In a nursing home forty-five winding miles
from Hawthorne, an eighty-seven year old man was
finally succumbing to death. His death was well
deserved and would also qualify as overdue in the
eyes of most of the people of Hawthorne. The
general consensus was that he had kicked the bucket
years before, and he had long since slipped from
most of their thoughts. The religious fervor that
frequently gripped the immigrant town of Hawthorne
led to a communal belief that God wouldn’t allow
such evil to exist in the world for long. Not so
remarkably, he had often been the focus of
persecution nearing that of the Salem witch-hunts.
His insanity and talk of ghosts and demons in their
midst confirmed their beliefs about him and
strengthened the congregations of more than a few
Eagan Portraire had moved to Hawthorne in the
late forties to work at the Lemonte Funeral Home.
The town had cautiously accepted him and his
assorted family members initially, but his first
trip to the Center had changed that. Before then,
he had been an isolative, hard-working man who had
respect for but didn’t fear the dead. Their
opinions began to change shortly before he was
first sent away. Eagan’s unusual activities before
and after his trip to the Center were very
disturbing to the holier than thou residents of
Hawthorne even though the town’s people were
initially ignorant of his real problem. Portraire
was rumored to keep strange and unacceptable late
night hours in the funeral home ‘performing his
duties’. The town people never understood why the
Lemontes, respected as they were, allowed such
inappropriate behavior to continue on right under
their noses. But it did and was virtually
unhindered for many years except during the times
when Eagan was kept locked up in the Center.
Most of the people who had observed him make
his way across town in the middle of the night
ranting and raving at his unseen traveling
companions learned to travel the streets
exclusively during daylight. They quickly spread
word of him, and whole households would stare from
their darkened windows as he made his way home.
Sometimes they even caught sight of him running
down the street as fast as he could while screaming
incoherently as if he was being chased by the devil
himself. Not a single person ever made an effort
to help him during his time in Hawthorne.
Towards the end of his frequently interrupted
life in Hawthorne, his activities drifted even
further toward the frightening and fantastic as he
began to avidly approach people to warn them of the
demons surrounding them in their otherwise peaceful
town. The psychiatrists at the Center continued to
attribute this to his chronic paranoid
schizophrenia when he was finally readmitted there
for the last time around ten years earlier. By
then, even the newer medications couldn’t touch the
well-entrenched delusions that filled his ever-
shortening life. He gradually slipped deeper into
his own bizarre world as he spent his remaining
years wandering the halls of nursing home after
But as if he had some mystical insight into
the exact time of his death, Eagan Portraire called
for the nursing home director on what would be the
last day of his life. He claimed to have urgent
business that needed to be taken care of
immediately after his death, if not sooner.
“Yes, what can we do for you?” the director
suspiciously asked as he walked into the room, all
too aware of the direction Eagan’s thoughts had
“You have to deliver this envelope to someone
in the town of Hawthorne. You have to do this
immediately, or you shall suffer for your
incompetence.” he shrieked out, as if in his last
“I’ll make sure that it’s done, Mr.
Portraire.” The director said somewhat smugly.
Although the threat of violence in a locked
nursing home was ever present, no dying person had
ever threatened him in such a caustic way.
Especially not a patient as lost in the head as
this old man always was. He was very aware that
Portraire had a long history of mental illness, but
an Alzheimer’s component must have slipped in
during the past few years to push him even farther
over the edge. Taking the envelope, the director
left the old man to die in his own time. It would
probably be pretty soon by the ashen green pallor
of his face. Ashen green was not the glow of
health and was definitely not something that was
easily forgotten. Perhaps a transfer to the local
medical hospital was in order. They were generally
more than happy to get a hold of the extra dollars,
in spite of the potential liability if he died.
When the director entered his otherwise well
kept office, he threw the envelope on a pile that
stood three feet tall beside his desk. There were
just too damn many things to do with his workload.
He’d eventually get the envelope to somebody to be
dealt with properly. But it wouldn’t be done this
late in the afternoon. It was five PM after all,
and everyone including himself had more important
things to deal with. Besides, he needed to get
home to check his house after the good-sized quake
he had felt earlier in the day. The news had
reported it was centered some sixty miles away, but
you never could tell what would happen to
structures built without regard to the region’s
earthquake history. With his luck, his house would
be a pile of rubble and he would have to move back
into one of the rundown hovels on the facility
grounds, again deprived of the distance from the
facility he often needed to maintain his own
Having painfully woken in the car shortly
after leaving Camel Rock, Marcus had belligerently
refused to be taken to a hospital. He still
remained somewhat confused, but that only added to
his obstinance and hostility leaving Nikki with no
choice other than to ferry him back home. She
barely managed to get him up to bed before he
collapsed and slept through the remainder of the
day and the entire night, barely moving in his
sleep. Nikki lay next to him anxious and wide
awake for half the night wondering if she had done
the right thing by bringing him home like he
demanded. At the time, she had believed she didn’t
have a choice, but now she wasn’t so sure.
Marcus started the next morning with the usual
zeal of a man suffering from a head injury; he lay
in bed for several hours after his alarm went off,
his head pounding too much to move even if moving
brought relief in the form of some pain meds. When
he finally did move, he felt like a broken toy,
moving shakily and making funny sounds. He didn’t
think he could handle Hawthorne’s only medical
practice that day, and maybe not for another few
years. He damn well needed a short reprieve, and
comas didn’t exactly count as vacation time in his
book. His mind expectedly unable to clear itself
of the throbbing headache on its own, he mumbled to
himself as he finally rolled out of bed in search
“I wish someone would buy that damned building
next door. It’s been kept up pretty well for what
it is. Sometimes I hate this fucking little speck
of a town. A building like that would never sit
empty in a real city.”
Considering what he had just been through the
day before, Nikki was a little surprised but
definitely not shocked by the topic that first
spilled out of Marcus’s mouth.
“Why can’t you just forget about the place and
let the real estate brokers handle it?” She said,
exhausted but now unable to sleep due to Marcus’s
well rehearsed mumblings filling her ears for the
eight hundredth time in the past several years.
She finally gave up on the hope of sleep and
dropped her feet to the floor.
Still mumbling, he carried on. “Because those
wonderful ‘brokers’ have been trying to unload the
place for eight years now, and we could use that
money to pay down my student loans. You know that
as well as I do.”
Nikki knew he had the right to complain
because she had the same thing swirling through her
mind most of the time these days. When they had
gotten married four years earlier, they had assumed
that the old Lemonte funeral home would sell
eventually and help them make it financially
through their first years. Or, at least make it
until he had a practice set up and running
smoothly. It all seemed like a big naive pipe
dream now. Luckily the house had been in the
inheritance along with the funeral home so they at
least had a decent place to stay. But the daily
struggle to keep the two pieces of property up and
survive while they tried to get an income trickling
into their account had put a tremendous strain on
their quickly ailing marriage.
“How about some breakfast before you head off
to the clinic?” she asked as she pulled on her
robe, walked toward the door, and mentally tried to
push their ever-looming financial problems out of
“Sounds O.K. If I can clear this headache,
I’ll be down in a minute.”
As her feet hit the uncarpeted oak of the
hallway floor, Nikki’s thoughts miserably persisted
to dwell on the funeral home next door. They
needed to unload the damn thing and alleviate some
of the stress from their lives. It didn’t seem
likely though, or at least, not to her.
Noon rolled around quickly for Marcus as the
details of running the overwhelmingly busy
Hawthorne Clinic battled with his headache for
possession of his thoughts. His life always
slipped from his control as soon as he walked into
the place, and that alone made his stomach churn on
a good day. Today was worse with the mess
generated by the earthquake. Their house had been
untouched by some freak of nature, but the clinic
was a different story, charts having fallen to a
jumble on the floor. The chaos of reorganization
only added to his problems. Like most wannabe
doctors, when he had gone to medical school, he had
no concept of what a physician’s life really
entailed. It somehow still hadn’t managed to sink
in as he crawled through those four years of life,
and he chose his specialty without any regard for
the magnitude of the decision he had just made,
greatly on the advice of people who also had no
concept of what it was like to be a doctor. Three
years of residency in family medicine brought the
harsh reality partly home, as the responsibility of
caring for people from cradle to grave quickly took
over his life. Had he paid more attention to the
workings around him, he would have realized in time
to correct his mistake that the days of the much-
revered family doc had been hopelessly lost for
decades. It was too late now! With several years
lost, a massive debt to his name and a wife he was
now trapped by his early naiveté. Well… those
few trivial things and the contract he had already
scrawled his nearly illegible signature onto months
before he returned to Hawthorne about four years
ago. The life absorbing practice would slowly be
his as he gradually financed the lucrative
retirement of old Doc Liston. To think he had once
admired the guy, he should have gotten a good
attorney before he made that crazy deal. But even
that wouldn’t have prepared them for the long
stretch of time he was forced to pay a locums to
keep up his practice or for his own phenomenal
medical expenses incurred after the wreck. He had
only recently been able to hobble back to work, and
the place and the people were already beyond
overwhelming. In fact, it seemed exponentially
more chaotic now than before his accident, and it
probably was after it had basically been running on
autopilot during the long stretch he was out.
With a sudden lurch, he remembered the plans
he had made for lunch with Nikki. Twelve-thirty
already! He would be more than a half an hour
late. Not a good note to start lunch on these
days. But his headache, the earthquake, and the
many other distractions cluttering up his mind were
to blame. Who could handle all of this crap?
When he finally made it to Weatherby’s, the
little bar and greasy spoon that had become their
occasional lunch spot over the past few years, he
found she had already placed orders for them and
was talking to the waitress about keeping their
food warm until he showed up.
As a couple, Marcus and Nikki were
superficially a perfect match. In fact, it had not
always been just superficial. Both had blond-brown
hair and complexions that easily darkened with the
sun. Neither one disturbed the balance. When
together, they merely complimented each other, and
their physical appearances actually seemed to
radiate with the love that they had once intensely
shared. The life of a doctor had never been an
easy one, however, and Marcus’s was far from an
exception to this. Their marital problems were so
severe now that their significant financial
problems only seemed to be the tip of the iceberg.
When they had first fallen for each other, neither
had been remotely prepared for the greedy monster
medicine would become in their lives. Marcus
gradually drifted into the hospital life, and Nikki
eventually had to fill her time in other ways.
Having been abandoned as a child, she had a
constant need for companionship in her life, and
this only added to probably the biggest problem of
all in their marriage. Marcus had an almost
depthless vein of jealousy which, although
extremely unreasonable considering his obligations,
never the less reared its ugly head regularly.
Sure, he could control his feelings under most
conditions. But Nikki seemed to have a peculiar
way of pushing the issue that often and easily sent
him into flying fits of rage. She just didn’t
understand that she shouldn’t wave the flag of
potential infidelity in front of his face so
frequently and so fiercely, insecure or not. Being
away at work all day and almost constantly on call,
he developed a belief that he had a good reason to
mistrust her. The paranoia that had been evolving
since his accident didn’t help by any means. This
day was just another brutal test of his tolerance
as Matthew Erickson casually approached their table
and took a seat beside Nikki.
“I took the liberty of inviting Matthew over
to our table to have lunch with us.” Nikki said as
a glare issued from Marcus’s face. “I really hope
you don’t mind, Marcus. It was getting late and I
didn’t think you were going to make it here.”
“No, no, that’s all right. A little
unexpected, but fine all the same.” Marcus forced
out, agitatedly. He should have expected as much
from her, but it always struck him with the same
raw force. It was a good thing for her he didn’t
have a bad temper.
Matthew, unable or unwilling to see the hatred
and disgust in Marcus’s expression, eagerly dove
into a conversation with Nikki, centering on the
old funeral home of all things. The whole ordeal
made Marcus angrier by the second. On top of that,
they failed to involve him in their exclusive
little discussion, pushing his anger to the limit.
It wasn’t that Matt was exceptionally devious, or
even that Marcus really hated him that much. In
fact, they had been best friends growing up here in
Hawthorne, and had even been college roommates for
a while at Shawnee University. The true anger was
toward Nikki. Marcus just couldn’t believe that
she was acting with such disregard for his
feelings. He had to get away from them before he
blew up in front of a whole restaurant full of his
“Well, Nik..Matt, I’ve got to go. I’ll talk
to you later.” he half sneered as he pushed away
from the table.
“Don’t leave yet, Marcus,” Nikki said with
only a faint touch of guilt. “You haven’t even
gotten to eat.”
“I’m not hungry now, Nikki. I’ll see you
As Marcus stalked from the table without even
kissing her, a small feeling of triumph welled up
inside of him. He had gotten to her this time, he
was sure of it. She deserved that and a lot more
for bringing an intruder in on the small amount of
time that they could share together. They would
have to talk about it tonight. That is, if he
didn’t go out and have a few drinks before he went
Generally, Matt Erickson considered himself to
be a normal, good-hearted person with no desire to
hurt anyone. Having graduated from Shawnee
University along with both Nikki and Marcus, his
major concern in life was to succeed at the job he
had, and to enjoy doing it of course. Going to
college had been more of a way to escape from home
for a while than anything else, since he had his
father’s clothing store to run when he got out. He
had actually gotten a good education even though he
didn’t need it to do the job his whole life had
been geared toward. Sure, the store turned a
considerable profit every year, but it did this
without the need of his education and definitely
without a challenge intellectually. He knew he
would soon grow tired of the store and have to move
on to something more rewarding just to be able to
When Matt had gone to college, his main
priority had actually been to find a wife before he
graduated and returned to his little hometown. In
this, he had been set back a ways when he found
Nikki. A small problem had kept him from ever
having her: Marcus… Marcus had found her first
at a party or in one of his many tours of the bars,
and they had actually managed to stay together
since then. And now not only did Marcus still have
her, but she actually also loved him. Matt’s life
had always been that way, what he wanted, he
With Marcus and Nikki’s move to Hawthorne,
Nikki seemed to have a continued interest in him,
and confusion had quickly taken over. It was
extremely unlikely that she would settle for a
common businessman now when she already had a
doctor who was undoubtedly on his way up in the
world. Just what the hell was she doing? He
hadn’t been able to come up with a reasonable
answer, and yet, what was he to supposed to do? He
had always really liked her, even to the point of
love maybe, if he even knew what the hell love was.
Insidiously working his way into Marcus and Nikki’s
marriage wouldn’t be the ethical thing to do, but
Matt didn’t really care about ethics. His life was
filled with loneliness, and he couldn’t handle
another miserable minute of it. Besides, it would
be the challenge he needed to offset his boring
career. If he mastered the challenge, he would get
the woman he had been interested in for the past
ten years. If not, he wouldn’t lose a thing. A
fun challenge at the worst, and with it his life
had become a little more interesting. With this
firmly in mind, he indulged wholeheartedly in his
conversation with Nikki as Marcus left the
restaurant and headed for who knew where. Who knew
and who really gave a shit anyway, Matt thought.
Later in the day, as Marcus’s rage was slowly
quashed with each gulp of beer, he tried to think
about anything other than Nikki and Matt. They
were up to something behind his back and he
couldn’t quite keep focused on figuring it out now.
Back in his undergrad days, drinking three pitchers
of beer hadn’t been a problem, but he was finding
that his limit fell way below that now. He had
already achieved the old queasy feeling in his
stomach and a massive buzz to go along with it and
he was only halfway through his second pitcher.
The barkeep hadn’t given him a second look with the
tips he had been sending his way, even though he
knew for a fact that his patron was the town
doctor. Times were a little tough in this town,
and Hawthorne was far better off than most of the
Shawnee Nation. A few extra bucks here and there
were clearly the price of discretion.
Unfortunately, the sleepless nights of residency
had turned him into a real wimp, hungrier for sleep
than a good time. What had the world come to when
he couldn’t even drink his favorite beverage to his
hearts content? Oh well…as long as he drowned his
sorrows and pacified the near constant anxiety that
had crept into his life since the wreck. Besides,
it still tasted better than xanax.
When he finally finished off his second
pitcher, Marcus had hit the point where he could
have easily fallen asleep in the bar and woken up
twelve hours later still drunk and spinning like a
top. Stumbling out the door, his stomach sent him
an impulse to throw up and make it all better. As
the beer swirled back into his throat from the far
reaches of his stomach, some greater drive forced
him to choke it back down keeping warm regurgitated
beer off his shoes. Miserably, he began the
painstaking search for his car. He knew it had to
be out here somewhere. How else could he have
gotten to the damn bar? What kind of car did he
have anyway…he couldn’t even remember now….
Gradually, the picture of an old, beige
Cherokee Si-qua appeared in his head, and the need
to look for it quickly followed. Where had he left
the old pig? Maybe it was off wallowing in some
“Here piggy piggy.” He yelled out.
He smiled to himself. He should have been a
comedian. Then making his way from car to car,
occasionally tripping over a hidden wire some demon
had planted to discourage his search, Marcus
eventually came to the conclusion that his Si-qua
had been stolen.
“Hwhy me…hwhy do they always pick on mee…”
were the only words he was capable of getting out
now as he struggled desperately to think of the way
home. His house was actually only eight blocks
from the bar, but the moon seemed a hell of a lot
closer right now. Slowly making his way in what he
thought was the right direction, Marcus quickly
forgot about his pig. “True signs of a drunk”
would have been his opinion had it been anyone
else. Even if he might be a mostly dry alcoholic,
he was extremely functional, and had accomplished
more already in his life than the general
population would get done in several lifetimes.
Catching hold of a rare bit of luck, he was
traveling in the right general direction for home.
He could make it if he had to, he didn’t need the
pig. He used to walk this little stretch without a
problem when he was a kid. Getting away from both
his house and the funeral home had always been the
best reasons he knew to head to Main Street. But
now, plodding drunkenly towards the outskirts of
town, the sidewalk kept meeting his feet quicker
than it registered in his wasted brain. With a
sudden lurch, his body hit the ground with an
impact that would have shattered a nursing home
full of elderly hips. Fortunately, he had a few
years before he fell into that category, and as
drunk as he was, he didn’t even have time to try to
catch himself. The blood gushing from his busted
lip didn’t taste too good though. As he stumbled
to his feet, he wished he had another beer to wash
As he neared his house, the thought of having
to pass the old funeral home slapped a little
drunken fear into him that he was in no condition
to ignore. Sure, in his younger days, the days of
his father and grandfather, he had practically
lived in the old place. The fear still held him
though, just as it had gripped him mindlessly in
his childhood. There seemed to be no escape from
the place. But then, how could he escape from the
shadow of death and its never-ending presence.
Glancing up at the funeral home, a chill raced
down Marcus’s spine sending him into a wild
panicked frenzy. The dark windows filled his mind
with images that hadn’t been dredged up since his
last days in the creepy old place. He had seen so
many dead people in there! It was the house of the
dead and a flood of thoughts pushed him over the
edge. Had the crumbling blind in one of the top
floor windows moved? It had to be a trick of the
light and his intoxicated brain! It didn’t matter,
it still sent him into a hard sprint for his house,
his gut churning in punishment for the beer he had
fed it. Past the funeral home, the fear continued
to well up and drive his weary legs faster. But
the closer his growing house became, the more his
imagination took over. Suddenly, he heard a plague
of footsteps behind him and closing quickly.
Terrified and gasping for breath, he finally hit
his front yard and then his porch seconds later.
Clawing at the doorknob, a sudden jab to his mind
was acknowledgement that the door was locked and
the pounding footsteps behind him were rapidly
surrounding him. The footsteps began to pound in
his ears, and he only realized that he was steadily
beating on his own hardwood door with his bare
fists when the pain eventually hit him.
Nikki’s startled face appeared unexpectedly
through the curtain, and his fear welled up further
as a tear slid down his cheek. Nikki pulled the
door open and was hit by the full force of his body
knocking her to the ground as he dove into the
house slamming the door wildly behind him.
“What’s wrong, honey…” Nikki gasped as she
found herself sprawled out on the floor.
from Marcus’s mouth in short gasping spurts as he
lay breathlessly next to Nikki on the floor of the
Suddenly registering the overwhelming cloud of
alcohol that flooded the room with his gasps, Nikki
angrily said, “You’re drunk, Marcus! Where the
hell have you been? I’ve been worried sick!
What’s wrong with you anyway? You look like you’ve
seen a ghost!”
As his breathing finally slowed, Marcus felt a
sudden gut wrenching impulse to throw up.
Scrambling for the bathroom, a sink, or anything
besides the front door, the impulse turned to
reality. Beer gushed from his stomach to his
throat to the floor and splattered onto everything
within twenty feet. Still running for the sink,
Marcus continued his wild retching spree for
several more minutes before Nikki recovered from
her own nauseated disgust and went to him.
Her anger starting to shift to worry, Nikki
asked, “Are you going to be all right, Marcus?
You’re really scaring me! I know you’ve been
drinking, but this is way out of hand!”
“Just leave me alone, Nikki,” Marcus blurted
out still feeling sick, but now a wretchedly
miserable and wide-awake drunk, “I don’t want to
talk about it tonight.”
“O.K., Marcus, if that’s the way you want
it… I’m going to bed. I hope you don’t plan on
sleeping with me tonight!”
Continuing to vomit up the last remnants of
beer from his otherwise empty stomach, Marcus
managed to whisper out “Go to bed, Nikki….I’m
staying in here tonight.”
Leaving the bathroom in a flare of rage, Nikki
wondered what the hell was wrong with him all of a
sudden. Even taking into account the fall and the
hit to his head he had taken the day before, she
had noticed his behavior had been a little strange
at noon. But why in the hell was he acting like
this now, wasted out of his head, and still
responsible for his patients. They were massively
in debt and he couldn’t afford to lose his license
to practice. Maybe he had been slammed by an
exceptionally hard day at work. Yes…that had to
be it. Nothing else seemed reasonable. She hadn’t
done anything to warrant this. She couldn’t do
anything about it tonight anyway. She could worry
about it in the morning. There was just nothing
she could do for him when he was so wasted. She
was exhausted anyway after her previous sleepless
night, and the fatigue only dulled her ability to
think. Tomorrow would be a new day, and their
problems weren’t going anywhere tonight, except
maybe in gushing spurts down the toilet.
After suffering through the misery of dry
heaves for several hours, Marcus eventually crawled
to the couch in the living room. Nikki had
probably been asleep now for hours, but his chances
of making it to their bed over what would feel like
a hundred miles up the stairs dismally slipped away
as his stomach continued to grind. When he finally
thought he could close his eyes, bed spins brought
him bolt upright before he could think of falling
asleep. Racing back to the bathroom, he heaved
uselessly several more times before collapsing to
the floor. His stomach briefly calmed, he passed
out and the blackout obliterated the pain.
Ten hours later, Marcus came to on the
bathroom floor with a taste worse than burnt
excrement in his mouth.
“This is going to be one hell of a shitty
day.” He muttered to himself as he scraped himself
up from the space surrounding the toilet. ‘I’ll
never ever drink again’ spun from his thoughts.
But of course he would. He always did, and deep
down inside his brain, he knew it. He had already
used that line more than a thousand times, and this
wouldn’t be the last time. Disgusted with himself,
he thought how did it go, something to the tune of
eighty percent of all college students picked up
social drinking or worse by the time they
graduated. And he knew that once it was picked up,
it remained for life.
Stumbling out of the downstairs bathroom in
the clothes he had worn to work the day before,
Marcus managed to mumble, “Where’s the damn Pepto
Bismol? I know we have some around here somewhere.
It had better still be here!” he finally mumbled,
painfully remembering that Nikki couldn’t stand the
dull pink syrup.
Still mumbling to himself, he stumbled back
into the bathroom to look for his pink salvation.
“How about wives… They had a way of entering
your life and destroying everything you’d held
sacred since the beginning. Just like his old golf
shoes. When she bought him the new ones, she threw
out the perfectly good old ones he had worn for
over nine years. He could have killed her. Where
did she get off anyway, making drastic decisions
without even asking him how he felt about it?”
A few slammed cabinet doors later, he finally
gave up on the Pepto Bismol, and headed for the
kitchen and his old substitute. Cold milk would do
it. It had usually calmed his stomach before, and
there was no reason this time would be any
different. After pouring the milk, he franticly
gulped it down. Seconds later, a horrendously
violent heave came from the depths of his tortured
stomach as the milk was not accepted for delivery.
But since he wasn’t drunk this time, he made it to
the sink and managed to liquidly violate a sink
full of recently washed dishes.
“Crap! I can’t believe this! I really have
wimped out.” Gurgled from his acidy, milk-covered
Somehow grabbing a trash bag, he stumbled
toward the living room couch. Passing the hallway
storage nook and seeing his stethoscope, he
painfully thought of work. When Nikki made it down
for breakfast, she could call the clinic again and
tell them he’d be a few hours late. There was no
way he could handle being around all of Hawthorne’s
desperately needy sick people right now. The
clinic was a nightmare at best when he was healthy.
Quickly slipping back into a much needed but
restless sleep, Marcus didn’t hear Nikki as she
came down the uncarpeted oak stairs. But seeing
him all curled up on the couch with his trash bag
tucked under his chin, Nikki’s first impulse was to
laugh. This was the first time she had seen him
this sick since they were married. With the
exception of the accident, Marcus was never sick,
and the thought of a doctor being worse off than
most of his patients on account of his own stupid
behavior was actually pretty funny.
“Marcus… Marcus.” she said as she gently
shook him awake. “Aren’t you going in to the
Barely managing to register her presence over
his trash bag, Marcus groaned, “Call in for me,
Nik. I’m not up to it right now.”
Stepping quickly back from his wretched
alcohol and puke infested breath, Nikki was
overwhelmed with disgust and harped.
“Well, well, well. I’d say you’re lucky that
people don’t expect you to be even marginally
functional after that wreck. Most people don’t get
away with this kind of stupid and reckless
behavior, and you won’t for much longer. What
would your patients think if they saw you like
“Just shut the hell up and leave me alone,
Nikki. I can’t deal with your bullshit right now.”
Smirking, and looking away, she said, “O.K.
You don’t have to get so testy. You did this to
yourself, you know.”
“Maybe.” He whispered.
Immediately enraged, she said, “Don’t tell me
you’re blaming this one on me. I wasn’t there
pouring beer down your throat was I? Was I!”
Ignoring her outburst, he whispered, “Just go
call in, Nik. My patients can wait, and we’ll talk
about this later when I feel up to it.”
It was just like him to blame his own idiotic
behavior on her, Nikki thought as she went
dutifully to the kitchen phone. He would regret
this later. She had no doubt because it was always
like this. He would eventually apologize even if
she had been in the wrong. It was weak and pitiful
on his part and she didn’t know the reasoning
behind it, but she was sure it was deliberately
intended to make her feel guilty in some twisted
way. As much as she tried to stifle the guilty
feelings, they always surfaced, and it made her mad
Forcefully composing herself for the call,
when the clinic picked up she managed to say,
“Hello, this is Nikki Lemonte. Dr. Lemonte won’t
be in until later today.”
“What’s wrong, Mrs. Lemonte?” The chubby
little receptionist got out before Nikki could hang
up the phone.
Nosy people, can’t they just listen to what
they’re told and accept it without question, Nikki
thought as she reached into the refrigerator for a
couple of eggs. Their lives weren’t on display for
everyone and their mother to scrutinize. What was
wrong with people these days? Maybe it was the
small town that brought it out. People sure hadn’t
acted like this when she was in college. Of course
in school, she had gradually lost contact with all
of her friends as she spent more and more time with
Marcus. It had seemed like the right thing to do
at the time, even if she regretted it now. Even if
she had spent more time with her friends, they
wouldn’t be here for her now. This rinky-dink
little shit town pretty much squashed her social
life. At least she still had Matt to talk to.
Matt had been a good and reliable friend since she
had known him. She could sense that he would like
a little more than friendship at times, but she
would never allow that to happen. Even though she
and Marcus had a lot of problems, she had grown to
love him more than anyone she had ever known. She
couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see it. How
could he be jealous of anyone else when he was the
one she had chosen to marry? Sometimes his thought
process was too distorted for her to figure out.
It didn’t seem reasonable that a person of his
intelligence would be swallowed up by such horrible
jealousy. Besides, he couldn’t expect her to give
up the only friend she had left. That was pure and
unadulterated selfishness on his part, and only
managed to make her mad.
Having scrambled her eggs, Nikki sat down to
eat them with toast and have a cup of coffee. But
a rustling sound and a muffled scream nearly blew
her out of her skin and made her knock her plate
off the table. Before she realized it, she was
running into the living room to check on Marcus.
His demeanor had changed and he now sat disheveled
and trembling at the end of the couch with a wild
look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his face, and
his trash bag clenched in both hands.
“Marcus, are you all right? What happened?”
Wobbling from side to side, and clearly so
sick he could barely sit up, Marcus managed to
gasp. “It was….horrible. I…I’ve never had a
nightmare like that. It seemed so real…”
Even though she still felt a little distant as
a result of the last few days of crap, she wrapped
her arms around his sweat-drenched body, and did
her best to comfort him.
“Tell me about it, Marcus. It’ll make you
feel better.” Nikki whispered, knowing full well
that it wasn’t the truth. If nothing else, her few
psych classes in college had taught her that.
Reliving trauma was generally in itself traumatic,
and could be perceived as magnitudes worse than the
original insult. Depending on a person’s
personality structure and coping skills, the impact
of something as simple as a fender bender could
evolve into the equivalent of the apocalypse in
their mind. She had never had any experiences like
that herself beyond being abandoned as a child, but
the lecture was still stuck firmly in her mind.
When Marcus finally did calm down, he managed
to recount his dream before it slipped into
nothingness. Still somewhat wide-eyed, he grabbed
both of her hands, and stammered on as if into
“I was in bed…It wasn’t our bed upstairs,
but one somewhere I’ve been before. You weren’t
there with me, I was alone and that in itself
scared the hell out of me. The room was black, but
I could see everything in it as if my eyes had
adjusted from being in the dark for a long time.
Suddenly, the tension in my body welled up
immensely and I cowered on the bed trying to absorb
the room. My attention fell on a huge grandfather
clock in one corner of the room. It was
significant to me for some reason, but I couldn’t
figure out why. As I stared at the clock, I began
to sense another presence on the opposite side of
the room. I fought the compulsion to turn for as
long as I could, but an eternity passed and I still
felt the presence. It was getting stronger and I
started to smell something that made me nauseous.
Unable to keep my eyes from it any longer, I turned
abruptly toward the presence and started screaming.
There was a dark figure in the corner. It was
half-hidden in the shadows, but it was clearly
there. Feeling an instinctive need to look away, I
forced myself to look at another corner of the
room, and screamed even harder! The figure was in
A twisted and malicious smile glared at me.
Terrified, I turned to jump off of the bed, and
really lost it. The figure was there blocking my
way off of the bed!”
By this time, Marcus had wrapped himself
completely around Nikki, shaking and in tears.
Nikki could feel the disturbing harshness of his
fear. If she had dreamt this, she would have shit
her pants. He was simply vibrating with fear.
After several minutes of dreadful silence, she
managed to utter the only question that came to
“That place, do you know where it is?”
“I don’t know, Nik……,” he whispered, as
his mind struggled to grasp reality.
Several painfully silent minutes later, his
sudden outburst sent a burst of adrenaline through
“Wait! I knew the bed seemed familiar! When
I was a kid, I practically lived in the funeral
home in the summer. I had to sleep in a room on
the second floor. The bed’s in the funeral
On the side of Hawthorne that had become a
mobile home wasteland, Pete Blair walked out his
front door onto rotting steps. It was going to be
a great day, he thought. He could tell just by the
lack of stench in the air. Usually, he was greeted
by the foul smell of sewage from his own front
yard, but not today. That made any day a good one
in his eyes. If the wind was kind enough to blow
the nasty odors away from where he lived, there was
no telling what could happen that day. Pulling his
old bike out of the bush that functioned as his
kickstand, Pete took a short run and jumped onto it
like it was a running horse. A shaky moment later,
he was on his way to the newspaper office to pick
up his daily deliveries. It was payment day, and
that meant money in his pocket. The day was
usually a pain because people weren’t home or
didn’t leave the money like they were supposed to.
At the same time, it was the only money he ever
got, and it felt good to have a few bucks in his
Running his route, the wind blowing on his
eleven-year-old face woke him up faster than
anything. Wide-awake, his classes went a lot
better every day. His grades were proof of that.
Since he had been in school, his parents had pushed
him to do the best he could. But his dad had died
in a car wreck two years ago, and he only had his
mom to push him on now. His father’s death had
been hard on him, and he hoped things never got any
worse. Seeing his father in the coffin had made
for a year of sleepless nights. He drifted through
life like a zombie for even longer than that. He
didn’t remember when he finally got back to normal,
but he knew one thing for sure. Dead people scared
the bejesus out of him, and he didn’t ever want to
see a dead person up that close again.
Having made it through the morning, Marcus
finally showered, dressed, and went out the back
door to his car. If he’d any sense at all, he’d
have just blown the whole day off. His head was
still swimming in muck and his return to the clinic
after the wreck had probably been extremely
premature. But they had been bleeding money they
didn’t have, and the building stress had forced him
back to work. Besides, he could do most of his
work on autopilot at this point, even after the
wreck. Checkups, earaches, and sore throats were
the bread and butter of family medicine.
With a jolt, he stopped just short of the
drive. Where was his damn car! It wasn’t here!
Nikki must have taken it when he was taking a
shower. No problem, he thought. He hadn’t driven
her car for a while, and it would be a change. Not
for the better, but a change. He had always hated
driving her car. Old Cherokee Wi-sas just weren’t
his style and never would be. It drove worse than
his old Si-qua did. He would have thought a cat
would be more maneuverable than a pig, but that
definitely wasn’t the case. Even so, the Wi-sa
still roared to life like it usually did, and
Marcus started to back out of the drive. Glancing
at the house, he saw Nikki move past the kitchen
window. The alcohol had screwed up his brain, and
he had obviously lost control of his senses. Nikki
had taken his car, and couldn’t be in the house.
Driving down the street, his thoughts returned to
the past night. How in the hell had he gotten so
drunk? He knew all of the physiology behind
tolerance levels, but that wasn’t enough to explain
last night. Passing Vick’s Bar and Grill,
something clicked in Marcus’s head. His ice blue
BMW sat parked there in the street.
“Well, what do you know. I was even drunker
than I thought I was last night.” Considering how
sick he had been, he knew this was a bit of an
Pulling to the side of the road, Marcus jumped
out of the Wi-sa and ran into the bar to call
Nikki. She wasn’t going to believe this one.
“Hello, who is this? I must have the wrong
number..” he said as he heard a male voice on the
other end of the line.
“This is Matt, Matt Erickson, Marcus. I’m
here to talk to Nikki about the dresses she wants
me to look for.” Matt answered nervously.
“Where is Nikki then? Why didn’t she answer
the phone?” Marcus shot back vehemently. He had
barely left the damn house.
“Well……uh..I believe she’s in the shower,
Marcus.” Matt answered even more nervously.
“How in the hell did you get in my house
then?” Marcus screamed into the phone, stirring up
a little attention in the bar, even at this early
hour. “Or did she let you in and then decide to
take a shower?”
“Now wait a minute, Marcus. I know what
you’re thinking, but nothing’s going on here. I
was outside knocking when I heard the phone ringing
off the wall. The door opened when I pushed it, so
I came in. Nikki doesn’t even know I’m here.”
Matt eventually got out with a little force in is
Grabbing control of himself before he yelled
anymore, Marcus got out a simple “Tell her to call
me at the office” before hanging up the phone.
“Ringing off the wall my ass, the phone only
rang once!” He roared as he walked out the door.
He knew the only thing that would calm him down
now. The spare key in his wallet opened and
started his BMW, and he screeched away from the
curb, barely missing a passing car. A good fast
drive would relieve his tension if he didn’t manage
to get clipped by some asshole in an old beater.
The little sport sedan ripped onto the highway
without hesitation, and Marcus shredded through the
gears to reach top speed. Eating up the road was
his best stress relief mechanism, and probably the
only one that reliably did the job. A good run on
these twisty back roads was dangerous, but it sure
as hell took his mind off of his problems. The car
flew in and out of the curves and the sensations
made him wish he could do this for the rest of his
life. Before he realized it, the snake-like road
brought him back to the hill below Camel Rock.
With a shudder, he remembered the quake and the
near death experience that had scared the shit out
of him afterwards. His head still vibrated with
pain, and he couldn’t tell if it was from his old
injury, his new injury, or his mildly lingering
hangover. Regardless of the cause, a surge of pain
nearly blinded him, and he whipped to the side of
the now gravel road barely avoiding a plunge into a
large weed-filled ditch. Damn the pain, he
screamed mentally as he struggled with the door
latch and finally broke free of his car. The pain
obliterated all reasonable thought, incessantly
peaking to a crescendo as he tripped over a small
rock at the top of the ditch and fell into a gaping
crevice newly formed by the recent quake. With a
mouth full of dirt and still blurred vision, he
found himself sprawled at the base of the wide rip
in the earth’s surface.
“SHIT,” he screamed, blowing part of the dirt
from his mouth and doubling the already unbearable
pain in his agonized brain. As the remaining dirt
turned to mud in his mouth, he tasted the
unmistakable ooze of blood, and vomited the vile
mixture impulsively before he had a chance to
swallow it. The stench of hotdogs and stale
popcorn took over his senses, and he knew what was
coming. He was going to have another seizure
within half a mile of the last one, and alone in a
fucking ditch. Life just wasn’t fair…
Back in Hawthorne, the great day had gone sour
for Pete about half way through his morning route.
Most of his deliveries hadn’t been home to pay up.
He hated going back in the evenings when it already
ate up so much time in the first place. But if he
wanted to get paid, he didn’t have a choice.
Maybe, if he was lucky, he would see Dr.
Lemonte. He had been really cool in the past. It
made him want to do even better in school and be a
doctor just like Dr. Lemonte. He always told him
funny stories, and gave him a little advice when he
As Pete rode up to the Lemonte house, he saw
that the garage was open, and both of their cars
“Darn! I guess it’s too early for them to be
When he passed the funeral home, a sudden
chill took over him as if someone had thrown a
bucket of ice on top of him. He had never liked
going by the old place, and he was glad that it was
still light outside. He would be sure to go the
long way around and miss the place when he came
back to the Lemonte house. The rest of Pete’s
rounds went slowly for him since he couldn’t wait
to get back to the Lemontes. He hoped Dr. Lemonte
would be there to answer the door, and not his
wife. He didn’t know why, but he just didn’t like
Mrs. Lemonte. There was something about her that
didn’t seem right. She could act nice to him, but
it all seemed fake, like she didn’t like him or
kids in general. Well, at least Dr. Lemonte was
nice to him, and he was the important one anyway.
Rousing himself from the ditch, Marcus looked
around in confusion. What the hell was going on!
What was he doing lying here covered in dirt!
Slowly realizing the stiffness of his muscles and
the bleeding bite marks on the sides of his tongue,
his situation settled in with the weight of a few
thousand bricks. Two seizures within three days
was not good, not good at all… He had to think
seriously about this now, and decide what he was
going to do. The sleepy confusion tried to take
him back under, but he fought it, and staggered out
of the rough crevice. His limbs ached like he had
been beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat, but he
struggled up to the road, and his car before he had
a chance to pass out. The tastes of blood and dirt
filling his mouth, he tried his best to focus on
these putrid reminders of what had just happened as
he clumsily started the BMW. The twenty some miles
back to town were going to be rough, and he would
be surprised if he made it safely. He couldn’t
stay here though. He had to get back to the house.
Why was he all the way out here again anyway?
There had to be a reason. This thought, and the
continued rotten tastes still swirling in his mouth
kept him mostly conscious as he slowly crept his
Sleep…at home he could sleep…
Nearly an hour of forced but negligible
concentration later, he pulled into their drive.
The Wi-sa was gone… Nikki must be out somewhere…
Finally making it back to the Lemonte house,
Pete saw that the blue car was back and just hoped
it was Dr. Lemonte. Knocking on the door, he heard
footsteps quickly approaching and an angry voice
that was coming along with them.
Marcus, still covered with dirt and with dried
blood streaking from his mouth to his chin, opened
the door and saw Peter standing there waiting for
his paper money.
“Wow, what happened to you!” Pete sputtered
out before his brain could control his mouth.
Still tasting the bloody dirt, Marcus glanced
down at his filthy work clothes, and couldn’t clear
his head well enough to answer with anything more
than “How much do I owe you, Peter?”
“It’s….it’s one-twenty-five like always, sir.”
“Oh yeah, I remember now.” Marcus said,
seeing the bewildered look on the boy’s face.
Without asking him in Marcus reached into his
pocket and pulled out three bucks.
“Here, keep the change.” He said as he
reached back for the door handle and began to close
the door. Now wasn’t a good time to be chatting
with the paperboy. He had barely made it into the
house a while ago when he met Nikki, and an
argument had started immediately.
“Thank you, sir.” Pete got out with a lot of
disappointment in his voice that he wasn’t quite
old enough to control.
As the door shut behind him, Pete walked to
his bike and headed for home. Marcus returned to
the kitchen where Nikki sat crying. There was
probably as much sadness in Pete as there was anger
in Marcus, but at least he had managed to control
his feelings in front of the boy. He would get
over his disappointment soon enough, but Marcus’s
anger would hang with him for a while. Only Nikki
would see the anger if he could help it.
“Who was that?” Nikki snapped at Marcus as he
entered the kitchen.
“It was Peter, the paperboy, and I’m glad I
answered the door, for his sake.” Marcus snapped
“How can you be nice to that scummy little
kid? I don’t see any point in it.”
“He’s a good kid, Nikki, and if you don’t like
him, it’s your problem. You should give the kid a
chance. Besides, the boy wants to be a doctor
someday, and he likes my advice every once in
Staring through her tears at the dirty,
disheveled man in front of her, Nikki’s voice came
out cold, and no longer reverberated with her
“You just like the kid because he builds up
your ego, Marcus, and you know it. He probably
won’t even want to be a doctor when the time comes.
Why don’t you just get off your high horse, and put
your energy someplace useful!”
This was getting to be too much for Marcus.
They were even arguing about the paperboy now.
What was their marriage coming to? They had always
argued about stupid things, but never this stupid.
“Just shut up about the kid, Nikki! This is
about you and Erickson, and don’t try to get off
the subject!” Marcus screeched, boiling over more
than he really wanted to.
“I’m not changing the subject because there’s
no subject to change. I’ve told you a thousand
times that there’s nothing between Matthew and me.
Why can’t you see that? I never have felt anything
for the man, and I can’t see that I ever will,
unless you keep pushing with this paranoid fantasy
The ‘unless’ threw Marcus over the edge, and
without thinking twice, he stormed out the back
door again to the garage. With massive bursts of
adrenaline now feeding his rage, the postictal
fatigue that had barely allowed him to make it home
a little while ago was lost to the storm. Throwing
a shower of rocks that probably took their share of
paint, he backed out of his gravel drive, and his
BMW was flying down the road again before he even
realized he was in the car. Suddenly thinking
clearly, even though the tension and anger were
still digging at his mind, he whipped the car
around and headed back for the house. He was way
too angry to talk to Nikki, but he couldn’t be
racing through town like this. He had to calm
A sudden urge to go into the funeral home hit
him as he pulled within sight of it, and he was too
angry to see the stupidity of going through with
it. He was out of his car and at the back loading
doors before he realized what he was doing. A
chill took hold of his body as he touched the cold
door handle, and he realized that there was no way
that he was going to go into that place right now.
It was already almost dark outside, giving the
place a sinister appearance that it halfway
maintained throughout the sunniest day of the year.
He hadn’t been in there for over nine years, and he
wasn’t about to spawn a new series of nightmares
like the one he had experienced that morning.
As Marcus abruptly turned to walk back to the
car, he caught a glint of light shining from inside
the building. That was impossible! None of the
realtor’s cars were here. They were the only ones
with keys, and enough nerve to go into the place,
all in the name of money of course. Someone was in
there, and he had to break his nine-year streak and
do something about it!
Turning back to the door, he ignored the
chills in favor of the fear that had taken charge
of him. The door unlocked easily, and he pushed it
open as quietly as possible. If someone was here,
he didn’t know what he would do. What if they had
a gun? They could attack and kill him before he
even caught sight of them.
The door made an unexpected squeal just as it
hit the sidewall. The huge room at the back of the
place was exactly as he remembered, and it still
scared the hell out of him. Leaving the door open
and trying to get through the room as fast as he
could, he cracked his elbow on one of the many
tables that filled the room. The pain shot up his
arm, and he broke into the hallway stifling a wince
of pain. Darkness surrounded him, and he kicked
himself for not stopping to look before he ran into
the hall. A few seconds of intense concentration
brought the gravity of his situation back to him.
He would have to check the front rooms where the
glint of light had come from. Cautiously passing a
few other rooms, he prayed that he wouldn’t find
anything. The pounding of his own heart muffled
the sound of his footsteps in his head. Nothing
yet, but the tension was building, and not just in
him. The whole place seemed to reverberate with
dread. As his eyes slowly became accustomed to the
darkness, every shadow took on a life of its own.
A movement in the room to his right caught his
attention. He heard a sound. A footstep…it had
been a footstep! Turning back, fear became panic,
and he had to get the hell out of there. Another
footstep echoed in his mind as he heard the muffled
slam of the closing back door. The weight of the
building fell on his head and blackness filled his
eyes. He heard a wicked echo of laughter as he
lost consciousness, the dreaded smell of hotdogs
and popcorn leading his way.
Nikki cried even harder as Marcus stormed out
their back door. He was right. What was their
marriage coming to? They were fighting almost
every day now, and the fights were getting more and
more serious. He had been kind of different since
pulling out of the coma, but that wasn’t a good
excuse. He was mostly the same, and his knowledge
of medicine and ability to work hadn’t been
affected. Something had to be done about it, but
what? She didn’t seem capable of working it out by
herself. He was going to have to put some effort
But then, knowing exactly what he was going to
do when he left made Nikki very uneasy. Every time
he got mad about something, he took off in his car
and did the stupidest thing he was probably capable
of. Right now, he was hitting the highway and
whipping down the road as fast as his little blue
sports car would let him. It was without a doubt
the stupidest thing he had ever heard of him doing
in his life, and he was taking off on his dangerous
road runs more than ever now.
Even though they were fighting all of the time
now, she still loved him. These arguments were
definitely going to have to stop. Then, maybe she
would be able to trust his driving again, if
When Marcus’s car roared to life and the sound
of its racing engine disappeared down the street,
Nikki had a horrible gut feeling that something bad
was going to happen to him this time. She had
never noticed it before, and it scared the hell out
of her to think that she was feeling it now.
Nikki suddenly felt a desperate need to talk
to someone. Pulling herself from her chair, she
walked across the kitchen to the phone.
Hedda Krepp could help ease her concerns, and
maybe even give her some insight into the
situation. She had been a good friend since they
had moved into town, and her advice was usually
“Hello, is this Hedda?” she said into the
phone, returning to tears as she said it.
“Yes, how are you doing, Nikki? Is there
something wrong?” Hedda asked in her kindly voice.
“I’m afraid I’ve got a problem, Hedda, and I
really need to talk to somebody. Do you think you
could get away from the store and come over here
for awhile?” Nikki asked, the tears flowing freely
“Well..yes…yes, I guess I could. Just give
me a few minutes to talk to Ray and then I’ll be
“Thank you, Hedda, I’ll be waiting. Bye.”
Seven minutes later, Hedda was knocking at the
Lemonte’s front door and a little out of breath.
Still wearing the apron she usually wore at the
corner store, there was a worried look on her face
that Nikki immediately saw as she opened the door.
“Nothing’s that bad, Hedda,” Nikki said as she
smiled through her tears and Hedda quickly came
through the door, “Marcus and I have just had
another in our growing series of arguments, and I
could really use someone to talk to and maybe give
me some advice.”
Still smiling and the tears now slowing to a
stop, Nikki gave Hedda a short hug and felt the
need to immediately open her life up before Hedda
had a chance to change her mind and leave.
“We’ve been arguing almost constantly and
Marcus is so closed off to me now. How can I get
what’s really bothering him out in the open?”
“Well, Nikki, if you’ve really been arguing
that much, it could very well be something serious.
It would help if you could tell me as much as you
feel comfortable with. I don’t know if I’ll be
able to help, but I’ll sure do what I can.”
Having lived with a psychiatrist for more
years than she could count now, Hedda’s layman’s
grasp on psychology was pretty solid. Ray would
have been able to do a better job giving her
advice, but his health had taken him out of the
game already, and she wasn’t about reopen the door
and tempt him back.
Walking into the living room, Nikki asked
Hedda if she would like anything to drink before
they started their talk. With Hedda politely
refusing, they sat down beside each other on the
couch and Nikki started into the story of the
“To begin with, we were both still in school;
he in his second year of medical school, and me in
my second year as a business major. The timing, in
that respect, was pretty good really, because we
were both out of school at about the same time,
even though he had three years of residency to do
“Yes, I met Ray under similar circumstances.”
Comforted a little by this, Nikki went on.
“We met initially through a mutual friend of ours
at a party one night in the fall. I honestly
didn’t think much of Marcus at the time because I
had another boyfriend then and wasn’t really
looking for anyone. I’m not sure what he thought
of me on that first meeting, and we didn’t even
talk then. It was just a quick introduction and
that could have easily been the end of it forever.”
Hedda smiled, it clearly hadn’t ended there.
“About a week later, the same friend invited
all of us to another party, which turned out to be
a really strange one thrown by a bunch of freaks
who had collected in the Shawnee Forest over the
years. Anyway, there still wasn’t any magic or
even anything close to it between us. I know that
may sound strange to you because it seems strange
to me now. We still didn’t talk, and I thought
that he was probably too quiet for me anyway. The
night ended just as weird as the party, and he kind
of disappeared, I guess. I’m not really sure what
happened to him, but I don’t think I really cared
We happened to be at a few more parties, and I
gradually got to know at least who he was. After
another few months, my boyfriend and another jerk
that I dated for a short time were completely down
the drain, and Marcus somehow found out and asked
me out on a date. After having just been burned by
a couple of guys, I was afraid to get serious with
him at first, but I guess that changed in time. I
gradually found out how much he cared for me, and
unexpectedly realized with the aid of a few of our
mutual friends that he had no intentions of hurting
me. Of course, I found out on my own over the
course of four or five months, but they had all
been right. Putting my guard down, I slowly fell
in love with him, and grew to love him more and
more every day. He felt the same way, but he also
seemed to be on a faster schedule than I was. The
more he loved me, the more I fell in love with him,
and he pulled me a little deeper every day.
After our slow start, we made it through the
next year O.K., or at least without too many hard
times. If I think back on it now though, what I
considered hard times back then were nothing
compared to the problems that we have now. It’s
funny how your perspective changes in just the
short period of a few years. Anyway, it was about
that time that Marcus introduced me to his old
friend from home, Matt Erickson. Home was here in
Hawthorne for both of them, which I find good now
that Matt is such a good friend. They had met back
up in the hospital while Matt’s father slowly died
I don’t really know why we became such a good
friends. Looking back on it though, I guess it was
due to me thinking it would make Marcus happy if I
got along with his friends. Then, of course
there’s the fact that he was really the first
outside contact I had gotten with the world since I
had started dating Marcus. He was also pretty
depressed about his father, and having been an
orphan myself, I could easily sympathize with his
As time went on, and Marcus’s residency took
up a lot of his time, I started to spend more of my
time with Matt. I didn’t see why Marcus would care
with them having been friends for so long. Of
course, Marcus was always a possessive and jealous
man, and I suppose he still is. He has just
learned to hide it better now than what he did back
in those days. He didn’t ever say anything about
it, but then, he wasn’t around to say much of
anything. When he wasn’t working, he was out on
his long drives, which I didn’t and still don’t
Pausing for a second to blow her nose, Nikki
asked, “Do you want anything to eat or drink yet,
Hedda? I know I’ve probably about worn your ears
out already, and I need something to drink before I
can continue with this.”
“Well, yes. I guess I could use a cup of
coffee now. I guess I didn’t realize that you were
going to start so far back and this was going to be
such a long talk.” Continuing with a huge smile,
Hedda tried to smooth over what she had just said.
“Don’t get me wrong, dear. I want to hear
everything that you’ll tell me. From there, I’ll
see if I can be of any help to you. You know,
sometimes it really does just take another person’s
view of something to figure out what the problem
Not having noticed, Nikki stood up and started
to whisk out of the room, saying as she went, “Just
a second, Hedda, and I’ll have your coffee. Do you
drink anything with it, or do you take it black?”
“I usually take it black, Nikki. That will
cause you the least trouble and suit me just fine.”
A few minutes later, Nikki returned to the
living room with two cups of coffee and a few
cookies. Sitting down, she began the rest of her
story without hesitation.
“Where was I now? Oh yes, I remember.
Eventually, Matt’s father died and it basically
felt to me like he had moved away. All I had then
was Marcus, and things got a little better because
he started to spend more time with me instead of
his car. Those drives have always made me mad. I
worry too much sometimes, and his drives are
probably the main cause of it. He never drives
recklessly or does anything stupid when I’m riding
with him, but I can imagine what he’s like on his
own, and it really scares me.
Then a little over four years ago, his mother
died unexpectedly. His father had died when he was
still in high school. I think it was a heart
attack or something like that. Anyway, his mother
had been all that he had left, and when she died,
it hit him pretty hard. She was only fifty-eight
years old, and her death was as much of a shock to
Marcus as his father’s death had been.
She had been trying to get rid of the funeral
home next door ever since her husband’s death and
that was where she died. She was reportedly
helping to show a prospective buyer around the
place when she somehow slipped and fell down a
flight of stairs. The guy rushed her to the
nearest hospital, but there was nothing they could
do for her. She died of a massive brain hemorrhage
shortly after arriving at the emergency room.”
Hedda grimaced. She had gone to school with
both of Marcus’s parents before she moved away to
Chicago with her parents. Her mental images of
them were still as little kids, and imagining them
dying was a harsh thought.
“I hope you don’t think I’m stupid or
anything, but ever since her death, I haven’t
stepped foot in that old place. There’s something
about the place that definitely feels wrong. I
didn’t tell you this before, but that’s where they
found Marcus’s dad years ago. Marcus found him
keeled over and already dead one evening after
school in one of the back rooms. Both of his
parents have died in that creepy old place, and we
can’t stand the fact that we still own it. Marcus
won’t go near there anymore either. I don’t think
he’s even been in there since he found his father
dead, to tell you the truth, and I think he’s
afraid that he’ll die there somehow too if he goes
back. Even though it’s probably ridiculous, I’ve
grown to be just as frightened of it.”
Still picturing Marcus’s parents as dead
little children, Hedda had no difficulty
understanding Nikki’s fear.
“It took him some time to get over his
mother’s death, and right after that, he abruptly
proposed to me. I think he wanted to try to gain
back some of the security that he had lost with her
death. It didn’t matter to me though by then,
because I loved him so much that I would have
married him under much worse circumstances.
Since we had already been together for almost
5 years, we had a really short engagement. It
seemed we had been going out long enough that there
wasn’t any need to hold off on the marriage. And
then the wedding was really strange. Except for a
few friends, there was hardly anyone there from
either of our sides. Not that it mattered to me, I
was used to being without family, but I could tell
that it was kind of hard on him. The whole wedding
was strained and uncomfortable, to say the least.
Afterwards, we didn’t have the time or the
money to go on a honeymoon with him coming to the
end of his residency. We still haven’t gotten away
on a honeymoon or even taken a vacation for that
matter. It’s not a big deal, but it does add to
the growing oddity of our marriage.
When he signed the contract and we came to
Hawthorne, we hoped things would settle out for us.
They did start to get better after awhile as the
practice we were slowly buying stabilized and even
grew a little. Just as we were finally planning to
get away for awhile and Marcus was cross-covering
for his friend so we would have backup coverage
while we were gone, Marcus was nearly killed in
that horrible pileup. They said he did briefly
die, but they managed to bring him back. That
happened before I even knew there was an accident.
By the time Matt drove me over to the hospital,
they had Marcus in surgery and didn’t know if he
would pull through. If he did, he was still in a
coma with a head injury they warned me and they
couldn’t predict how functional he would be if he
came out of it. I didn’t have much hope. The ICU
staff stayed away from me as much as they could and
if it hadn’t been for Matt, I don’t know if I could
have dealt with any of it. That was all two years
ago and not long I guess before you moved into town
and opened the corner store back up.”
“Yes, I vaguely remember hearing about it
then. But we were so busy and I guess I never
realized how bad things were.” Hedda said
apologetically, but was actually thinking back on
that time with happiness.
“Matt continued to keep me going as Marcus
came out of the coma and miraculously recovered
over the next year and a half. I had been advised
by one of his doctors to get a locums for the
clinic and to keep it running. I did that and
Marcus’s own medical bill began to quickly pile up.
The time crept by and Marcus eventually came home.
It was still another half a year before he was able
to start working again. Very few people involved
with his care ever believed he would make it back
that far. The most significant changes really just
seemed to be his occasional staring spells, some
strange and uncharacteristic irritability, and most
obviously, an intense hatred of Matt that was
nearly the opposite of his prior feelings. I don’t
know what he imagined went on between us while he
was away and sick, but I tried to assure him
nothing had. He went back to his long drives not
long ago and now he’s taken off on one of them
again. And worse than that, today I have this
strange feeling something is going to happen to
him. I’m worried sick, but to tell you the truth,
if we don’t stop fighting soon, I don’t think our
marriage will make it through the year. Lately,
we’ve been arguing over the stupidest things.
Today it was the paperboy. Yesterday it was
something else just as stupid. It doesn’t look
like there will ever be an end to it. I really
hate to argue with him, and this is all driving me
crazy. I don’t think that he wants to be arguing
either because he went out a couple of nights ago
and came back so drunk that he even had what seemed
to be a waking nightmare on the way home. ” Nikki
stopped and again blew her nose.
Sitting quietly for several minutes, Hedda
finally said, “I don’t really know what to tell
you, Nikki. An argument every now and then has to
be expected. You will have to stop your arguments
if you think they’re hurting your marriage, of
“Yes, I realize that, but these past few
months have pushed it to an extreme for both of us,
and I think we both realize it.
I just can’t see what I’m doing so wrong that
is making him mad all of the time, and he doesn’t
really do anything out of his way to make me mad as
far as I can tell, but I don’t know. He does tell
me not to do some things that I just can’t seem to
keep from doing. It’s not that I do them to defy
him, they’re just things that I feel I have to do,
and I won’t let him tell me not to. Maybe that’s
being childish on my part, but I don’t think that I
care if I act like a baby sometimes.”
“Maybe you should try to listen to what he
says for awhile and see if the arguments stop. If
they do, you’ll know what the problem is, and
you’ll be able to make some kind of a compromise.
If not, something major might be wrong with your
relationship that needs professional counseling
which I, being no expert, can’t help you with. Try
it though, and see what happens. At least when
you’re arguing you’re talking and he’s not off in
his car somewhere.”
This now brought a grimace to Nikki’s face,
and she quickly said, “There’s one other thing that
I forgot to tell you, Hedda. Marcus had this
terrible dream the other night, and it turned out
to have something to do with the funeral home. I’m
afraid that something bad is going to happen soon,
and I don’t want to even think about what it might
be. That place is a definite dark spot in his
life, and we don’t seem to be able to get rid of
it. If we don’t sell it soon, I think that I would
rather sell this house and move away from here so
that we don’t have to look at it everyday.”
Standing up and handing Nikki her empty coffee
cup, Hedda gave her a brief hug and said, I heard
stories as a kid, of course, but I didn’t realize
that the old place had such a recent past. Even
so, I’m not really the superstitious type, and I
don’t think that you should be worrying too much
about it. I’m sure that if you worry about
anything too much, your mind can conjure up all
kinds of wild ideas.”
“I suppose that you’re right. But I still get
the chills with the mere thought of that place, and
worse than that, I sometimes really resent his
decision to move us back here. We could have found
a house anywhere, and inheriting these places
hasn’t really helped us out financially.”
“Well I for one am glad that you’re here,
dear. I’ll help any way I can, even if it’s just
As they walked to the door, Nikki thanked her
for coming over and she was soon alone again with
her thoughts, crying and unsure what she should do
A sneeze caused by the thick layer of dust
pulled Marcus out of his stupor as he woke to find
himself on the floor of the funeral home’s back
hall. A prevailing sense of doom gnawed at his
brain, and he was more confused than he had ever
been before. Looking around timidly, he tried to
pull himself to his knees. The first real thought
that came to his mind was ‘what the hell happened’,
and then he was on the floor again. He was weak
and sore beyond belief for some reason. How long
had he been out…..hours?
With some effort, Marcus lifted his arm to
look at his watch. There wasn’t enough light to
see the time. Another try at standing up brought
him groggily to his feet. He had to get out of
here. It was starting to close in on him and he
couldn’t take any more than what had already
happened, whatever it was….
Making it to the back room and his escape to
the outside world, his nerves took over and he
painfully began to run. A second later, he was out
the door with his footsteps still echoing mockingly
Not even stopping to look back at the place,
he dove into his car and fumbled for his keys. His
pockets were empty… He had lost them… They had to
be on the floor in the funeral home!
Leaning on the steering wheel in exhausted
defeat, the almost inaudible clink of metal came to
his ears. The keys were in the ignition where he
had left them. Relief poured through his body as
the engine roared to life and his car raced to
escape from behind the funeral home.
Never again would he go into that place. Not
even if it meant his or Nikki’s life.
“But I don’t want a subscription to your damn
magazine!” Matt impatiently blurted out as he
slammed the phone to its cradle. He hadn’t been
having the best day, and pushy salesmen weren’t
what he wanted to deal with right now. What he
needed was a hot shower and a good meal. The only
problem was, he hadn’t had the time to put a shower
in his house yet, and he would either have to cook
for himself, or drive twenty miles to get
respectable food and treatment. Why did he come
back to this little hick town anyway?
All right, so there was the store. Big deal!
The store was little more than a massive rummage
sale, with outdated and second quality clothes
stacked from floor to ceiling. It was like a rat’s
maze, and it was so hard to get around all the
customers sometimes that he thought some traffic
lights and overpasses might help. The customers
flocked in from all of the surrounding river
Nations like they would have to run around naked if
they didn’t. But the majority were from his own
Shawnee Nation, which continued to swirl down the
drain. With so many customers, he could probably
run it 24/7, and the parking lots would still stay
constantly full. It was definitely successful, but
he often thought he should sell it and move away to
Chicago or St. Louis where he could have a more
rounded, if not quite so stable and cushy life.
The cushy life part was the real problem; the flow
of cash into the place was addictive. He had been
used to it far too long to even have ‘budget’
remain in his vocabulary. The price of success…
Walking through his house, he had a sudden
urge to call Nikki and see how things were going.
They had spent so much time together in the past
two years that he was feeling like there was a
massive hole in his life. But he couldn’t call
her. Marcus would probably be home, and there was
no need to go through all the shit they had been
through on the phone the other day. Marcus had
once been his best friend, and now he didn’t even
want him to call, or even worse, stop by his house.
There had always been a complexity to the jerk, and
it had only gotten worse in the past two years
since the accident. His behavior had become
nothing less than hostile at best.
Again thinking of Nikki, there seemed to be a
growing bond between her and him again close to the
one they had before she actually married Marcus.
Back then while Marcus had been in residency, they
spent so much time together that he thought maybe
he would marry her. She would have been perfect
for him. They had a lot of common interests and
she used to love to go with him on his buying trips
for the store. The trips had been a lot more fun
with her than they were when he was alone. They
both also seemed to have problems with Marcus, or
at least, that was what she had been saying when he
got to talk to her.
Resigning like usual to eat a cold sandwich
and have a beer, Matt plopped down in front of the
TV for another night. He would watch movies until
he fell asleep in his chair, and later somehow make
it to his bed. He now wished he could jump back to
his college days when there were hundreds of things
to do at night. The idea dredged up some good
memories. Maybe he’d head back to the old alma
mater and live it up this weekend. As he finished
his first beer, the thought was briefly tempting.
But after the third beer, he was feeling more
sedate and he decided there wouldn’t be anyone he
knew there anymore, and that wouldn’t be fun?
University towns were extremely fluid, and the
place he remembered was long gone.
With this thought, he sank further into his
chair and before long, he was absorbed in the
television. With five beers down, drowsiness and
sleep took over. Sleep had always been a restful
experience for Matt. He wasn’t an insomniac and he
usually didn’t toss and turn. Tonight was a little
After he had been asleep for about an hour and
a half, he began to slowly twitch around in his
chair. At eleven-thirty, he was jarred awake by
the pain in his left hand. What the hell was wrong
Looking around startled, he saw his lamp in
pieces on the floor. Had he done that? That had
to be why his hand hurt like hell! It had to be
why. And what a dream! He felt like he had been
torn in half! It all seemed so real and it was
still vivid in his mind.
Since the age of fourteen, Matt had been able
to control his dreams, and had learned to enjoy
dreaming. With control over his nightmares, they
faded into oblivion, and he never feared sleep
again. But something was wrong tonight. He
couldn’t control this dream no matter how hard he
tried. And he couldn’t escape it either. That was
the foundation of his childhood nightmares, and
this had been far worse!
Ray looked up from the checkout counter as
Hedda came into the store. She had been gone for a
long time, so there had to be problems over at the
Lemonte’s. They were good kids, and they deserved
to have a good life. But life wasn’t always easy.
“Is everything all right, Hedda?” He asked
“Yes, only some little problems that everyone
goes through. They’ll work through them before
long and be O.K..”
“That’s good to hear. They’re starting out
about the same way we did forty years ago. I hope
they can manage to avoid the mistakes we made.”
“I hope so, too.” She said softly. “Maybe we
should get together with them and see if you can
help me give them a little more advice than what
I’ve been able to give Nikki. I’ve been mostly
listening to her and letting her come to her own
“I know you’re not the meddling type, but
you’re right. Why don’t you call them and see if
they want to come over for dinner this Saturday
night? We haven’t had them over before, and I
think it would be good for all of us.”
“You should call, Ray.” She said softly.
“Nikki might like to hear that you are concerned
about what’s going on, too. I think it would mean
a little more to her.”
Easily getting the message, Ray said, “You
might be right at that.”
A little later, the dinner date was set for
the two couples, and since it was closing time, the
Krepps started shutting the store down for the
Out on the corner under the flickering
streetlights, a dark figure stood facing the store.
It had an interest in the store, or at least the
people inside. A change of thought caused the
figure to disappear without any discernible
movements, and the darkness left by its absence was
a far better thing.
The day turned out to be a killer for Marcus.
He was swamped by the backlog of patients from his
missed time at the clinic over the past few weeks.
The new bump on his head still nagged at him all
morning until he finally took some aspirin to kill
the pain. He knew he should have told Nikki about
the incident in the funeral home, but he had
avoided it. She hated the place as much as he did.
It would sound foolish anyway, attacked in a shut
down funeral home by who knows what, and then
running away like a scared child. Nothing like
cowardice to make you feel like a real man, he
thought. He hadn’t been able to close his eyes
until he passed out from sheer exhaustion this
morning at five o’clock. He could only hope that
his fear wouldn’t last through another night…
By the end of the day, Marcus was a nervous
wreck. He needed to get some rest, and the only
way would be to shed his fear of the funeral home.
Before he left work, he called the real estate
agent to check on any possibilities for a sale.
After eight rings, the agency phone was answered in
a rushed and perturbed tone.
“Griggs Real Estate, Janet speaking, may I
Knowing that the woman was probably in a hurry
to get home like he was, Marcus tried to be brief.
“This is Dr. Lemonte. Could you tell me if
there has been any interest in my funeral home
“Well..uh..let me check, sir,” the woman said,
still in a hurried tone.
As Marcus waited for an answer, the dead
silence of ‘hold’ hit the line. He hated being put
on hold, and it pissed him off to think that she
would be doing anything but looking into his
question. Just as he was about to hang up, the
woman returned to the phone.
“Umm..I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll have to call
back on Monday when Norman..I mean Mr. Briggs is
back. I can’t find anything myself.”
“O.K., I’ll do that. Thanks anyway,” Marcus
said, hanging up the phone.
The woman’s response had been strange when he
asked about the funeral home. He had even heard
something of a giggle out of her when she returned
to the phone. As long as he stayed away from it
another weekend of not knowing whether the place
would sell or not wouldn’t kill him.
After locking up his office, Marcus walked out
to his car and climbed in. When the engine refused
to turn over, and there wasn’t even a clicking
sound, he decided that his four-year-old battery
had finally given up the ghost. The perfect end to
a perfect week, he thought as he stepped out and
started to walk toward home. Halfway down the
block, he turned around and walked back to the
office. He was too tired to walk all the way home.
Nikki would have to come and get him, that’s all
there was to it.
A few feet from the door, he heard the phone
ringing, and had to hurry in to answer it. But
just as he grabbed it up, the ringing stopped.
But there was no one on the other end. Just
as well, he thought. He was too exhausted to deal
with another patient, even if they might be taking
their last breath. Quickly dialing his home
number, he hoped Nikki would be at the house and
able to pick him up. The first ring brought her
voice to his ear, and he wasted no time in small
“Nikki, can you pick me up? My battery died
and I don’t think I can make it if I have to walk
back to the house.”
“Sure, I’ll be there in a few minutes. Do you
think you can get a battery tonight so we don’t
have to worry about it tomorrow? I don’t know if
I’ll be able to get up early enough to take you to
the office, and I need my car to do some shopping
in the morning.”
“Yeah, I might be able to. I’ll call a few
places before you get here and find out. Be
careful coming over here.”
It upset her when he said that to her all the
time or at least she made him think it did. In
fact, it made her feel good. As long as he said
that, she knew that he still cared about her.
When Nikki pulled up to the office in the Wi-
sa, Marcus was standing outside with the hood of
his car up. At least he was mechanically inclined
enough to get the battery out of the car. She
doubted he was capable of much else, but he didn’t
need to be. That’s what mechanics were for.
“Did you find a battery?” she asked as she
walked up to his car.
“Yeah, the tire place down the street happened
to have one by some miracle, and they’re bringing
it over right now. You can go on home if you want
to, and I’ll be there in a little while.”
“No, that’s O.K., I’ll wait for you in case
you have any more trouble.”
“I doubt if I have any trouble with a new
battery, but I’m glad you’re staying. I could use
some hospitable company for a change. It’s been
one hell of a shitty day, if you want to know the
“I could tell that on the phone. What’s gone
wrong besides the battery?”
Pausing to decide if he really wanted to dig
into his bucket of worms, Marcus finally said, “I
wasn’t going to say anything to worry you, but my
day started yesterday. We can talk about it later
when we get home. This isn’t really the place for
“O.K., we have some other things to talk about
tonight anyway. We’ll just make it a regular gab
Before Marcus had a chance to say anything
else, the truck with the battery pulled up beside
his car. Ten minutes later, the Lemontes were on
their way home, both wondering what the other
needed to talk about.
An hour and a half away from Hawthorne in the
town of Wellsly, Matt arrived at the home of Terry
Blake. Terry had been a good friend of his in
college, and he hadn’t seen him in over a year.
Matt had eventually determined that he needed to be
around an old college buddy more than he needed to
actually be on the campus. He also needed a change
of scenery, and besides, Terry had always had a
fascination for dreams. The one he had experienced
the night before would surely fire up that old
As Matt knocked at Terry’s door, the dream
slowly crept back into his thoughts and sent a
shiver down his spine. He was going to have to get
this one out before it gave him any more trouble.
There was no doubt in his mind about that.
“Hey, Matt, how’s it goin’ man? It’s been a
long time. If you hadn’t come down here, I was
thinking I needed to make a trip to Hawthorne to
see you pretty soon.”
Happy with the warm welcome, Matt relaxed
instantly. Good friends were hard to find.
“Yeah, it’s been awhile. We need to get
together more often. You’re only an hour and a
half away. Less if I pretend I have a race car.”
Matt said as Terry let him in.
Laughing, and clearly happy to have some
company, Terry took Matt’s suitcase and sat it by
“Well, you didn’t say much on the phone. I
hope you have more to talk about tonight. I
thought we would go out, if that’s all right with
you. There’s a decent bar in town that’s quiet
enough most of the time for talking.”
“Sounds good to me, as long as we can talk, I
don’t mind at all. I have some things or at least
one thing in particular that you’ll find
interesting, I’m pretty sure.”
“You’re staying tomorrow, too, aren’t you?”
“Well, I don’t know….Why, did you have
something planned? You always were good at keeping
“No, nothing major, just thought we might get
away from this town for awhile and have some
excitement since we’re mostly going to be gabbing
Hesitating briefly, Matt considered the offer,
and said, “I guess I can afford to stay two nights.
That is, if you’ll let me call my store and tell
them I won’t be there tomorrow.”
“Sure, go ahead. I’ll take your suitcase to
the spare room and get you a beer.”
After a few trivialities innate to friendship,
they ate dinner and headed out to the town bar.
With both of them happily putting away their second
beer, Matt began to tell Terry about his dream.
“You know the weird kind of dream where
everything seems real, and when you wake up, you
aren’t sure it was a dream at all? Well, the one I
had last night was like that, and it was the worst
nightmare I’ve had in a long time.”
Terry took a slug of beer and settled in to
“The dream started with me walking up a hill
along with somebody I didn’t know, or at least
didn’t recognize from real life. As we climbed up
the hill, it kept getting darker around us, and it
seemed like we would never reach the top. When we
finally did get there, we were looking down into a
deep pit with water at the bottom. We climbed down
into the pit, and as we went further down, we began
to slide. It was then that I realized that the
whole hill was made of bones. As I slid faster
down the bone hill toward the dark water I looked
frantically around, and the unknown person I’d been
with was gone. I couldn’t keep from sliding and
just before I slid into the water, I abruptly
stopped somehow. As I lay there trying to fight
down the panic, other things began to move around
me. The still black water began to change as
subtle currents began to slowly move towards me.
As they came closer, I realized that the currents
were the result skulls moving just below the
surface. Still panicking, I turned and tried to
scramble out of the pit, but the bones kept rolling
under my feet and I slid back toward the water
every time I moved. Skeletons crept out of the
water and started clawing at my legs. The next
thing I knew, I finally made it up and out of the
pit. I ran and ran and hopelessly still felt as
though something was chasing me. Then everything
abruptly changed and I was in this little room.
When I looked frantically around, I saw that it
wasn’t really a room, but more of a box with
windows on each side but no doors. I had the
sensation that something was outside and was
watching me. I ran to a window and caught a
glimpse of a dark figure as it turned the corner
out of my sight. By this time, I was practically
awake and scared to death. I tried to get out of
the dream, but I couldn’t. Something was
definitely wrong. I was trapped in my own sleep.
The black figure I had seen before flew past the
window again, and this time, I could tell it was
shaped like a man that wasn’t actually running but
floated above the ground. When I turned from the
window, I felt a sharp knock on my head, and my
whole life flashed before my eyes as I finally
broke free of the dream and woke up sweating and
After being caught back up in his dream,
Marcus took a few shuddering breaths and went on.
“That was when I noticed my lamp lay shattered
on the floor and looked as if it had been smashed
by a huge amount of force. The feeling that I
wasn’t alone carried with me out of the dream, but
then it faded away as I tried to clear my head. I
tried to convince myself I had knocked over the
lamp, but I don’t think it should have been
possible. I think people in dream sleep are
supposed to be rigid in such a way as to prevent
them from physically acting out their dreams. I
think, I really think that someone was there in my
house. That’s a big part of the reason I’m here
tonight. If something is getting into my house,
and is going to attack me every time I go to sleep,
I don’t think I can live there anymore.”
With a look of seriousness on his face that
indicated he was no longer pleasantly intoxicated,
Terry responded. “I don’t know what you want me to
do, Matt. I really think you should’ve called the
police. They might have been able to find whoever
was in the house. But the dream sounds like a
perfectly normal nightmare to me, if you want to
call a nightmare normal. I’m sure there’s some
symbolism in it somewhere, but I can’t help you
with it when I don’t know what’s been going on in
“It wasn’t perfectly normal!” Matt exclaimed.
Nothing has scared me like that since I was a
little kid. Do you know what it’s like to wake up
and know, and I mean really know, that someone was
just about to kill you?”
“No, I can’t say that I do, but if it’s
anything like what you’ve just described, I could
happily make it through life without finding out.
What do you say to us going back to my house where
we can talk about this some more in peace and
quiet? I have a lot more beer there.”
“What! Are you crazy? I like it right here
with people all around us. I’m scared enough right
here that I can’t imagine going back to your place.
You know the saying, ‘safety in numbers’.”
“Yeah, I guess I see what you mean.” Terry
agreed. “I don’t think I want to go back there
either, now that you mention it. Let’s put a few
more beers away and try to get this out of our
Relaxing slightly and waving for the
bartender, Matt sat back.
“That’s more like it. If we pass out here,
we’ll be better off anyway. We can talk about this
more tomorrow in full daylight.”
Three hours later, Matt and Terry were forced
to leave as the bar closed for the night. All
thoughts of the dream were gone from their
plastered minds, so they had no reservations about
heading back to Terry’s. Even if they had gone
somewhere else, it wouldn’t have mattered. Nothing
happened through the night.
Matt woke the next afternoon with a hangover
worse than any in his life. To top it off, it was
raining and almost as dark as night. As he crawled
miserably from the couch that he couldn’t quite
remember crashing on, he noticed Terry sitting in a
chair on the other side of the room looking worse
than he would have if he’d just been shot in the
“My god. You look as bad as I feel. What are
you doing up so early?” Matt grumbled.
“I feel as bad as you look, too, believe me.”
Terry returned sickly. “And it’s not early…it’s
already two-thirty in the afternoon, and I’ve been
up ever since your store called to say they needed
you back there.”
Suddenly tense, Matt yelped, “What! What time
was that? Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“Slow down, man. I tried to wake you up, but
you said to leave you alone or else you’d throw up
on me. Believe me, I couldn’t handle that and I
would have returned the favor. I’m not really much
up on that these days. They only called about an
hour ago anyway, well, no…it was more like two
hours. But I doubt if it was that important
Still upset, Matt returned to grumbling, “You
don’t know what incompetent idiots I have working
for me back there either, Terry. They’ve probably
blown the store up somehow, and want to know where
the stapler is so they can fix it…”
“That bad huh, maybe I should go back with you
and kick their butts into shape.”
Without hesitating a second, Matt said,
“That’s a good idea.”
“Yeah sure Matt.” Terry laughed out.
He had never had a management type job, and
wouldn’t know what to do if he did. A bachelor’s
degree in botany just didn’t cut it in today’s
world, and probably never had meant much. He
should have taken the teaching route for better job
security. Instead, he was now making barely over
minimum wage at the local plant nursery, and having
to supplement his income with any extra job he
“I’m serious, Terry.” Matt said without a
hint of humor in his voice.
Trying to understand just what Matt was
getting at, Terry kept the smirk on his face just
in case the idea was a joke. He knew Matt was
always flush with cash, but he had never considered
that he could get in on part of it.
“Come on, Matt. You know that I don’t have a
single business course in my transcripts. And I
wasn’t raised in the clothing store or anything
else even resembling a business.” Terry went on.
But having already clearly made up his mind
that it was a good idea, Matt kept on
encouragingly. “I don’t care. You have more
intelligence than all of Hawthorne put together,
and that’s an understatement. Think it over for a
few days, and I’ll get back to you about it. I’ve
got to get back there now, or else I might end up
without a store at all. Not that it would bother
me much at this point.”
In silence, Terry watched as Matt quickly
threw his stuff together, and rushed out the door.
He had been serious about the offer; there was no
doubt about that. But maybe it was just the
nightmare still spooking him. There was no sense
in giving the offer any more credit than that.
An hour and a half later, Matt found that the
call from the store had been important. His race
back to Hawthorne had been stupid, but necessary
all the same. The dream analysis would have to
wait until some other time. The nightmare just
hadn’t been that bad anyway, as far as he could
remember through the haze of a massive headache. A
dream was a dream and there was no sense in putting
your life on hold while you shivered in your boots.
Especially over something your mind had spun off
after a bad bologna sandwich. It was probably the
last nightmare he would have for another twenty
The thought of having Terry move to town wiped
the dream from his mind. Terry could stay at his
house when he first got into town. He had enough
room, and it would help him keep an eye out for any
Pete wondered what kind of day he was going to
have as he walked out of his house early in the
morning. Things hadn’t been very good lately, and
there was no reason for today to be any better.
The life of a paperboy was getting worse all the
time. If only summer would come so that he could
start mowing yards again for a little change of
Even school hadn’t been any fun lately for
some reason. The rest of his life had better not
be like this, or somebody was going to be in
trouble: him. Maybe there would be something new
to do tomorrow.
Jumping on his bike as always, Pete rode off
towards the paper office to pick up his day’s work.
He didn’t have to wait around for payments today
since everyone had finally paid up. At least there
would be time for him to play ball later on in the
afternoon, or maybe go exploring somewhere.
Thinking about it as the wind whipped past his
face, he decided that was what he would do. He
would go exploring, if he could get Eric to go with
him. He would talk to him first thing at school
and they would probably go exploring.
His paper deliveries and the following school
day drug by like they would never end, and finally
at four o’clock, Pete, Eric, and Harold were on
their way to Chalt Woods. Pete hadn’t really
wanted Harold to go because he was a jerk most of
the time. But Eric had told him he wouldn’t go
unless Harold went. So, Pete knew that he’d just
have to put up with the jerk for the afternoon and
hope that it was fun anyway.
The edginess between Pete and Harold made the
walk to the woods seem longer than it should have.
All three of the boys were tired by the time they
got there, but not one of them would admit it to
the others. It was something of a code that all
boys seemed to follow. Don’t let anybody see that
you’re tired, or they’ll think that you’re a weak
“Well, Pete, this was your idea, so what are
we going to do now?” Harold asked just as Pete
knew he would.
Harold was good at making people feel like
worms. Since Harold was a worm, he knew exactly
what it felt like, and tried as hard as he could to
make sure that everyone else did, too. The only
person he left alone most of the time was Eric.
Pete couldn’t figure out why they were friends.
Eric wasn’t a worm at all, or at least, he didn’t
seem to be around him. It really was amazing that
Eric would want to hang around with a jerk that
nobody else liked. Maybe he felt sorry for Harold.
Wormboy sure needed the sympathy.
“What do you want to do, Harold?” Pete asked,
knowing that whatever he would have said would have
been shot down as it came out of his mouth.
“Oh, this is great, Blair. You bring us all
the way out here, and we’re not even going to do
anything. What do you think of that, Eric?”
“Lay off, Harold. We came out here to
explore, and you know it. Isn’t that right, Pete?”
Feeling relieved that he wasn’t alone in this
one, Pete said, “Yeah, that’s right. But if you
want to Harold, we can go back and sit in your yard
or something fun like that.”
Seeing that he didn’t have a comrade to goad
him on, Harold backed down and said, “I didn’t say
that. It’s just…it’s just that I thought you had
some special plans or something, Pete. I don’t
want to go home now, do you?”
“Of course not, we came out here to explore,
and that’s what we’re going to do if it kills us.”
Pete said, knowing that he had won that little
At least he knew that Eric was on his side
when it came down to choosing one way or another.
That knocked Harold back in his place better than
anything else. Two against one was never a fair
fight, but when you’re dealing with worms, anything
Chalt Woods wasn’t as far as it seemed to the
boys as they trudged along. In fact, it lay right
behind the Lemonte house. Since the funeral home
sat next to the Lemonte house, and the woods spread
behind both of them, stories had sprung up in the
minds of kids through the years about both places.
Most of the kids in town had heard the stories, and
almost all believed them. In fact, even a few of
the adults in town thought that there might be some
truth to them, particularly the ones about old mad
Portraire dragging people into the funeral home and
chopping them up. But most of the people of the
town placed the stories on about the same level as
children’s fairy tales, especially since Portraire
had been taken away from town. If there had ever
had been any proof, Hawthorne had swallowed it up
to protect the interests of its people. The three
boys were well aware of the stories, and they made
sure that they stayed away from that part of the
woods. Dead people with no heads, and skeletons in
coffins stayed there, and they didn’t like for
little kids to be poking around. Harold knew it as
well as the others did, and that was why he came up
with his mean spirited dare for Pete.
“Pete. I dare you to go the front of the
woods and touch the funeral home.” He said slyly,
as if the other two wouldn’t see through his
totally transparent scheme.
“We aren’t playing truth or dare, Harold.”
Pete said disgustedly.
“We are now, unless you’re chicken.”
“I’m not chicken. We aren’t playing that game
and you know it. Besides, if you’re so up on going
to the funeral home, why don’t you go yourself?”
“You are a chicken, aren’t you? I knew it!
If somebody would have dared me to go first, I
would have gone.” Harold spouted self-righteously.
“All right then,” Eric said, leveling the
playing field, “I dare you to go with him.”
“Now wait a minute. I didn’t ever say that I
was going.” Pete shot out, starting to feel
trapped into the situation.
With no one left to dare him, Eric sat down.
He knew he had a good thing going here. The other
boys were throwing fits about going, and it was fun
to just sit back and laugh. He didn’t laugh out
loud, of course.
“Well, you two had better get going. It’s
starting to get dark out, and it will only be worse
With miserable looks at Eric, Pete and Harold
finally gave up and started off toward the front of
“Wait a minute!” Eric yelled. “You have to
bring me back something to prove that you went all
of the way to the funeral home.”
Needing proof made them feel even worse.
Neither one had actually intended on going all of
the way to the funeral home, but now they had no
choice. This whole deal sucked.
As the sun crept behind a distant hill, the
light slowly began to fade, and Eric himself began
to get a little jumpy. The time passed in slow
motion, and what seemed like two or three hours had
only been fifteen minutes. The others had been
gone way too long, and he couldn’t wait any longer.
Darkness had almost totally taken over the woods as
Eric got up from the ground, and started to go
after Pete and Harold. A twig snapped behind him,
and he turned jerkily around.
“Is that you, Pete…Harold?”
But there was no answer, and the sudden
stillness sent him running towards the front of the
woods not caring if he looked cool anymore.
The BMW made it home all right for Marcus, and
it was a good thing that it did. If they were
going to talk, his bad mood would send them into an
argument faster than anything else. They needed
this talk, or he knew they were in for harder times
than they had ever seen. Divorce was an ugly word
that had always turned his stomach. They weren’t
going to end up as another statistic, no matter
what the circumstances were. Unless of course she
had been sleeping with Matt Erickson and that would
prove to be another story. If that ever happened,
Marcus knew he would end up in prison on a double
murder charge. Loving Nikki was one thing, but
love had to be a two way street, or there was no
sense in even caring at all. He wasn’t wrapped
around her finger like he used to be, and if she
abused him; he didn’t really give a shit what
happened to her. A flare of anger briefly came
with the smell of hotdogs and popcorn, but the
smells faded quickly as he asked Nikki, “Well, do
you want to eat before we start into this?”
As they walked to the back door and went into
the house, Nikki responded, “I think we had better.
I’ve got some chili on the stove, and we can have
sandwiches if you want.”
His stomach growled at the thought of chili,
and the hotdog and popcorn smells faded further
“That sounds pretty good. I’ve been hungry
for chili all week.”
“I know. You told me about ten times already.
I wish that you liked more of the things that I do
so it would be easier on me.”
“You know that you don’t have to fix anything
special for me, I’ll eat anything that you fix.”
“I’m not complaining. I just thought that
you’d like one of your favorites so that you’d be
in a better mood to talk. That’s why I made the
chili, and I made enough for you to put in the
freezer to eat when you want.”
“Thanks, Nik, but you didn’t have to do that.”
Neither one of them said a word as they sat
down to eat. Both were trying to figure out how to
say what they needed to say and neither one was
ready or willing to open up yet. They drew out the
meal as long as they could, and then, after an
hour, cleared the table and went to the living
“You know, Nikki. I think we really need this
talk. We might say things that upset each other,
but we have to accept that and realize that it’s
for the best.”
“I’m glad you see it that way, too, Marcus.”
Nikki quietly said.
“No, I’m serious, Nikki. I haven’t really
thought about this before, but every time you say
something that I don’t like, I get up and walk away
from it. I don’t even stop to think about what
you’ve said, and a lot of the time you’re probably
What had been obvious to Nikki throughout
there entire relationship was clearly a major
revelation to Marcus. Feeling hopeful, she said
quickly, “I never have understood why you take off
in your car. Don’t you realize that driving when
you’re upset is dangerous? And not just for you,
but for everyone else on the road, too.”
“Yeah, I know,” he started, “but there’s
something in me that makes me do it. Ever since I
first got my driver’s license, I’ve taken off in my
car to calm myself down. I think it would be hard
to change such an ingrown habit.”
Briefly looking into his eyes, she said, “The
thing is, Marcus, you’re going to have to change if
you want to stay alive. I need you to stop doing
that because sometime, something bad is going to
happen to you. Our lives will be ruined, Marcus.
You have to think of the future.”
Thinking about the string of seizures he had
been assaulted with recently, the plate in his
head, and the fact that he had almost died, guilt
pulled Marcus down several notches.
“I’m really sorry about that, Nikki. I’ll try
to keep from doing it anymore. I guess that I just
haven’t given it much thought before, and I didn’t
realize that it bothered you so much.”
As a momentary pause came to the conversation,
and just as he was about to bring up the seizures,
they both heard frantic pounding at the back door.
With the sounds reverberating through the house,
Nikki jumped up and ran to the kitchen.
“Wait for me, Nik.” Marcus said as he
followed her to the door. “It might be someone
needing my help.”
His statement having hit a raw nerve, she
blurted, “If they need a doctor, Marcus, they can
wait until you get to the door. You’re only a few
feet behind me.”
When Nikki opened the door and saw Eric
Hopston standing there, his eyes full of tears, she
nearly blurted out ‘What do you want.’ But the kid
ran by her babbling something about Pete and
Harold, and didn’t calm down until Marcus pushed
him into a chair and told him to catch his breath.
“Settle down, son. What’s wrong? I can’t
“It’s Pete…Pete and..and Harold have been
eaten..by the skeletons. They haven’t come back
from the place…” and as his breathing slowed, he
explained what had just happened until Marcus
Pete and Harold had gone into the woods toward
the funeral home, and hadn’t come back. It had
been a long time, and they hadn’t come back!
As Pete’s mom looked out her kitchen window,
she saw the figure on the corner. She had never
seen it there before, but now that it was, she felt
something was wrong. She glanced down at her
dishes and when she looked up, the dark figure was
gone. It made her feel better to see that it was
gone. She didn’t know why, but it made her feel a
hell of a lot better…
The clothing store had Matt trapped into a
miserable and mundane life. His only hope for some
freedom would be Terry, if Terry decided it was a
good option to move to Hawthorne and work at the
store. He already knew he couldn’t trust anyone in
this little town to help with the business. At
some points in the past two years, Matt had
considered bringing Nikki into the business. But
then Marcus actually pulled through by some miracle
and his plan died before he even mentioned it to
her. Nothing had changed at the store in the mean
time. He could barely find clerks skilled enough
to unload boxes of clothes and count change.
Actually, counting change seemed the major obstacle
to employment, when he thought about it. And he
had thought about it repeatedly over the time that
he had run the store. His life was trickling away
by the day, and almost all he had to show for it
was the money. Sure, Terry would cut into his
profits a little, but it would be well worth it in
the long run. He could even extend the store hours
some to accommodate the financial loss if he found
Sitting at his desk in the back room of the
clothing store, Matt listened as two women argued
over a dress they had both just found at the same
time. Just what he needed, a scuffle, no actually
a catfight over a stupid piece of cloth, he would
probably end up in a lawsuit over it somehow when
the dust cleared. It almost made him wish nudity
had come into fashion. But a smile crept onto his
face as the two hideously obese arguing women came
into his view, and he instantly decided that
nothing was as bad as he had just imagined. The
only real problem was that they were too busy. Not
a problem at all, financially speaking for him.
But for the average person just working for the
place, any customer could easily be one too many.
He would always remember that from the days when he
had worked here for his dad. Those dreadful
monsters who came in at five minutes ’til closing
time ‘just to look round’.
His dad had always said, “Just let ’em look,
boy. Don’t run ‘em off. They might just be paying
your way through school if they stay here looking
And he had always remembered those words, as
much as he hated then at the time. Every customer
was a potential profit, and every one of them had
to be treated as if they were buying out the store.
As busy as they were now, just his presence in the
store gave his people the moral support that they
needed to get through the rush. It was nice, in a
way, to know that he was needed somewhere.
The rest of the day went quickly, and before
long, he was on his way home. He didn’t remember
the dream from two nights before until he walked in
the door and saw the broken lamp on the floor. He
should have cleaned that mess up earlier so that it
wouldn’t be there to remind him of the nightmare
today. Grabbing a broom and a dustpan, he made
quick work of it, and soon he only had his own
thoughts to remind him of the dream.
After all of the events of the day, it was now
late evening and he again had nothing to do. It
would be stupid to drive all of the way back to
Wellsly again just for another drunken night. He
was going to be sitting at home for the millionth
time alone unless some miracle appeared out of the
The evening slowly slipped into night, and
before long, Matt was getting too tired to even
think about doing anything. Whatever he did
though, he couldn’t fall asleep in his old chair
again. That in itself might be enough to spur
another nightmare. Not exactly a happy thought for
a tired mind and body. As Matt struggled to stay
awake, he suddenly jumped up and turned the
television off. He had to get out of the house.
He would take a drive. It would shake the sleep
off. He might even stay in a motel to avoid
sleeping at his house for the night. He should
have made the drive again back to Wellsly, but it
was way too late now.
Grabbing his keys, he ran outside. A brief
look at his car as he opened the driver’s side door
brought an idea to his cloudy brain. It was about
time for him to get a new car. He had owned this
one longer than he had owned any other car in his
life, and it was definitely time for a change. He
was getting tired of his old rough riding Jaguar
two-seater anyway. It was about time to grow up,
ditch the sporty import, and get a family-type car.
No telling if he would ever need it, but there was
still a chance. Thirty-three wasn’t quite over the
hill yet and besides, the solitary life was
starting to get to him. If Nikki would truly open
her eyes to him, they could probably have a good
life together. He would have to get his old buddy
Marcus out of the way though, and that would be a
task! To do that, he would have to work his way
around Marcus until Nikki was able to actually see
that Marcus wasn’t the right man for her.
Then there was always the chance that he might
find someone else that he could fall in love with.
That hadn’t happened yet, and it was highly
unlikely in Hawthorne. Especially since he knew
that he wouldn’t let it happen. Every girl that he
saw only reminded him of Nikki in some way or
another. That wouldn’t really be fair to the girl,
not that fairness mattered when it came to love.
One of the two lovers always cared more than the
other person was capable of. It was the way of the
world; nothing could be fair and equal.
Creeping down the street in his jag, his eyes
glanced from house to house admiring the nice ones,
and mentally criticizing the ugly ones. This would
be a better thing to do on a walk. But he felt
secure in a car, especially a moving one. The
blocks and the time moved by with infinite
slowness, so he was going to have to find a better
way to spend the night. He would run out of gas
pretty soon anyway, and Hawthorne didn’t have an
all night gas station. Sometimes this small town
got on his nerves. Actually, this small town
always got on his nerves. There was nothing to do
at night, nothing to do ever if he really thought
about it. Why hadn’t his father owned a store
someplace where there was something to do? Stupid
thought, he knew, but it had always bothered him.
A forward thinking place with a population twice
that of Hawthorn’s three thousand would have a
dozen more things to do and even one thing was more
than Hawthorne had. But then, he didn’t have to
live here. It was his choice, and if it weren’t
for the store and maybe Nikki, he wouldn’t.
Pete wasn’t too happy about the situation he
was in. First of all, he hated dares, especially
spiteful ones issued by worms like Harold. Being
with Harold was another thing. He couldn’t stand
the guy in the first place, and now they were both
off on this miserable dare just because of him.
The disgustingness of Harold never ceased to amaze
him. The worst thing though was having to go to
the old funeral home, with Harold or anyone else.
Even having some superhero with him wouldn’t
comfort him on this horrible trek into fear. And
since a slimy old worm was nothing in comparison to
a superhero, how was he supposed to get through
this? He would though, just to get back at and
torment Harold. After all, Harold had to deal with
the dare the same as he did thanks to Eric.
As they got closer to the front of the woods,
the sky gradually became darker. Maybe it was only
a trick of their eyes, but it was real enough to
make them flinch at every little sound. The
shadows were fading in the decreasing light, which
helped them move along somewhat. But once they
were that scared, there was no way to change it.
At last, they reached the front of the woods,
and they could see the back of the Lemonte house in
the distance. Afraid that the Lemontes might see
them and wonder what they were doing, the boys
stayed in the trees to skirt their yard and moved
off toward the funeral home. With each step that
took them closer, the blackness of its silhouette
gradually filled the sky and eventually sucked away
all the light leaving them with only one thing to
look at. Staring at all of its blackened windows
and unkempt shrubbery, the funeral home ate at
their hearts until fear wasn’t just a feeling, but
a part of their very souls. The depth of the
darkened windows gave them the nightmarish feeling
that hands could reach out at any time and rip them
from their lives into the blackness of a thousand
deaths. There would be no escape from this place
if they dared to enter. Eleven-year-old hearts
were strong, but not strong enough to withstand
such an impossible terror.
Pete’s eyes wildly scanned the back of the
funeral home for anything that could be easily
taken as proof that they had made it all the way.
Standing as far away from the place as he could,
but at the same time trying to keep close enough to
see if there was anything he could pick up ended up
being impossible. With an incredible effort of
will, he pushed Harold in front of him and followed
him to within a foot of one of the gaping windows.
Both visibly shaking now, they couldn’t avoid
looking through the window that was now only inches
from their faces. For a minute, their eyes stared
into pure unyielding darkness. With no warning,
they both let out screams loud enough to deafen a
person blocks away and took off for the road as
fast as they could.
Anyone passing the old funeral home that night
would have seen two boys, eyes wider than
baseballs, careening down the driveway. It would
have been a strange and maybe even humorous sight
to a new person in Hawthorne, and long time
residents would probably have shrugged it off as
the kids’ wild imaginations setting them to flight.
These people would have all been wrong. The boys’
eyes had caught sight of something that was by no
means just in their imaginations. People do not
walk out of walls!
In the home of realtor Norman Briggs, an
unusual discussion was just taking place. A person
from some distant town had called minutes before
inquiring about the old Lemonte funeral home, and
Norman had told them that it had already been sold
in the last week.
“What are you talking about, Norman?” his wife
asked as he got off the phone.
“That was a minister from over in St.
Louis…Wanted to know if the old funeral home was
still up for sale.”
“I heard that, Norman. But why did you tell
him that it’d been sold? You know very well that
it’s still on the market.”
“I know, I know. But it’s just not the kind
of place that a church would want to be looking
into, if you know what I mean. I’ve had too many
weird experiences in that place myself just trying
to sell it. There’s no telling what other people
have experienced there.”
“What do you mean spooky stuff? You’ve never
told me anything about that old place. It can’t be
that bad, can it?”
“Yeah, it’s that bad, Phyllis. I don’t think
that you could handle hearing any of it. You have
enough trouble getting to sleep on a normal night,
let alone after watching a horror movie. I don’t
think that it would be fair for me to tell you
anything when it’s already dark outside.”
“Oh, don’t treat me like a little kid, Norman.
I want to hear what’s been happening to you in that
Norman knew that he shouldn’t say anything
more to her though. His wife was one of the
biggest gossips in the whole town of Hawthorne. If
he told her even a little, the place would never
sell. He still had a hefty commission riding on
the sale of that place, and he wasn’t about to let
his wife screw it up for him. He had already gone
through enough shit to sell that place forty times.
He would probably get rid of it pretty soon if he
would be a little less selective and a little more
patient. A twang of remorse about turning away the
minister caught him harshly in the gut for a
second, but then passed. He knew he had done the
right thing in that respect. But Phyllis’s nagging
became too much for him in time though, and he
eventually had to tell her a few things just to
shut her up.
“Since your life seems to depend on this so
much, Phyllis, I guess I’ll tell you a few things
that have happened to me in that old place. I
don’t want to hear any more about this afterwards
though, and if I find out anything has left this
house before that place sells, YOU will be showing
the place yourself.”
Feeling that she had won another little battle
with Norman, Phyllis sat back in her chair to hear
what she thought she had wanted to hear just a few
“As you know, I’ve shown that place more than
forty times since Marcus Lemonte’s mother first
asked me to sell it almost eight years ago. In the
beginning, I didn’t have anything out of the
ordinary happen to me. But after a few showings,
the place started to get to me, and I thought that
I had to be imagining things. You know what I
mean…footsteps in the rooms overhead, doors
closing on the other side of the funeral home, and
other things that you can’t see but could easily be
caused by rats, mice, or even the building
It had always bothered me that Marcus
Lemonte’s dad had died in that place, and I think
maybe that was what started getting to me. It’s
crazy, but the thought of that one person dying in
the place was a lot worse than the fact that the
funeral home had housed thousands of other dead
people over the course of time.
Anyway, one day, I stupidly got there about an
hour before my clients were to show up. I walked
around for a while trying to make sure that
everything was straightened up so that the place
might sell a little easier. When I had finished, I
still had about half an hour to kill. It didn’t
feel right to sit in there with nothing to keep me
occupied and distracted. But with nowhere else to
go in such a short amount of time, I stayed and
decided to have a seat on one of the old benches in
the front hall. The benches all face the massive
staircase that rises to the second floor and I
could clearly see all the way to the top. When I
sat down, I couldn’t help but feel some relief
after being on my feet all day. I kept looking at
my watch hoping the people would show up early.
The time crept by slower than you could possibly
imagine with me not wanting to be there alone as I
was in the first place. When my clients didn’t
show on time, I almost left to call them and move
the appointment to another day. Actually, I did
get up and head for the door, but I stopped after
my first step when I heard a strange pounding noise
coming from the top of the stairs. Reluctantly
turning back around, I vaguely noticed that my butt
had plopped to the floor as the shock of what I was
seeing hit me. Rolling slowly down the stairs was
what looked like a human head, all white and with
hair flopping about wildly. The head thumped to
the bottom of the stairs and slowly rolled up to my
feet. By that point, I guess I was starting to
lose consciousness. The last thing that I can
remember is the head landing upright as its mouth
opened spewing out a sickening yellowish fluid
followed by the most hideous scream I have ever
heard. I swear it could have woken the dead, but
it didn’t keep me from passing out.
When I came to, the prospective buyers were
staring down at me like I was a fool. The little
kid that they had with them was giggling and
pointing at me. When I looked down at what he was
laughing at, I realized that I had wet my pants.
That attempted sale didn’t quite go through, as you
Phyllis chuckled a little silently and covered
it up with her hand finding much more to laugh at
than to fear in his story. As ridiculous and
pathetic as it was, Norman appeared to be serious.
She continued to choke the oncoming laugh down, and
let him tell her more.
Going on without pausing as if he wouldn’t get
it out otherwise, Norman continued. “Then, about
two months later, I finally built the courage to go
back into the place. This time, however, I thought
I was getting the upper hand by taking one of my
associates with me. If I was going to see anything
else that bad, I wasn’t going to be the only one
losing control of my bladder. You didn’t ever know
this either, I’m sure, but I was about ready to
check myself into a mental hospital after that
first scare, and I was dead serious about it.
Of course, nothing happened with my associate
there, and I was having real doubts about myself.
I even drove over to the library in Patton to read
up on some things of the like I had seen.”
Unable to contain herself any longer, Phyllis
burst out laughing and jumped out of her chair with
the exuberance of a teenager.
“Where are you going, Phyllis?” Norman asked
as he watched her trot off toward the kitchen.
“I’m going to call the men in the white suits.
I don’t think that you tried hard enough to get
yourself locked up, but I’ll make sure that they
take you away!”
Suddenly furious, Norman decided he didn’t
care if he scared the shit out of her now.
“Damnit, get back in here, Phyllis, this isn’t
funny! I really did see that and I’m positive I
did because I’ve seen a hell of a lot more than
that since then. Do you want to hear about any
more of it or not?”
“I don’t know, Norman, I might laugh too hard
to hear you or maybe laugh so hard I wet my pants.
You would understand that wouldn’t you.” Still
laughing she sat back down. “I haven’t heard any
of these little kiddy ghost stories in years, and I
had forgotten how pathetically stupid and childish
“Believe what you want, but I saw what I saw,
and nothing can change the way that I feel about
that place. Maybe you need to go see a few things
yourself, and then you won’t have a choice but to
Continuing to laugh, she boldly said,
“Maybe…But I doubt it.”
“I’m going to tell you about one other
incident, and if you still don’t believe me by
then, you’re going over there to see for yourself.”
“Great, now you’re throwing idle little
threats at me so that I’ll believe you. You really
are losing it over that place, aren’t you?”
“Just listen, Phyllis!” He yelled.
With the room finally quieted down, he began
again, “For the next year or so, I always took
someone with me when I went to that place.
Occasionally, things would happen, and other people
have seen some of them. They haven’t dared spread
any stories around town though because they know
that I’ll fire them and have their licenses revoked
if they do.
One of these times and just in the past few
months, I had my secretary, Janet Portraire, with
me. We had a showing that evening with some people
from Vincennes, and they weren’t supposed to be
there until about nine o’clock because of travel
time. This was the first time that Janet had gone
with me. I guess some of my brokers had let a few
things slip, and she had heard some stories about
the place. Well, anyway, she had asked if she
could go with me this time, and since all of my
other people had plans of some kind or another, I
We were walking around the upstairs of the
place and I was having the same queasy feelings
that I always had. She had sort of a defiant air
about herself that I didn’t like too much. It was
almost like she was daring the place to do
something to her. Believe me, that place doesn’t
need any encouragement. I thought that her
attitude was going to drive the devil himself
straight out of hell, the way she was strutting
I guess I was pretty relieved when the people
actually showed up early to look through the place.
We walked around for at least an hour and talked,
but I was careful and didn’t let on about anything
unusual about the place. I really wanted to get
rid of it by then. With my experience, I could
tell that they weren’t interested, but I kept
pushing and driving them even further away from a
sale. I think that they had to sense that there
was something wrong. Within the first few minutes
of the showing, their eyes were darting around at
every little movement in the shadows. The longer
we walked around, the more the tension built up in
there. From the past, I could tell that something
was about to happen. It only made it worse that
Janet really wanted a ghost to reach out and touch
her from a hole in the darkness.
We were looking at the last room at the end of
the hall upstairs when I felt an ice-cold draft
swirl around me and send chills down my spine.
That was all the warning I needed. I tried
desperately to push the people out the door, but
they were frozen in their tracks. The chill had
swallowed us all.
The draft intensified, and I could tell that
they were all feeling it again by the expressions
on their faces. I was really scared by now, and my
voice was cracking as I again tried to push the
people out the door into the hall.
They were starting to budge a little when I
noticed a dark figure in the far corner of the
room. I couldn’t help but stare, and the others’
eyes flew to the same spot.
The figure didn’t move at first, but I thought
that it was in the dark shadowy form of a person.
Janet started walking toward the figure, shrugging
my hand off her shoulder as she went. I tried to
hold her back, but I couldn’t do that and also push
the other people out the door.
As I watched in horror, she walked around the
old bed in the center of the room and moved into
the shadows. The air around me froze as I watched
her back out of the shadowy corner and fall onto
the bed. The figure that had been in the corner
appeared over her out of nowhere, and before she
could move, merged into her body and then
Janet lay there on the bed, her eyes about to
pop out of her head, and began to cry
uncontrollably. I heard the pounding of running
feet behind me, and turned around half expecting to
see a plague of demons.
The people were gone, and I could clearly hear
their echoed footsteps from the lower floor as they
tried to get out.
I managed to pull Janet off the bed, and
practically had to carry her out to the car, by
then too afraid to even glance back once. She
hasn’t gone back there with me since, and she
hasn’t said a word about what happened that night
ever since then. In fact, the whole traumatic
experience affected her pretty severely, and she
never has quite gotten back to normal.”
Stopping, he felt confident in asking her, “Do
you believe what I told you now Phyllis, or are you
going to have to find out the hard way for
In a contemptuous way that made Norman wonder
why the hell he had ever married her, Phyllis
simply said, “When do we go potty pants?”
The nursing home in Breklettin was as peaceful
as always in the early morning. Most of the
patients, or residents as they preferred to call
themselves, were far into their restless sleep and
wouldn’t pull out of it until about noon. Age was
taking a heavy toll on these people. Most could
barely make it to the bathroom on their own anymore
let alone step beyond the borders set by the walls
of the home.
In the director’s office, an intensely serious
meeting was taking place concerning the running of
the home. The board had come to the conclusion
that the current director wasn’t fit to run their
home, respectable as it was, considering his
clearly evident past record in the place. A huge
stack of undelivered documents sitting beside his
desk was the basis of their argument and the
foundation upon which his termination was now being
“We still can’t understand why you never sent
out all of these packages here, Frank. We’ve
collected an almost endless series of complaints
from relatives, you know.” Said the senior board
member harshly, “And we have discussed this issue
more than once.”
“I was getting around to it.” The director
managed to say.
“Sure, Frank. We can believe that, just like
you were getting around to it five years ago when
some of these papers first came into your office.”
Caught in his own laziness and stupidity, the
director laid his head on what used to be his desk
and began to cry. His half-assed work ethic had
cost him his job finally and it was doubtful that
he could get another one in the future because of
As the board members started to file out of
the office, one of the last to leave glanced around
to take a last look at the former director. A wisp
of smoke caught his eye, and a second later, flames
erupted from the pile of papers.
“Fire!” he screamed, as he pulled the man in
front of him back into the office. “Get some
Tearing his jacket from his back, he threw it
on top of the spreading fire, and shot a shitty
look at the director.
“What the hell did you do that for?” He
barked. “Your job’s already down the tube. Why do
you have to screw it up for the next guy?”
“But I didn’t do it.” whined the director. “I
swear, I didn’t do it..”
“Like hell you didn’t do it! You’re the only
one in the room who would have a reason to.” The
board member said as a crowd of others began to
surround the director’s desk.
Pushing the stack of papers and packages to
the floor to spread them out, the board members
watched in amazement as one of them instantly began
to smoke and caught fire. Before anyone could
stomp the flame out, one of them had grabbed it up.
The flame began to eat at his hand and he waved the
papers frantically to put it out. A cup of water
came flying through the air, followed by a burst of
steam as the flame was doused. The director had
put the final work of his career into the
retirement home. No one was grateful.
Staring at the strange old piece of paper, the
men watched as it again began to smolder even while
it was wet. Another cascade of water fell from the
surrounding area as all of those with cups still in
hand contributed to the cause.
“What the hell is that paper?” One of the men
choked out as steam continued to pour from it.
Struggling to open the parchment before it
again ignited, they looked at each other puzzled
when they finally did get it open.
“I can’t read anything on this” was the next
consensus of the day.
Eagan Portraire hadn’t seen fit to translate
“They couldn’t have just disappeared, son.”
Marcus said as he tried to calm Eric down enough to
hear the story.
But Eric just kept trying to get them to go
outside, and they finally gave in and followed him.
He led them straight back to the woods and started
to go in, but Marcus grabbed his arm and pulled him
“We’re not going any further until you tell us
what’s really going on here. Is it Pete the
paperboy who’s lost? If you can’t explain it to
us, we won’t know what to do.”
“Yes, you have to tell us what’s going on
here, O.K.” Nikki put in, sounding a little more
understanding than Marcus.
After a few minutes of continuous coaxing,
they finally got Eric to calm down and tell them
what had happened. He gave them the whole account
of their journey to the woods to explore, of the
dares, and of the resulting loss of his friends.
Then he started to ramble on hysterically again
about the monsters in the woods, and he began
shortly afterward to cry again.
“We’ll look for them,” Marcus said, “and we’ll
find them even if it takes the police to do it.”
They all looked for the two boys for a few
hours until Nikki decided to call their homes and
see if they had gone there. By this time, Marcus
was searching hesitantly around the old funeral
home, and had found the cap that Pete had
apparently been wearing when he had ventured where
he shouldn’t be. The thought that two little boys
had been playing around the old place scared the
hell out of him. After being knocked on the head
in there, or whatever had happened, there was no
telling what might happen to two little kids. If
something had overpowered him in there it might
tear them to shreds and not even exert itself doing
When Nikki came over to him with the news that
both of the boys were home, and had been babbling
incoherently about ghosts, Marcus quickly got away
from the funeral home and rushed them all back to
“What’s wrong, Marcus? You don’t actually
think that they saw something in there do you? I
mean, they’re only little kids, and you know that
they can have some pretty wild imaginations.”
But she said this without much conviction, and
Marcus knew that she was frightened by the thought
that there might be something so terrible in the
funeral home. He would have to tell her what had
happened to him the other night.
“After we run Eric home, we need to finish our
talk from earlier, Nik.” Marcus said softly.
Having heard that the other two boys had seen
ghosts, Eric hung closely to Nikki and Marcus as
they walked over to the car. He would have to call
Pete and Harold when he got home to find out what
had happened to them. If it had anything to do
with ghosts though, maybe he had better wait until
morning to find out. That was what he needed to
do, wait until it was fully light outside to hear
what had happened. He knew one thing for sure
though. He wasn’t ever going out into the woods
again, and he especially wouldn’t go anywhere near
the old funeral home.
On the way to Eric’s house, Marcus drove past
the funeral home even though it was out of the way.
The place sure as hell was creepy. He hadn’t ever
really thought about it back when he went there
with his dad. The long drive that was very
uncommon for a funeral home, the old trees that
lined the drive and made an intensely dark tunnel
as they overlapped it, and all of the blackened
windows which gave it the appearance of having a
multitude of eyes keeping constant watch, it was no
wonder no one wanted to buy the place. He sure as
“You haven’t ever been close to that old place
have you Eric?” Marcus asked, seeing Nikki give
him a dirty look.
“No. I hear all kinds of stories about it,
and I’m afraid to go there. I couldn’t believe
that Pete and Harold went, even if it was a dare.”
“Well, I want you to make me a promise. I
don’t want you or any of your friends to go
anywhere near there ever again, O.K.”
With a shrug of acknowledgment, Eric agreed to
his request, and soon they were pulling into his
“Thanks for bringing me home. Can I have
Pete’s hat so I can give it to him tomorrow?”
“Well, I thought that I might give it to him
tomorrow myself when he delivers our paper.”
“Oh…I guess that would be O.K.” Eric said,
a little disappointed that he didn’t have a reason
to go see Pete the next day. He would go anyway,
of course. But that would have been a good excuse
to go over tonight, and maybe even get to spend the
“Bye, Eric, and remember what I said, O.K.”
And with that, Nikki and Marcus drove off.
They were both quiet on the way home, and it didn’t
look like they were going to talk anymore at all
that night when Nikki finally spoke up.
“You shouldn’t scare those kids anymore than
they already are. I don’t know if there’s any
truth to their story, but I don’t like that place
for my own reasons, and we don’t need any more
stories drifting around if we’re gonna ever get rid
“I know that, Nikki, but I just don’t want
anybody getting hurt over there. I haven’t told
you this, but I was over there the other evening
after we had that fight, and something happened to
What! Why didn’t you tell me!”
“I was afraid that night, and I didn’t want to
bring it up and scare myself anymore. I didn’t
think that you needed a scare that night either,
Nik. But if you want to know now, I’ll tell you.”
“You’re going to have to start telling me
things when they happen, Marcus. Otherwise, I’m
going to worry even more every time you leave the
After a short pause, Marcus began.
“Well, you know why I left in the first place.
When I took off, I was going to go on one of my
drives, but it just didn’t feel right that day. It
didn’t seem like it was going to do any good, so I
turned around and drove back.
As I was going past the funeral home, I had
this sudden urge to pull in. The next thing I
knew, I was opening the back door. I sensed
something strange there, and it started to get at
me before I even touched the door handle, so I
turned around to leave. Just as I got to my car,
though, I saw a flash of light come from one of the
funeral home windows. I thought someone had broken
in, so against my better judgment, I went back to
see who was trying to rob the place. There are
still a few things in there worth a little money,
you know, and I couldn’t see losing them to some
It was really dark, so I tripped around in the
back room for a while before I made it to the
hallway. Bringing it down to the basics, I’ve
never been so afraid in all my life. When I
started to go down the hall, I felt a presence of
some kind that seemed to surround me. There was
also a harsh chill that kept swirling around the
hall, but I figured that it must be due to the back
door being open. But then the presence seemed to
get stronger, as if it knew that I wasn’t going to
turn around and leave. The air became so heavy and
oppressive that I thought I was going to choke to
death. Maybe it was just my imagination, but when
I was about to pass out, I thought I heard
footsteps. When I hit the ground, the last thing I
think I saw was a dark figure looming over me.
I don’t know how long I was out. You probably
can figure that out better than I can because I
don’t know what time I left or what time I came
home. When I did wake up, I had a tremendous
headache. There was a bump on my head the size of
a golf ball that was either due to me being hit, or
was the result of me being slammed to the floor. I
kind of like to think that it was from a person
swinging a bat, because that would rule out any of
the other things that have filled my imagination
Anyway, when I woke up, the choking sensation
was gone, and I got up and ran out of there as fast
as I could move without literally tearing through a
When I drove away from the funeral home just
to come next door, I felt a thousand times better.
But feeling better wasn’t enough to make me capable
of telling you that night. If you remember, I went
straight to bed, even though I didn’t sleep the
entire night. I heard every sound that filtered
into our bedroom that night as footsteps, and every
shadow looked like it was going to attack me.
Do you see why I warned the little kid to stay
away from there now? If another person died in
that place, I think that I would probably have a
breakdown. There is something seriously wrong with
that place, and I’m almost ready to burn it down to
prevent it from hurting anyone else.”
The car was swallowed by silence as Nikki
tried to take in Marcus’s story. To think that
someone almost killed her husband, and she hadn’t
even known about it. Her gut feelings that day had
been sickeningly valid. It was bad enough that he
hadn’t told her, but she now knew it wouldn’t
matter anyway because her gut would tell her, and
she couldn’t imagine how she would handle that kind
The fallout of these thoughts was a flood of
tears flowing from her eyes, and she reached over
to hug him knowing that she had come close to
losing him forever. Her talk would have to wait.
It seemed insignificant now, and upsetting him
anymore would be pretty despicable. She loved him
and didn’t want to lose him. That was all that
The dark hallway of the funeral home gleamed
with some even deeper blackness as the figure at
the end beckoned Pete to come forward. Against his
will, but somehow compelled to do so, Pete obeyed.
As he went further, each step was like another nail
being driven into his coffin. He knew that when he
reached the end of the hall, he would die. He had
no doubt about it. He desperately tried to fight
“NO! I won’t come to you! You can’t have me.
You can’t have me!” But the words that Pete yelled
were of no use. He had no control of his body.
Only his mind was free to fight the pull of the
Suddenly, from the dark hole of one of the
doorways at his side, a white disfigured hand
clawed at his arm leaving a horrible gash down to
the bone. Blood gushed from the open wound, and
Pete let out a scream of pain, but no sound escaped
from his mouth. There was no hope. His life was
over. He was only a little boy, and his life was
over… This couldn’t be happening to him. He had
gone to his room a little while ago, so how did he
get into the funeral home. As the blood poured
from his arm to the floor, he slowly remembered
what had happened. He had gone back to the funeral
home to find his hat. He had to have his hat back,
and that was why he was here now. But something
had pulled his body inside, and, as much as he
fought it, he was here now. All hope was lost. He
was here, and he was about to die. The gleam of
the figures eyes submerged in the darkness made his
heart burn with rage.
The floor unexpectedly gave way, and he was
falling….falling into the blackness that could be
nothing short of hell. Everything was happening so
quickly, as if he was in a dream, a dream that he
couldn’t get out of.
And then something had a hold of his shoulder.
He forced himself to turn around, and with a scream
that woke half of his neighborhood up, he was
awake, drenched with sweat, but awake and in his
Faster than normally possible, Pete ran to his
mom’s room and jumped into her bed. She hadn’t
even woken to his screams, and he felt this meant
he was now free of danger. Safe…..until he fell
Across town, Harold was also having horrifying
nightmares. The dreams were of demons walking out
of walls and chasing him through an endless maze of
hallways. The hallways all led to more demons, and
when he thrashed himself awake, he was cowering
down on the floor next to his bed. The absolute
darkness he saw under his bed sent him flying into
his parent’s room. Shivering, he realized his own
house wasn’t even safe from the monsters he had
seen in the funeral home. He spent the rest of the
night awake, afraid for his life.
The day was an incredibly beautiful one for
Hawthorne. But Hawthorne wasn’t the place to buy a
car, or at least not a car that was worth driving.
Matt left his house with this thought, but he also
knew that he had better check up on the few car
lots in town. His dad had built up good
relationships with the few dealers here, and he
should at least give them a fair shake for the sake
Since the lots were all on the way out of
town, the stops were quick, and he didn’t waste
much of the day in making them. The last time he
had gone car shopping, he had found exactly what he
wanted at the time in Patton. Patton wasn’t even
close to being a large city, but the people there
did have better car sense. It wasn’t far to go
On his way out of town, he had to pass
Marcus’s office, and with some luck he thought had
run dry, Nikki happened to be leaving there.
Pulling over to the curb, he swung himself out of
the Jaguar, and went over to her before she climbed
into her own car.
“How are you doing, Nikki? I haven’t been
able to talk to you for a little while.”
“Well, Matt, Marcus and I have been having a
few problems. We’ve been trying to work them out,
you know, and I haven’t had time to do much outside
“Oh really, that’s too bad. I hope you got
things worked out,” he said without any feeling.
With a shining smile appearing instantly on
her face, she said, “I’d say we’re close to it,
Matt. At least I think it will be easier now. I
had some tests done this week, and we got some
great news today. About seven months from now,
we’re going to have the start of the family that
we’ve been wanting for the past few years. Isn’t
that great! I’ve never seen Marcus so happy.”
“Yeah….yeah that’s great, Nikki. I’m really
happy for you.” He said, but his words came out
with a hint of bitterness that he couldn’t
suppress, and he knew Nikki had noticed.
“Are you O.K., Matt? You don’t seem too happy
this morning. Nothing’s bothering you that I could
help with is there?”
“No,” he said sullenly. “There’s nothing
really. I guess I’m just not feeling very good,
now that I think about it. I was on my way out of
town, but I think I’ll just go back home and rest
“That’s too bad, Matt. Maybe you should have
Marcus take a quick look at you. I’m sure he
“No, no. I don’t feel that bad. I think it’s
just a cold.”
“O.K. then, I’ll see you later. I’ve got to
get home myself. I thought I would fix something
special for lunch to kind of celebrate.”
And with that, Nikki was gone. Matt stood
there with an emptiness in his stomach that was not
sickness, but was as close to it emotionally as a
person could get. He was going to have to go home
and do some heavy drinking to put this out of his
mind. This had turned into a real shitty day.
Pete woke up with a start as the last of his
dreams finally pushed him farther than he could
stand. Nights like that were enough to destroy
even an adult’s day, but he was determined to plow
through this one anyway. The paper route might
even be a blessing for a change.
Walking into the kitchen, he got exactly what
he expected from his mom.
“What was wrong with you last night, Peter?
You haven’t had to sleep with me for over four
years, and then you about scared the daylights out
of me last night when you came diving into my bed.”
“Just a bad dream mom, I didn’t think I woke
“I would say it was more than that by the way
you squirmed around last night. I don’t think I
got any more sleep than you did. As a matter of
fact, I know I didn’t.”
“It was nothing, mom, really!”
“Well, whatever you say, Pete. But I think
that you’re holding back on me. You know if you
have trouble of any kind, you can come to me.”
But he was out the door and off on his bike
before she could say anything else. She wouldn’t
understand what he had seen the evening before.
And because of this, his dreams would be
meaningless to her, too.
The paper office was the usual early morning
bustle of paperboys, and Pete was glad to see
something ordinary and familiar. The day would go
fast, now that he dreaded the thought of falling
asleep that night. He had even lost his favorite
cap somehow, and it made the whole situation worse.
Now he didn’t have anything left in the world to
remember his dad by. He should have quit wearing
it when his dad died, but it was a comfort to just
be in contact with something that his dad had given
him. Now it was gone forever…
Luckily, no one had heard about the events the
day before. The other paperboys treated him just
like they always did, and he got away from there as
fast as he could. When he got down the block
though, he slowed down. His route was going to
have to be drawn out as long as he could make it.
And with any luck, someone would ask him to spend
the night tonight. Staying awake all night would
be easier that way.
But no matter how he tried to avoid it, time
went on as it always did, and soon he was almost
through his route. To make the run slower, he had
been placing each paper on the steps of the houses
by hand, and as he did this at the Lemonte house,
Marcus stepped out on the porch.
“Glad to see that you’re alive there, Pete.
We had quite a scare last night when your friend
came running up to the house.”
“Didn’t your friend talk to you last night
“No…he didn’t..what are you talking about?
How do you know about it?”
“I guess I had better fill you in on what I
know. But first, you had better tell me your part
of the story. Can you come in for a while? I have
something in here for you.”
With some hesitation, Pete walked with Marcus
into the Lemonte’s house and straight through to
the kitchen. Sitting down at the table, Marcus
finally got Pete to tell him what had gone on the
night before. By the end of it, Pete’s voice was
shaking so much he could barely talk.
“Just a second, Pete, and I’ll be back. I
have to get something for you.”
His throat dry, he managed to get out, “O.K.
But can I have a drink of water before you go?”
“Sure. I’ll do even better than that. Would
you like a soda or something instead?”
“That would be fine, Dr. Lemonte.”
“How about just calling me Marcus, I don’t
like the formality, and I think we know each other
well enough now for that.”
“O.K., thanks for the soda, Marcus!”
With that, Marcus made his way to the bedroom
on the first floor and soon came back with Pete’s
cap. Pete’s reaction on seeing his cap was a
dramatic shift from the miserable and shaking kid
who had just been there. After hearing what the
boy had just told him, he was briefly happy to see
the change. Explaining how it had come into his
hands, Marcus was glad that Nikki wasn’t there so
he could drive a little more fear of the funeral
home into the boy. The kids had to stay away from
the place for their own good just like he did.
Soon he was finished, and Pete left with mixed
feelings of terror and happiness. One thing was
pretty certain. He was going to take Marcus’s
advice and stay away from the funeral home from now
Foolishness was Harold’s ‘MO’ most of the
time, and the scare the night before had done
little to change it. Waking up that morning and
feeling the encouragement of the daylight, he felt
the need to go back to the funeral home to see what
else might happen. He wanted someone to go with
him though, and the only chance he had for that
would be Eric.
With a quick phone call, he heard that Eric
had gone with his dad to Patton for the day, and
wouldn’t be home until later that evening. Only a
little disheartened by this, he was determined to
go as soon as Eric got back, if he could. He spent
the rest of the day planning out what he was going
to do that night, with or without Eric. He wasn’t
going to be a chicken like he was the night before.
But then, that little wimp, Pete, brought all that
on. If he hadn’t started running away and spooked
the living daylights out of him, he would probably
still be there getting rid of those ghosts. As he
thought about it, he knew he would have to take
along a flashlight, and his old skeleton key. The
key might not work, but it would be worth a try.
Getting into the place was something he would have
to do to get rid of those things that had walked
through the wall last night. Thinking about it
more, a quick rush of ways to kill monsters raced
through his head. What was it that you had to use
to get rid of a ghost? There had to be something
that he could use.
The list seemed endless: wooden stakes for
vampires, silver bullets for werewolves, salted,
sewn-up mouths for zombies, and a dozen more. But
he couldn’t think of anything that would get rid of
a ghost. Maybe he would have to think of something
new. Soon he was rummaging around in his garage
for anything that looked like it might destroy a
ghost, or whatever else was in that old funeral
After looking for what seemed like hours in
his garage, Harold eventually moved to the attic
and came across a large, old wooden crucifix. It
probably wouldn’t do a thing for him, but it was
better than nothing in this case. He needed at
least one more thing to round out his defense kit.
Maybe, when he talked to Eric, he would have a
better idea of what they needed to take.
By this time, it was evening, and he tried to
get a hold of Eric once more without luck. Eric
had better hurry up and get home, or else he was
going to have to go alone. When he came to school
the next time with his story of triumph, Eric would
regret not having been there with him.
An hour later, Eric still hadn’t made it home,
and Harold was on his way to the funeral home,
crucifix in hand. The only thoughts that raced
through his mind were “I’ll show that wimp, Pete.
Eric will regret not being home.”
By seven-thirty, a total, moonless darkness
surrounded Harold as he made his way up the long
drive to the funeral home. The slight breeze that
blew through the trees over his head gave him a
chill as if warning him of what was soon to come.
He ignored it and pushed on. The only thing that
he could think about now was that he was about to
have proof of his bravery and Pete’s weakness.
From behind, Harold heard the sound of an
approaching car, and made a dive into the ditch
beside the drive so he wouldn’t be seen. The
people passed on Restview Way without noticing him,
and he was soon up and running the rest of the way
to the funeral home.
As he walked below the blackened front
windows, Harold had the sensation that he was being
watched, but again ignored his own limited
sensibility. Turning the corner, he approached the
nearest side window. He would have to try to get
in here. The skeleton key might work in the front
door, but he was afraid to be seen from the road of
all things. Breaking through the window would add
more adventure to the night anyway.
After struggling with the window for a while,
just in case it was unlatched, he finally gave up
and threw a rock at the glass. Shards flew in all
directions, and the noise tweaked his nerves and
unsettled his stomach. He climbed up into the
blackness, and felt a trickle of blood slide down
his arm from a small cut after he hit the floor.
Just another trophy added to his brave night.
The smell of the musty room filled his nose as
he tried to adjust to the dim light. This might
turn out to be a little scarier than he had
expected. All of the furniture was draped with old
sheets, now rustling slightly with the air drifting
through the broken window. He couldn’t see much
else as he walked deeper into the room, and he soon
lost sight of the window.
Against his will, Norman realized that the
only way he could get Phyllis off the subject of
the funeral home was to take her there. In the
short span of time since he had told her the
stories, she had already driven the subject into
the ground. He knew he wouldn’t be able to take
much more of her ridicule. But then, with a little
luck, something might happen to the bitch, and he
could be rid of her ridicule forever.
Phyllis’s constant nagging had pushed him into
the arms of Janet years ago. If Phyllis was out of
the way, he knew he could be a happy man again.
Janet had become everything to him. Not only was
she beautiful in comparison to Phyllis, but they
also shared a lot of common interests. Janet
enjoyed the outdoors. Phyllis, on the other hand,
took up stupid busybody hobbies like ceramics and
weaving. He wasn’t the type who could sit inside
all day. He needed to be out and about in the open
air where he felt healthy.
Thinking about it, he wished there could be
some way to insure that whatever was in the old
place would come out and blast Phyllis to hell with
its full fury. Too bad she didn’t have a heart
condition. Somehow, reclusive as she was, Phyllis
was one of the healthiest people he had ever had
the displeasure to know, rolls of fat and all.
“What do you think about me giving Phyllis a
tour of the funeral home tonight, honey?” Norman
asked Janet as they lay in the hide-a-bed he had
put in his office a year earlier.
“After what happened a few months ago, I don’t
want you going in there, Norman. But then, you
know what I think of your wife. If she
accidentally doesn’t make it back out, I’ll be the
first one to clap. You’d be all mine.”
With that, Norman gave her a big kiss, and
they melted together into the passion that Phyllis
had never been capable of. They played at each
other’s ecstasy for another hour and a half until
the office phone abruptly jarred them from their
pleasures. He knew immediately that it was
Phyllis, and he felt a twinge of disgust.
“Norman,” Phyllis’s voice barked, destroying
the little good feeling that he had left in him,
“why aren’t you home? You know that I always have
your supper ready early on this night so we can go
play bingo in Patton.”
“I was just getting some paperwork caught up,
dear. I’ll be home soon though, O.K. By the way,
why don’t we skip bingo tonight.”
“What Norman! You know I look forward to
bingo all week. What’s wrong with you!”
“Take it easy, Phyllis. I thought we would
take that trip to the funeral home you’ve been
bugging me about. It might be kind of fun, you
He said this with a smile on his face, knowing
that she would like nothing more than to scoff at
him. She didn’t believe in ghosts, and proving him
a fool would delight her to no end. She was
definitely a bitch.
“Oh, all right, Norman. I guess we could miss
bingo just this once. A change might do us both
And she was off the phone. Norman only hoped
that he would gain something worthwhile from the
night’s escapade. Her demise would definitely
brighten his life.
“I guess I have to get home now, Janet.
Phyllis is about to have a fit. We might just
scare some life out of her tonight, though. I’m
taking her to the funeral home.”
“You be careful there, Norman. The way things
are, I don’t want you freaking out and getting
killed or something. She’s such a nag, I don’t
think the devil himself could put her in her grave,
let alone tolerate her if he did.”
“I guess you’re probably right. But I have to
do it to get her off my back for a while. If
nothing else, maybe she’ll learn that my
imagination doesn’t just run away with me every
time I walk into that place.”
With a last kiss, Norman left Janet to head
back to his own personal Medusa. The worn look of
a miserable and badgered husband returned to his
face, and he was home too soon for his own liking.
“It’s about time you got here, Norman. I’ve
been worried sick.”
But Norman knew this was about as much
bullshit as could be found in any stockyard. She
never ceased to amaze him.
“I’ll eat and take a quick shower, dear. Then
we’ll be off to the funeral home.”
“Well, hurry up. I want to get this over with
by morning. And don’t forget to put on a diaper so
you don’t soil your pants later.” She cackled at
his back as he headed out of the room. “Better
make it super absorbent, too.”
He ignored her final shot and forty rushed
minutes later, they were on their way to the
funeral home. They would be getting there just
after dark. He prayed they would see
something…something really monstrous.
Marcus and Nikki had an incredible lunch. The
news of Nikki’s pregnancy had put them both in
better spirits than they had been in for a long
time. There would probably be no reason to fight
with a baby on the way. It was incredible what a
baby could do for a marriage, especially before it
That afternoon, much of the discussion
revolved around which room would become the nursery
in the Lemonte house. It was really a simple
matter, but how it would be set up was not, at
least, not for them as new parents.
By evening, both Nikki and Marcus were ready
to go to the Krepps, and the thought of a pleasant
visit with the older couple made them feel even
more secure in the idea of a long lasting marriage.
Although times had changed, the possibility of a
long-term commitment holding out was something that
both of them strongly desired. It was too easy to
just give up on something that could be as fragile
as a marriage, and never try to gain back what was
“Well Marcus, are you about ready to go over
to the Krepp’s? They said they wanted us there at
seven, or somewhere around that time.” Nikki said
as she walked out of the bathroom, finished with
her necessary tasks.
“Almost, I didn’t think that you’d be ready so
fast. Are you sure that you’re feeling all right?
I’ve never seen you get ready this fast.”
“I guess it’s just the excitement. We’re
finally going to have something to show the world
as proof of our love for each other.”
“I’ve never thought of it in those terms, but
I guess you’re right. People might have trouble
seeing that we really love each other sometimes.
But then, who really cares what anyone else thinks,
But Nikki wasn’t listening. She had floated
off on one of the many clouds that she had been
riding all day. Her relationship had taken a
sudden upswing, and there wasn’t a soul in the
world that could have been happier. As she stared
smiling out the bedroom window, the headlights of a
car pulling into the funeral home driveway caught
her attention for a moment. But she blocked out
the thought of the place and what might be going on
over there as quickly as the car was out of sight.
The thought of someone being there tonight was
ridiculous and didn’t stick with her long enough to
tell Marcus about it. Soon he was ready, and they
were out the door to the Krepps. Bad thoughts were
far from their minds.
Shortly later, they pulled up to the Krepp’s
quiet house on the outskirts of Hawthorne, and
Marcus and Nikki locked hands and walked to the
front door. After a knock and a quick kiss, they
entered the Krepp’s home under the twinkling eye of
Ray, who led them to the living room where Hedda
“Promptness befits a doctor, Marcus, and I’m
glad to see that you’re still meeting up to my
expectations.” Hedda said as Marcus and Nikki took
seats almost on top of each other.
“I told them you’d say that as I let them in.
I hope you kids are hungry. Hedda’s cooked up
enough food to feed the whole town.”
“I know I’m starved, Ray. And Nikki needs to
keep her energy up for the next few months.”
“Marcus! You shouldn’t have told them that
“What’s this? If you’re pregnant Nikki, it’s
the best thing I’ve heard in years.” Ray said with
enthusiasm that couldn’t have been matched by
anyone but Marcus under the circumstances.
“This is great news you two! We couldn’t be
happier for you.” Hedda said, adding to the
excitement. “It almost makes me want to have
For twenty more minutes, the four rambled on
about the future addition to the Lemonte household.
It was a good beginning for what was to become an
even better night at the Krepps. Everything they
did and talked about gleamed with a hint of
At about eleven-thirty as the evening was
dying down, Hedda brought up her concern about
their recent arguments, but even this didn’t dampen
the spirits of the evening.
“I honestly don’t think we’ll have any more
trouble now, Hedda.” Nikki said with as much
assurance in her voice as Marcus had ever heard.
“No, I think we were both being a little
childish. We’re going to have to grow up now, and
make this marriage work.”
“It doesn’t have to be perfect, Marcus. Just
keep your heads clear, and don’t let the little
things get you down. Ray and I have had out
troubles, too, and there’s always a way around
them, if you’re wise enough to see it.”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Ray
said, “it just takes a little work sometimes, but
in the long run, you’ll be glad you made the
The evening over at the Krepps, Marcus and
Nikki made their way to their car leaving a trail
of “thank yous” behind them. Today seemed like it
was going to be the beginning of new and happier
times for them, and they believed they deserved it
after what they had been through. Too much trouble
had developed in their marriage for it to be left
unchecked. Now, they had new hope in the form of
the coming baby, and with the extra support of the
Krepps, all of the forces of hell weren’t going to
be able to hold them back.
Still drinking that night at nine after having
started with Nikki’s news that morning, Matt was
within a few beers of passing out. The world had
pulled a quick flip-flop on him that would only be
remedied by a long run of drunken days and nights.
With any luck, she had only been joking around, and
there would still be hope for him. Luck wasn’t one
of his bigger fans in life.
Making his way slowly to the bathroom, Matt
didn’t know whether he should, piss or puke. A
sudden heave later and the choice was taken out of
his hands. This wouldn’t stop him though. He
still had a full case left in his refrigerator, and
he planned to down it by morning. After rinsing
his mouth out with part of a beer, he returned to
the kitchen and his growing pyramid of empty beer
But as the minutes crept by, Matt felt his
head falling toward the table. No matter how hard
he fought it, he was soon snoring loudly. But
either a bad dream, or another surge in his stomach
brought him abruptly awake, and he stood up to feel
his head swirling faster than vomited beer down his
Stumbling to his medicine cabinet, he found
the bottle of amphetamines he had gotten from Terry
and popped a couple down. Calling them
amphetamines instead of speed seemed stupid and he
started to laugh. A big mistake, he soon found,
and a sad waste of the pills as they shot out of
his throat and into the sink along with some beer
that was starting to taste like acid. Being
careful not to think about it this time, he took
two more pills and made his way into his living
room to wait for the effects.
“Too slow” he drunkenly thought five minutes
later, and went back for a couple more. He would
have to talk to Terry about this bad speed. You
just couldn’t trust people once you got out of
college, not even your best friends. He still
didn’t feel any effects, but he gradually forgot
about it as his thoughts drifted to Nikki. He
would have to figure out a way to get her away from
Marcus, an idea he had discarded quicker than his
first six-pack when he had still been almost sober.
But nearing the point of alcohol poisoning, nothing
really seemed unreasonable to him now, not even
“Do you think the kids’ marriage is going to
hold out, Hedda?” Ray asked as Marcus and Nikki
pulled away from their house.
“Don’t be absurd, Ray! Of course it will.
You know how I am anyway. If the slightest problem
comes along with that child on the way, I’ll be
over there to help patch it up before you know I’m
“I guess you’re right.”
“There’s no guessing to it. Those kids don’t
need to go through what we’ve been through. We’re
lucky that we’re still married now, and we both
know it. Not that it bothers me. I think I’m
happier now than I’ve ever been and I hope you are
“Now you’re being absurd. You know I’m happy.
I didn’t ever want a divorce in the first place, if
you recall. I was only riding along with what you
wanted, even though it wasn’t what I wanted.”
Continuing to talk as they cleaned up the
kitchen from the evening’s meal, the two began to
recall the good times of their marriage, letting
the bad ones fall away. Before long, they were
making their way into the bedroom, too tired to
think of much more than sleep. Tomorrow, they
could sleep late, and they had looked forward to it
all week. They didn’t have to start their days at
the store so early, but they always did. It was
the way an old corner store should be run. A
tradition they were proud of.
As dreams crept gradually into Hedda’s sleep,
a strange, somehow familiar scene drifted before
her eyes. She had been there before, hundreds of
times. Why did it look so different this time?
Was it the mist lying low to the ground, engulfing
the stones? Everything was just too hazy.
In the distance, faint glows of light bobbed
their way toward her. It was good that she was
hidden behind this row of trees so she wouldn’t be
The trees had always been a wonder to her,
enclosing the cemetery into its own little world.
Trips there with her father hadn’t been scary at
all. In fact, she had grown to enjoy being there
while her father mowed and dug the occasional
But now, something was very different about
the place. The mist had never been here before.
Not only that, but it was dark and glows of light
were bobbing slowly towards her. She had never
been here at night, and she didn’t want to be here
As she stared through the trees into the
cemetery, the mist began to swirl in places.
Almost instantaneously, huge eyes formed out of the
swirls in the mist. With a stare that should have
driven her crazy, the eyes directed their vigilance
toward her. Fear crawled deeply into her soul.
The lights were getting closer, and the eyes were
going to give her away! There were no doubts in
her mind about that.
The glows that had been on the other side of
the cemetery were now popping up over the nearest
hill. She saw that they were candle flames and the
candles were being held by a procession of hooded
figures. There were more than she could count, and
they slowly surrounded a huge, flat-topped stone no
more than twenty feet from her. She watched as
each figure placed its candle on the stone making
it glow strangely in the misty darkness.
Confusion began to overtake her as the
intensity of the eyes’ glare increased on her. As
she let out a small gasp, the hooded figures
suddenly noticed the eyes. The eyes floated to her
location among the trees and revolved about her,
increasing her panic. Her worst fear quickly came
to fruition. The figures glided toward her,
flashes of jagged steel emerging from their
She froze as the figures closed in on her.
The lead figure’s hood slid to its shoulders and
she screamed desperately as the horror of
realization struck her. The rotting face of her
long dead father was the last monstrous thing she
saw as Ray woke her from her nightmare.
“This place doesn’t look so bad, Norman.”
Phyllis said spitefully as they drove up to the
back door of the funeral home.
“Looks can be deceiving, my dear. I don’t
want to make this any worse for you than it can
be.” He said, barely able to hold back the
“I still think you’re crazy, Norman. Nothing
that you’ve told me could have possibly happened.”
“Give it time, Phyllis. Give it time.”
With this, the two became silent as they
stepped from the car and walked to the door.
Fumbling with his keys, Norman reluctantly found
the one he had grown to dread using. How many
times had he dropped it as his hand shook unlocking
the door? “TOO many”, he thought.
The door opened as easily as if someone had
pulled it from within. It wasn’t the type of thing
Norman liked to think about when he had to go into
the place. Maybe his imagination was just a little
too wild. But then the smell of the prep room hit
his nose bringing with it a flashback of his past
experiences. Imagination couldn’t account for
everything. It was ridiculous to even consider it.
With familiarity he wished he didn’t have, he
maneuvered his way through the room pulling Phyllis
awkwardly behind him. He would make sure she
regretted this if it was the last thing he did.
With that thought, a touch of raw and irrational
courage warmed his blood causing him to tighten his
grip on her wrist. He could feel the air flowing
around them in cold invisible swirls, and a tremor
from Phyllis’s arm gently shook his hand. A little
demeaning would be good for her soul, if she even
had one. But then, it would take more than that to
turn this witch around.
It had to be seven-thirty by now, he
estimated. The rooms were already dark enough to
make a flashlight useful. A flashlight they didn’t
have. Phyllis’s glowing red pig eyes might be
enough to get them around. They sure lit up the
bedroom at night when he made it in late. It was a
wonder their whole house didn’t glow.
Passing a room on the right side of the
corridor, Norman heard a small thump. It was just
a small thing in here, and definitely not enough to
scare Phyllis. She needed something big…really
big, or she’d never back down. At least that was
the front she was still trying to put on. Every
time he’d looked back at her, she had given him a
“well, where are the monsters, bozo” look that made
him want to shove a pitchfork in her glowing eyes.
With that thought in mind, he pushed through
the door leading to the massive front room and felt
a slight chill rush down his spine as he caught
sight of the staircase. He really hated this
place. There was no way to convince him otherwise.
The thought of that head rolling down those stairs
almost made him turn tail and run. But Phyllis’s
arm in his hand reminded him of his purpose. He
would shake hands with the devil himself to put her
in her place. And then, sometime in the near
future he would have Janet without having to hide
it from the old bat.
Feeling a shove at his back, Norman went on
into the front room. How could she be so eager to
do this? She was the crazy one, for sure, and she
didn’t seem to be satisfied with her own insanity.
She was out to push him over the edge, too.
Even Phyllis’s steps slowed as the air
seriously chilled around them. Somehow, the
coldness of the air made the room seem even darker,
and shadows leapt to life in the near darkness.
The funeral home was a storeroom of the dead
more than any single haunted house could claim to
be. The number of dead that had made their way
through the place doubtlessly had to leave a black
mark of some kind. What that mark was, and how
deep it ran had only begun to emerge for Norman.
A shadow stirred on the staircase, and their
blood pressures shot up violently.
For an instant, the two were frozen in their
tracks. They had seen the movement, and were more
than ever aware that something was about to happen.
Norman tried to urge Phyllis on anyway. He wanted
this to be over.
Hesitatingly, he got her over to the stairs
and made her go up in front of him. As they inched
their way to the second floor, he knew that she
would get the full impact of whatever happened. It
made him horridly joyous, and in spite of the fear,
he loved every minute of it.
The top stair creaked as they passed over it,
stretching the tension a little farther as they
stared down the hall. The room which had provided
the earlier nightmarish experience in Norman’s life
was at the end of the hall, and too close for his
comfort. He had been avoiding it for what seemed
like an eternity, but there was a time for
everything, and this was the time to scare the hell
out of Phyllis.
Suddenly, a darkness appeared at the end of
the hall. Its presence was stronger than Norman
had ever felt before, and goose bumps erupted
immediately from his flesh. It was becoming more
and more powerful by the second. How and why
didn’t matter; only escape mattered. But the
presence was all around them, and its crushing
weight on their souls made them even more panicked.
With quickness Norman had never seen in
Phyllis, she flung his hand off her arm and darted
past him to the stairs. The fear holding his body
in place was becoming unbearable and movement was
totally impossible. The will Phyllis had summoned
to break through her fear was far beyond his
capacity. He just couldn’t move!
Near the top of the stairs, Phyllis’s eyes
caught hold of a dark figure. It was solid, and
moved steadily toward her, bringing her fear to a
rocketing climax. With the stubbornness and
stupidity that Norman knew were her strong points,
she tried to rush past the figure to make it to the
stairs. The figure lunged out of the way, tripping
her as she tried to push past. Unable to prevent
the fall, she went crashing to the bottom, bouncing
from railing to step and finally laying motionless
a few feet from the stairs.
Sitting in the dark, Harold heard the floor
creaking around him. This place was sure scarier
on the inside than it was outside. His mind was
already playing tricks on him. There couldn’t
possibly have been anything out in that hallway
just then. He had just gotten there, and things
weren’t supposed to happen until he was ready.
He felt the need to move but held back until
he could see where he was going. The ghosts could
wait for him. They were dead already anyway. As
he looked around, he felt as if someone was looking
right back at him. That was all it took to get him
on his feet.
Making his way to the black hole he figured
was a door, he decided not to use his flashlight.
The ghosts didn’t need any more advance notice than
they already had. At least his brain was working
in this old place. His imagination accounted for
the better part of the work, but he could still
manage some simple thoughts.
At the doorway, he thought he heard footsteps
coming from somewhere down the hall to his left.
Listening closely, he was sure of it. He was going
to have to check it out. Either that, or he might
as well turn around and scurry back home to dwell
on his self-defeat.
He had never been a quitter.
With a few quick and quiet steps, he made it
through the door and into the front room. He
couldn’t make out any shapes, but he could still
hear the footsteps. Then he shuddered as two loud
simultaneous creaks reverberated through the room.
Checking his automatic urge to flee, he strained to
see what he could, and then stepped further into
The massive emptiness of the place came to
rest on his shoulders, and he ran to the stairs
trying to get away from the feeling. His tennis
shoes made him more silent than his prey, but he
still had a dread feeling that he couldn’t
understand. It was almost as if he wasn’t the
predator, but the prey, and he would soon regret
his entry into this haunted old place.
The stairs went quickly below his feet and he
was soon two from the top. Out of the corner of
his eye, he thought he saw another movement. This
time, he was sure he had seen it. Cautiously
stepping onto the second floor, he began to walk
toward the movement, flashlight and cross in hand.
Suddenly, with horrid assurance, a figure came
rushing at him. His first instinct was to dive to
the side. As he did, his foot caught hold of
something solid that almost dragged him with it.
Behind him, he heard a series of muffled thuds, but
never a scream. That had been a real, live person,
and he was in real trouble!
Before he could get up, another figure was
rushing at him. Too much in shock to move, he sat
and waited for the consequences. A ghost might be
better than a real person after what had just
“Phyllis, Phyllis are you all right?
Phyllis!” Norman’s voice half cracked as he yelled
Glancing down, he noticed Harold sitting on
the floor shaking and managed to get out “What are
you doing here?”
“Don’t hurt me.” Harold mumbled, trying not
to think about what he had done.
“Don’t worry, kid. Everything is probably
Seeing Harold’s flashlight, Norman grabbed it
up and walked down the stairs to where his wife lay
“Well I’ll be a god damned fool,” he blurted
out, “her head’s twisted clean around!”
And it was. Phyllis was as dead as she would
ever be. A thirty-step flight of stairs could do
wonders for a body, and it had done so for Phyllis.
The new nursing home director in Breklettin
started his Monday with the project that had been
left him as priority one by the board of directors.
Get all of the deceased patients’ papers and
requests sent out immediately. Unlike the last
director, the job meant something to this man. It
meant food for his family, and a roof over his
head. He would work his ass off for this place.
By the end of the day, he wanted to have most of
the papers on their way. It would show the board
that he wanted this job.
At first, the parchment laying spread out on
his new desk went unnoticed by the director. He
had begun to think that he might just need an
assistant to get things rolling a little faster.
As a result of this thinking, he sat down at his
desk to make a phone call. His son would help him.
He was a good kid. They needed to be doing more
things together before the boy thought he was too
old for that kind of thing anyway.
The parchment caught his eye. It lay
plastered to his desk as if it had recently been
wet. The burnt spots dotting it verified this in
his mind, and also brought him the reason it was a
priority job. The paper looked important, too
important to be lying in his office.
Scraping the corner up with his pocketknife,
he felt funny even touching the paper. It felt hot
to the touch, and yet, it had to have been doused
at least two days earlier. The name on the back
sent him to his file for a family record.
Surprisingly, there seemed to be only one relative
of this Eagan Portraire. He had no doubt in his
mind that the relative would be as lost as he was
when trying to decipher the papers. But then, that
would be her problem.
Five minutes later, he decided it would be
stupid to send something that looked so important
by mail. Hand delivery would make up for the time
lost when the former director neglected the paper.
No, that would be a stupid, wasteful use of his
With a quick search through his desk, he came
up with a large manila envelope and an official
nursing home label. Stuffing the pages into the
envelope, a strange thought hit him. What if the
paper hadn’t been meant for the relative, but
another person was expecting to receive it. The
thought was so stupid that he shook it off and
addressed the package to Janet Portraire anyway.
The day was a pretty good one in Hawthorne, or
at least, it was for Marcus. In the past few days,
his life had made a pretty good turn around.
Besides, his head wasn’t throbbing constantly and
the seizure auras were keeping their distance.
With all of this in combination, the day went
quickly as good ones usually did, and Marcus was
home and in a good mood before he knew it. Nikki
happened to be in a good mood, too, and Marcus
appreciated it more than he would have expected.
Something healthy and different would do them both
some good this evening, and Marcus knew exactly
what it was. They hadn’t been on a walk for years,
as he remembered it, and this would be a good
evening for one. When he mentioned it to Nikki,
she got pretty excited by the idea too.
After putting dishes away and changing into
shorts, they headed outside for some fresh air.
“I don’t think I’ve even seen this entire
little town.” Nikki said as they hit the sidewalk.
“Well, it’s been awhile since I really had a
look at it myself. I don’t know where we should
They both felt years younger as the blocks
slowly and aimlessly passed. The evening turned to
darkness as the Lemontes looked closely at each and
every house they passed. The walk was pulling
their thoughts together as walks had always done in
As their conversation shifted from one thing
to another, it eventually came to the disturbing
subject of dreams. Both were obviously uneasy with
it, but they fell into the topic anyway.
Pointing to a huge white house as they passed
it, Nikki turned to Marcus with a grimace.
“You know, honey,” she said, “I’ve had a dream
about that house before.”
“What, Nik? Have you ever even seen that
“No, I don’t think so. But I know it was in
one of my dreams. I remember walking past it, and
there was an old man sitting in a rocking chair on
that front porch.”
As they looked at the bleak old house, Marcus
tried to picture what she had just said. Nowhere
in his memory could he recall seeing any people out
on that porch. And there was a certain weirdness
about the house. It had two front doors, and
practically no windows. In fact, the front was
shovel-faced, if that was a good term for it. It
was just a box with a porch.
“Do you remember anything else?”
“No, that’s all, just the old man out on that
porch. But I’m sure I’ve never seen the place
“I don’t know, honey. You could have driven
past here sometime and just happened to have
glanced at it.”
“I don’t think so. Let’s get away from here
though. It’s starting to give me the creeps.”
Speeding up a little, they were soon out of
sight of the white house. Their pace didn’t slow
down for several more blocks where they came to a
small bridge and stopped for a rest.
“Can I have a kiss?” Marcus asked quietly.
“Of course you can. Do you think you deserve
Before he could answer, she had locked onto
his mouth and didn’t let go until a passing car
interrupted them. Their love was still alive, and
possibly even growing. It was strange how trouble
could come and go so quickly in their lives,
leaving only its small tracks for them to remember.
Maybe all marriages were the same way. But then,
it didn’t really matter now.
“Are you ready to go on?”
“Only if you are.”
But she knew that he wasn’t, and she wasn’t
either. Just holding each other on this little
bridge in the darkness was all they wanted right
then. The simple things had always been the best
After about twenty minutes, and hyped up more
than ever, they continued their walk. They could
continue their closeness at home later, and both
knew that they’d probably be up pretty late doing
just that. The walk would continue to invigorate
them, making it even easier to stay awake.
The blocks went by quickly, and they soon
found themselves in the worst part of Hawthorne.
Even in this small town, a certain fear of bad
neighborhoods could creep into people’s lives.
Evil was universal, and Hawthorne was no exception
to the rule.
“I don’t like it here.” Nikki said, clinging
to Marcus’s side. “Why don’t we turn around and go
“Anything you say, honey. After that white
house, I’m not up to being in this area myself.”
Instead of going back the same way they had
come, they would go over a block so they could see
new things. They also, without actually saying so,
wanted to avoid the white house on the way back.
Something about Nikki’s dream was troubling, and
they would rather figure it out in the morning, or
at least in daylight.
As they approached the block the white house
sat on, they turned down another street to avoid
even seeing it. There definitely wasn’t any reason
to tempt fate, especially when it concerned them
and a future child. Marcus had learned from his
funeral home experience, and Nikki wasn’t any
But as the two got farther away from the
place, the effects it had rendered wore off. They
were soon talking happily again.
Crossing through the center of town, they
occasionally stopped to gaze in a store window.
Most of the time, it was too dark inside to see
anything. But they didn’t care. They weren’t
really looking for anything anyway.
Quickly bored with the stores and their
meaningless contents, Marcus and Nikki moved on and
were soon in residential areas again. Being an old
town, Hawthorne was filled with huge houses that
had been around at least since the turn of the
century. Even though Marcus had lived in the town
most of his life, some of these old houses seemed
as new to him as they did to Nikki. One of these
soon came up on the opposite side of the street and
caused him to stop, pulling Nikki back with him and
nearly bringing them both to the ground.
“Wait a minute, Nik. There’s something over
there in that yard. Can you tell what it is?”
“Marcus..Don’t do that to me. I’m scared
enough, and that house looks creepy anyway.”
“No, I’m serious, Nikki. There’s something in
that yard, and I don’t like the looks of it.”
“Well, why don’t you go over and look at it.
I’m staying right here though.”
Crossing the street, Marcus glanced back at
Nikki. She was huddled up and shaking, even though
it wasn’t cold outside. She was as afraid as he
was, only smarter and still on the other side of
the street. Curiosity dictated that he see what
was in that yard.
When he got to the curb at the other side, he
stopped. He was close enough to the house to see
that it could easily have been used in the old
‘Addams Family’ series. Staring intently into the
darkness at the figure, it slowly cleared in his
vision. It was a statue of a winged dog with
lion’s legs and huge fangs. It was a demon statue!
A sudden flood of images from old horror movies
filled his mind and he stumbled back a few steps.
This was just too much for one night! Turning and
running back across the street, he could almost
feel the thing drilling a hole in his back.
“Come on, Nik.” He said as he pushed her
ahead of him.
“What was it, Marcus?”
“It was..it was a demon statue, a winged dog
with all the trimmings. And that house….it was
so terrible looking. It almost made our funeral
home look like a toy store.”
They were both really scared now. Marcus
became silent, and the silence only made things
worse. They were going home. As fast as they
could, they were going home.
Making there way down a huge hill, Marcus
suddenly stopped cold. Tears came to his eyes as
he stumbled backwards grasping at air that wouldn’t
support him. Nikki turned, and her eyes caught the
terror that was in his face.
The dark figure from his dream had been on the
corner ahead of them.
“What’s wrong, Marcus? What did you see?”
Nikki asked frantically.
But Marcus only stood there, his eyes too full
of tears to see anything anymore. His legs
buckled, and he fell to his knees, a faint smell of
hotdogs and popcorn drifting in.
Nikki, heart pounding erratically, knelt down
in front of him and looked into his eyes. They
were frightened eyes, eyes full of more fear than
she had ever imagined possible, especially in her
“Marcus…Marcus, honey. What did you see?
You have to tell me. I want to know.”
Still unable to speak, Marcus looked down to
avoid her eyes. He didn’t like for anyone to see
him cry, especially not Nikki. There was just no
way he could avoid it. He had seen what he had
seen, and it would have been enough to send anyone
into tears. His dream had come to life, and there
was no way he could escape it by waking up. He was
“Squeeze my arm.” He said them being the
first words he was able to get out.
“Squeeze my arm!”
Grabbing his arm, she squeezed. Lightly at
first, but he made her squeeze harder and harder
until her hand cramped up and she had to let go.
What’s gotten into him, she thought?
“I am awake.” He said as the aura drifted
back and faded away again. “This is the worst
nightmare I’ve ever had, and I was awake when I had
it…. We have to get away from here, Nikki. We
have to get home. I don’t feel safe out here
“O.K., honey, but you have to tell me what
happened on the way home. Will you?”
“When we get home, and behind locked doors.
Jumping to his feet, Marcus took off for home,
leaving Nikki behind. She had to run to catch up
to him, and she practically had to keep running to
stay by his side. Occasionally, he glanced back
over his shoulder to see if someone was following
them. His eyes were still watering, even as they
approached their own home twelve blocks from the
hill they’d just been on.
Slamming and locking the door behind them,
Marcus walked to every window in the house, closed
his eyes and shut the drapes. Then, and only then,
did he sit down with Nikki, who had followed him to
each and every window.
“Nikki, I saw him.”
“Saw who, Marcus?”
“The black figure from my dream, I saw him on
that corner. He was there one second, and gone the
next. I saw him! My dreams are coming to life!
What am I going to do?”
“Just calm down, Marcus, you’re safe here with
me in the house so just calm down.”
“But I saw him. I know I did. He was all in
black, and he was staring at me. And then he was
gone. I know he was there, I know it! Didn’t you
“No honey, no I didn’t. But I know you did.
I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes look so afraid. I
believe you really saw what you say you did, and it
scares me to think that something could scare you
so much. It terrifies me!”
No matter how hard he tried, the picture of
the figure in his mind plagued him for the rest of
the night. Nikki could see this, and tried as hard
as she could to distract him, but he would still
drift off. He had seen it. They both knew it, and
they could only hope that he didn’t see it again.
That neither one of them saw it for that matter.
If they were lucky, it would be a solitary, freak
occurrence and whatever it meant would fade from
Norman struggled through a strange day.
Phyllis’s untimely demise had thrown him a little,
even though at the back of his mind somewhere, he
had wanted her dead. She was really gone now. He
didn’t know whether to party or to mourn. A
decision would just have to be made, he thought to
himself with a slight chuckle.
The funeral had gone smoothly without him even
shedding a tear. The people in the town must have
thought him to be either a stoic old rock or
completely devoid of emotion. That was their
problem though. Soon, Janet would be over to see
the recent widower, happily enabling him to forget
his sorrows. She was good at that, as good at it
as Phyllis had been at nagging him into the ground.
Why had he ever married the witch in the first
place? A question he was happy not to have
tormenting him any longer.
It was nice how so many people had brought him
such good food. Cooking was one thing Phyllis had
been good for, and he would have to suffer without
now. It was only a small suffering though, and
nothing to compare with what he had gone through
when she had been alive. He could learn to cook.
That, or Janet could come over and cook all of
their meals for them together. That was probably
the way that things would turn out. Sounded pretty
good to him, and she would surely be happy to do
The phone rang as Norman got up from the
kitchen table to go to the bathroom. Who could
that be, he thought. Maybe it was Janet calling to
say that she would be over right away to see him.
That would seem strange in itself, her being there
in the house that Phyllis had so recently lorded
over. But as he got to the phone, it stopped
ringing. Only three rings, that was peculiar
wasn’t it? People who called him usually let it
ring for hours. That is, if he didn’t quite feel
like answering it!
Heading on to the bathroom, the phone again
started to ring. He rushed to his bedroom and the
nearest phone to answer it, but again the phone
stopped ringing just as he got to it. Something
was definitely going on here. If it happened one
more time, he was going to take the phone off the
hook for the rest of the night, Janet or no Janet.
A little pissed off, he returned to the
bathroom, and decided that while he was there, he
might as well take a shower. If the phone rang
while he was in there, it would just have to wait.
He was getting tired of the pranks.
But the phone didn’t ring while he was in the
shower. In fact, it didn’t ring until he was again
sitting at the kitchen table. This time, it was
“Who have you been talking to?” she asked with
a slight amount of anger evident in her voice.
“I haven’t been talking to anyone. Every time
the phone rang, I picked it up and there wasn’t
anyone there. No, that’s not even the way it’s
been. I haven’t even gotten as far as picking up
the stupid thing before it stopped ringing.”
“You definitely had to be talking to somebody.
I’ve been calling all evening.”
“That’s impossible. The phone didn’t start
ringing until about an hour ago, and then it only
rang two times.”
“Norman, why would I lie about this? There
must be something wrong with your phone then,
because I know what I’ve been doing all evening.”
“Why don’t you just come over here, Janet?
We’ll talk about this when you get here.”
“Oh..all right, Norman. But I don’t really
want to talk about this anymore. I’ll be over in a
Hanging up the phone, Norman returned to his
place at the table to wait her out. Maybe there
was something wrong with his phone. He couldn’t
think of any other reason why she hadn’t been able
to get through, unless it was Phyllis’s ghost
trying to put a stop to their little affair. That
one would be good for a couple of laughs later.
For twenty minutes, Norman sat at the table
waiting. What was keeping her, he thought? She
was usually quick about doing the things he wanted.
Surely, that wasn’t all going to change now. Not
that he was the type of person who would use
anybody or anything like that. In fact, it was
usually the other way around. At least it had been
He was starting to worry about her when he
heard her car pull into the driveway. Getting up
to let her in, he glanced out the kitchen window.
For a second, he thought he saw a figure on the
corner at the end of the block. But then it was
gone, and the doorbell was ringing.
“Did you just see someone standing down there
on the corner as you pulled in?” he asked Janet as
she came through the door.
“That’s a nice way to greet me. I wish you
wouldn’t try to scare me like that. I’ve had
enough of a scare with that stupid phone of yours.”
“I’m sorry, honey. I just thought I saw
someone down there, but I guess it could have been
my imagination. That phone business kind of got to
me a little, too.”
“Well, O.K. Give me a hug, and I’ll feel a
Taking her in his arms, he gave her a good
hard hug. Before he let go of her, he grabbed her
butt, and she let out a fake squeal.
“I’m not ready for that yet, Norman. Give me
a chance to calm down a little first.”
“But I don’t want you calm, honey.”
“Well, you certainly don’t want me tensed up
the way I am right now either. Neither one of us
will enjoy it if I am.”
“I don’t know about that, but I guess whatever
makes you happy. What took you so long getting
over here anyway?”
“I just took my time. That’s all.”
“Why? Are you mad at me because you couldn’t
get through on the phone for so long?”
“Yes, I was getting mad. But I’m not mad
anymore. I just didn’t feel like rushing myself.”
“That’s nice to hear. Put Norman on hold for
awhile so he can sit here in his kitchen and worry
until you get here.”
“Don’t be crude, Norman. You know I wouldn’t
do anything for such a stupid reason as that.”
“I guess you’re right. I’m sorry, honey.”
“That’s O.K. I guess you have had a pretty
tiring day with the funeral and everything. How
about we go ahead and hit the sack? I’ll make you
forget all about that terrible funeral and anything
else that’s happened to you today that you want to
With no verbal reply needed, they shed their
clothes as they walked to the bedroom, and were
soon too occupied to see the figure standing at the
The store was worse than it had been for
months. Matt’s employees seemed helpless, or at
least, more helpless than usual. He felt like he
was a slave to them all. His lunch break was
coming up, and he felt like taking off to St. Louis
…or maybe China.
At a little after one o’clock he found himself
near the front door, and without a word to anyone,
he escaped. If he hadn’t taken the opportunity, he
would have never gotten out. It was great to be
free. If he could really take off to China, he’d
be gone. He didn’t have anyone to go with him, but
he could manage all alone if he just took a shot at
it. He’d made it this far without a woman at his
side. Why not keep it that way for a while. An
image of Nikki flashed through his mind, but he
slapped it down with a brutal stroke of conscience
that surprised him. Maybe there was hope for him.
He would have to eliminate all thoughts of her.
She was taken, and even more so now that she was
pregnant, end of discussion.
Speeding out of the parking lot in his Jaguar,
he had a strong urge to take off on a car hunt.
But what would his people do without him, he
thought sarcastically? He really didn’t give a
shit after the morning he had just plowed through.
After a quick stop for gas, he sped out of town for
the second time on such a mission. This time, he
would actually make it out of town.
The road was pretty clear since it was mid-
afternoon, and Matt made good time to Patton. He
was in a good mood now, but he didn’t feel like
looking in this town. A thought came to him, why
not go over to Wellsly and pick up Terry. He could
convince him to go along for the ride wherever it
took them. His little escapade was turning out to
be better than he had expected. To hell with the
store, it wasn’t going to bind him into slavery
An hour later, he pulled into Wellsly, and
quickly came across the plant nursery where Terry
worked at the edge of town. Matt hopped out of his
car and ran in to talk to his old friend. When he
found him, a shocked smile gradually took over
“Matt! What are you doing here?”
Again happy to have such an effect on someone
he knew, Matt felt a surge of confidence in his
impulsive decision. “Thought you might like to go
on a little car hunting expedition with me, Terry,
how about it?”
Looking around in clear disbelief, Terry
quickly said, “I can’t just take off. I don’t own
the place you know.”
Still confident, Matt didn’t hesitate “Well, I
could use the company, man. Let me make you an
offer. If they won’t cut you loose for the day,
quit. I need a partner in the store, and you’re
“What! You were serious? You had better
think about it again, because I might just take you
up on you’re offer.”
Sure of himself, Matt said, “I’ve thought
about it more than enough. Are you going or not?”
Five minutes later, Matt had a new partner and
a wingman on his car hunt. He was definitely going
to make this a good day. All he needed now was to
find the new car of his dreams. That might be a
tough one since he didn’t exactly know what the car
of his dreams was today. But with a day like this
one though, he was bound to get something.
“How did you manage to get away from the store
today, Matt?” Terry asked as they hit the highway
heading for St. Louis in the much wealthier Sioux
Nation, and car lots galore.
“I couldn’t deal with the place anymore today,
so this is my escape. You’ll be my relief, though.
With you helping me run the place, I’ll have half
the work that I do now. I might as well fire the
rest of the staff now. I think that we could
handle the whole place ourselves.”
“Just as long as you don’t go back on your
offer now, Matt, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll
agree with anything you want to do. I still can’t
believe this. If I had been married or anything
like that, I couldn’t have done this. But, you
know how it is.”
“Yup, I’m afraid I do.”
“Well, anyway, I hope you have a place for me
to stay when I first get there. I also hope that
your….our business is doing good right now.”
“An easy yes to both questions, you can stay
with me for as long as you need to, and the
business is well into the black right now as it
always is. I’ve been thinking about getting a
roommate for the past week or so anyway after that
nightmare. The place is really starting to get to
me, living there alone and everything. Well, you
know what I’m talking about.”
With things pretty well settled in Terry’s
mind for the time being, the car settled into a
comfortable silence. The drive took them rapidly
toward the western end of the Shawnee Nation.
Things changed dramatically as they emerged from
the northern edge of the Shawnee Forest. The trees
could apparently lull you into believing the whole
Nation was doing as well as Hawthorne. The
shocking truth would have been difficult to
imagine. The first impossible to ignore change was
the fields that were surrounded by twenty foot
high, razor wire topped chain link fencing. These
appeared at pretty frequent and increasing
intervals. They would occasionally catch sight of
soldiers patrolling the perimeters of the fenced
land, and not just soldiers, but heavily armed
Apache soldiers. The soldiers were predominantly
guarding fields of livestock, but occasionally they
would spot a soldier on the perimeter of a field
that was being used to grow crops. There was
nothing like this near Hawthorne or within a
hundred mile radius of it. On first sight, Terry’s
initial impression was “HOLY CRAP!” This was
followed by a few quieter and less intense “Holy
crap”s until all he could do was stare.
“I can’t believe this.” He eventually said
still looking out his side window. Matt decided
the statement was directed toward him since he was
the only other person in the car.
“I know, I’ve seen them hundreds of times
before. You don’t get out of the Forest much do
“I guess not. This stuff would be hard to
“Yeah, and it only gets worse in the flatlands
farther north. Didn’t you at least hear about this
at the university?”
Glancing toward Matt, but quickly turning back
around to stare out his window, Terry said softly,
“Well, probably. But it’s pretty hard to accept or
even consider accepting until you’ve actually seen
“We have it pretty good where we are, or at
least where I am and where you’re going to be.”
Terry settled back into his seat silently and
Matt shot some quick looks over at him a few times
to see if he was all right. Matt had never seen
anybody react so intensely to a bunch of fences.
But then they weren’t exactly normal, everyday
fences. The people who owned that land had a
serious interest in protecting it, and he could
understand that as a businessman himself. Most of
the fenced land was owned by businesses in other
Nations, and if they had been burned by theft in
the past, they were determined to prevent it from
happening again in the future, some a little more
ferociously than others apparently.
Following the initial shock caused by the
fences, the rundown towns they intermittently
passed didn’t provoke a response from Terry.
Wellsly wasn’t exactly a booming metropolis, and he
had spent quite a few years since college finding
that out. Poverty wasn’t new to him. He had grown
up as an orphan and only managed to go to college
on an urchin grant from some stranger or business
in a Nation bordering the Shawnee Nation. The
donors were never revealed, but anyone who got a
grant knew it was an attempt to make them
productive, law-abiding citizens before they
abandoned the Shawnee Nation like most eventually
would. The chance to go to college had turned him
around so the program was apparently working at
The view began to change as they neared St.
Louis, Sioux Nation. Gradually, the giant fences
tapered off and the towns grew in size and
prosperity. The transformations were as
unmistakable as the abrupt changes he had seen as
they drove out of the Forest. By the time they
neared the inter-Nation bridge, there was probably
little difference between the Sioux and the Shawnee
sides. Clearly, the best area on the Shawnee side
surrounded the Eastern Intertribal Council complex
at Cahokia, a long abandoned native city. The
wealth in this small area easily matched that in
any other Nation, but then, the wealth was coming
from other Nations along with their tribal
representatives. Cahokia had become a virtual
utopia in comparison to the rest of the Shawnee
When they made it al the way into St. Louis,
the car hunt turned out as well as Matt could have
ever expected. Looking in a large city in a much
wealthier Nation greatly increased the selection.
After two or three stops, he found the car he
couldn’t do without.
On the way home in his new car, Matt was in an
even better mood than before. Porsche’s seemed to
have a way of doing that to people, old or new.
Terry felt happily secure in their deal, and their
conversation carried on non-stop. They were both
riding high in the clouds, and it would take some
serious trauma to bring them down.
A day later, the effects of seeing the man in
black were still savagely eating away at Marcus.
It still all seemed so impossible. Sure, some of
his dreams had actually happened in the past. But
they had happened before he had the dream, not
afterwards. And none of them had come close to
being this bad. There was something extremely
wrong with it all, and he couldn’t put a finger on
it no matter how hard he tried. The man, or was it
just a dark figure…whatever it was it was
horrible, and he needed to know what it meant. He
felt like he was having a breakdown, and he hoped
like hell it was reversible. What was he going to
do? Their marriage couldn’t stand another knock
like his coma. And the figure…it was going to
appear again. He could feel it. But why, why was
he so sure of it? He had never been as sure of
anything since he had met Nikki. He had been sure
of her. That was a good thing though. This…this
was something else. It could come from anywhere.
He had a hard time even walking through his own
house at night now without crumbling in fear. And
where would it end? Where would the nightmare end?
Immediately after falling asleep, Hedda found
herself in the same place she had been for the past
five nights. She continued to be boggled by the
cumulative nature of the stupid dream. And now she
was in it again. The procession slowly came
through the cemetery. The huge vapor eyes appeared
and began to stare at her. The hooded figures
closed in on her, and then her father revealed
himself. From that point, the dream had progressed
a little further every night. Various people,
people she had never seen before, began to be
unhooded. But the significance hadn’t yet
surfaced. There had to be a reason for it. Why
else would she have the stupid dream so many times?
This time, from the depths of the darkness, a
figure appeared. It was something new, she thought
in the dream, as the dream seemed to roll on in
front of her eyes. The figure didn’t belong there,
and yet it did. The feeling was unexplainable. As
the dream continued on, in a sudden and less
explainable impulse she yelled at the dark figure.
“You, over there in the darkness, make
yourself known to me!”
Amazed by the formality of her own atypical
speech, she regretted her stupid behavior
immediately as she usually did when she behaved
like an idiot in a dream. Hedda dove back behind
the tree line to wait for her punishment. But like
the past few times, the dream wasn’t going any
further tonight and its vividness began to fade
slowly. Fighting it in every way she could, she
tried to keep from waking up. The figure had to be
significant. She was sure of it. But then the
dream was gone, and she found herself half awake
lying in bed with Ray. A safe place to be, she
thought. Better than the old cemetery in the dream
at any rate, and that made waking up a good thing
even if she wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep
for the rest of the night.
With that thought, she forced herself out of
bed to go to the bathroom. Her full bladder was
probably why she had woken up, she thought walking
down the hall toward their guest bathroom. ‘Why
hadn’t she gone into the bathroom next to their
bedroom like always?’ popped into her head. It
hadn’t even registered as unusual behavior until
she was almost to the second bathroom. She quickly
pushed the thought out of her head. She wouldn’t
be able to sleep now anyway, and maybe not for the
rest of the night. Revived would have been a good
word for it, wired even better. Not the way she
usually felt half way through the night that was
As she passed the half-open sliding door to
the living room, something peculiar caught her eye.
Continuing on to the bathroom, she would have to
figure it out after she had taken care of the
business at hand.
A few minutes later, she was at the door into
the living room again and looking in. The
strangeness in the room filled her thought
immediately. There was movement in there. She
could feel it more than she could actually see it,
but it was there. The darkness robbed her of most
of her sight. It had to be Ray, she thought to
herself. Or did she say that out loud? It didn’t
really matter. There was definitely something
moving in the living room.
As her eyes slowly became accustomed to the
darkness of the room, the cause of the disturbance
became clear. The old wooden rocker was slowly
swaying back and forth. Staring even harder, the
horror of the moment hit her with the force of a
cannon. Ray hadn’t followed her out of the room.
The chair was empty!
The room became darker and Hedda slid down the
doorframe with an ease that would have been unknown
to her any other time because of her age.
Down the hall, Ray had reached out for Hedda
to find her side of the bed cooling and empty.
Thinking she must have gone to the bathroom, he
looked in the direction of the connected bathroom
for any light that would prove him correct. But
the doorway was open and dark. She had gone to the
kitchen then, he thought. But that would be
unusual for her. She had to be sick or something.
Jumping out of bed, he hit the bedroom light
switch and grabbed his robe at the same time.
Stepping into the hall, he saw her crumpled figure
on the floor near the living room, and his first
thought was to call an ambulance. No, he had to
get her off the floor.
With a quick flick of his wrist, he lit the
whole hall up, and most of the house with it.
Moments later he found that she was breathing but
her pulse was racing. Gently shaking her, he knew
that she had fainted by the way she lay on the
floor. But the look on her face… What would
cause such a strange expression? She looked
scared, but of what? He hadn’t heard anything. He
had been sleeping though, and it would have taken
something pretty harsh to pull him out of it. Not
feeling her next to him in bed had been along that
line, but he hadn’t even felt her get out of bed.
The closest place to lay her down was the
living room couch, and he made his way to it after
lifting her from the floor. His heart wouldn’t
tolerate him doing this too many times. He was out
of breath before he got half way across the room to
An odd revelation hit him, and he glanced over
at the now motionless rocking chair. He could feel
that there was something wrong with the room, but
he couldn’t see anything unusual. Everything
looked the way it always did. It sure as hell
didn’t feel right though.
A shadow caught his eye, and he turned to
stare into the corner where he had seen it. His
mind was giving him fits, he thought, because there
was nothing there. This was all too much. He
couldn’t take much more strain.
“Are you O.K., Hedda?” Ray asked as Hedda
finally came to twenty minutes after he had found
her. “You know, you can’t do this to me, honey.
You’re all that I have, and I don’t want to lose
“What happened, Ray?”
“I don’t know….I found you on the floor in
the hall, and brought you in here to the couch.”
As Hedda’s mind tried to pull back what had
happened to her, her eyes darted about the room
looking for something she wasn’t sure she would
know if she saw. Something in the room had brought
her to the floor, but what could it have been.
There wasn’t anything in the room that could have
fallen on her and knocked her down. Had she
tripped? She couldn’t imagine on what, but then,
anything was possible in the dark.
With a blank look, she stared at the rocker,
hadn’t there been something sitting there?
No…That was foolish. Nothing was there now, and
nothing ever was in the old antique. They never
“Do you think you can make it to bed, Hedda?
Or should I call Marcus and have him come over and
check you out?”
“Don’t bother him at this hour. I think I can
make it back to bed, but you had better help me
anyway. I feel so tired now.”
Helping her to her feet, Ray led her across
the room. When they were almost on top of the
rocking chair, he had to pull her to the side. She
must have still been out of it a little, he
thought, because she almost walked into the stupid
thing. Maybe he had better carry her the rest of
“What are you doing, Ray?”
“I’m going to carry you the rest of the way
back there, honey. You’re so tired; you almost
walked into the rocking chair.”
“The what, what are you talking about?”
“You’re half asleep, Hedda. Didn’t you see
the rocking chair here by the door?”
Turning around to look in disbelief, she saw
it. It wasn’t moving now, but it had been.
Darkness again began to take over her vision, and
Ray held her up as she started for the floor. He
hoped Marcus wouldn’t mind a call, because he was
about to get one.
But by the time Ray carried Hedda to the
bedroom, his own heart was acting up, and he
collapsed on the bed. Grabbing for his pills, he
popped one into his mouth and lay there hoping to
feel better, if even slightly. Whatever was wrong
with Hedda was about to push him over the edge. He
had to settle down. She wouldn’t make it a week if
she woke up and found him dead beside her.
The pill took hold though, and he was up a
short while later to put her the rest of the way
into bed. In his pain, he had more or less dumped
her half on and half off the bed. She still hadn’t
woken up… Something was seriously wrong with her.
She didn’t feel warm, but you couldn’t always tell
Maybe he could wait until morning. She was
right about waking Marcus up. He wouldn’t mind
coming over, no doubt, but sleep was precious to a
doctor. Morning would show if she was any better.
It was probably just exhaustion anyway. She hadn’t
slept well lately, or at least, this week she
hadn’t. That was surely taking its toll on her,
and tonight showed it.
It was strange how she had been having the
same nightmare every night this week, too. She had
never experienced anything like this, or at least
she hadn’t told him if she had. He would have to
ask her about it in the morning. But for now, the
light in the living room had to be put out, and
then it was bedtime.
Turning around, he walked into the hall and
headed for the living room. Just before he reached
it, he stooped down to check the carpet for any
loose ends. He knew there weren’t any, but
something had caused her to fall and he needed to
take care of it.
At the doorway into the living room, he found
the carpet was firmly seated as it seemed to be
everywhere else. He reached for the light switch,
giving up for the night. The sudden darkness sent
a chill up his spine, and he found himself rushing
down the hall for some reason. It was just a
strange and stupid feeling, but he felt someone was
Quickly closing the door to his bedroom, Ray
leaned against it for a while to catch his breath.
His heart was again wildly arrhythmic. It was over
for him, he was sure of it this time. The dark
form in the bedroom corner was the final play of
the game. Grasping his chest, Ray fell to the
floor, and his body quivered as death took hold.
The final thought to flow through the
agonizing pain wrenching his body brought a flow of
tears to his eyes. I love you Hedda…good-bye.
Marcus finally managed to pull his spirits up
after several days. He didn’t consciously do it;
he just more or less blocked the events of that
previous evening out of his mind. Time had a way
of making horrible things seem not quite as bad for
him. It was a gift that he had developed sometime
in his past, but when, he obviously had forgotten.
Things went well at the office for him, or at
least, better than they had all week. This good
day inspired him to take a drive by the corner
where he had seen the figure. He had to face what
he had seen for a change, and it would be easier on
a good day. The sun was even shining brightly for
him. Maybe, just maybe, it had been a real person
on the corner that night. Maybe some trace of him
was still there. It was doubtful, but there was
always a chance.
Nikki might even want to go with him. She
would if she knew it would make him feel better.
She had really changed in the past few weeks;
especially since she had found out she was
pregnant. The old jealousy bullshit had gone down
the drain now. If he would quit seeing things and
having the damn seizures, his life would really be
pretty normal. There always seemed to be something
going wrong though. With his luck, he probably was
having a breakdown. That and death were about the
two worst things that could happen to a guy.
“Nikki,” Marcus said as she answered the
phone, “how about going on a little drive with me?”
“Sure, honey. Where are we going?”
“Uh..I thought we’d go over by that corner.
You know the one that I saw the figure on.”
“How could I forget? Are you sure you want to
do this, Marcus?”
“Well, it’s a good sunny day, and monsters
usually only come out at night….Yes, of course
I’m sure. Do you want to go?”
“Of course I’ll go with you! You’re not going
over there alone. That’s for sure.”
“Good. I’ll be over to pick you up in a few
minutes. Bye, honey.”
“Bye.” Nikki said as she hung up the phone.
She hoped she wouldn’t regret this. If it
returned him to what he had been like for the past
few days, she knew she would. The thought made her
sick to her stomach.
But as it turned out, they found nothing.
There were no tracks, and there wasn’t a way that a
person could have come and gone to create such an
illusion. What happened had been a case of the
supernatural, or more likely than that, purely a
mental aberration brought on by his head trauma.
The idea of a breakdown flew back into
Marcus’s head with the ferocity of a demon. He
knew for sure that he was falling apart now. He
would rather be dead than lose his sanity and
everything that it entailed, Nikki included. He
had to take control and that was all there was to
Hopefully, Nikki didn’t think that he was
losing his mind. No matter how much she loved him,
he knew that it wouldn’t hold up through a
breakdown. Hard times weren’t far behind them, and
he knew that they could crop up again at any time.
He had to figure this thing out before it meant the
end of his marriage.
The drive home was a quiet one. Marcus was
afraid to ask Nikki what she thought of him, and
Nikki was afraid that anything she said would show
her lack of faith. They were both confused, and to
say the least, scared.
Nikki hadn’t lost faith in Marcus. She was
becoming afraid of him in many ways, but she had in
no way lost faith in him. The reasons for her fear
were as deep rooted to her as Marcus’s reasons were
to him. She was sure that he wouldn’t understand
them either. She sure didn’t know what was getting
to him. They were going to have to sit down for
another talk before it got any worse. Tonight..
The office had become peaceful for Norman
since Phyllis’s death. No more nagging phone
calls, no more hiding his affair, and most
importantly, no more going home to the hag.
Norman’s brutal life had turned to sugar. It made
him wonder what would go wrong next.
“What do you want to do tonight, Janet?”
Norman asked as she came into his office for the
thousandth time that day.
His admiration for her had increased even
beyond what it had been. They obviously belonged
together, or at least he felt so.
“Well, why don’t we just stay in again?”
“Are you sure, Janet? You aren’t getting
tired of that are you?”
“No..it’s only been a short time since your
wife died, and I don’t want any suspicion to fall
on our affair. I know it doesn’t really matter
anymore, but I would feel better about it anyway.”
“O.K., that’s fine with me.” He said with a
She was thoughtful. Thinking of their
reputations all along was just a small part of it.
She was a real wonder to him, and it seemed she
always would be.
Time passed quickly for them, but they closed
the office early anyway. They were both ready to
hit the bed, and they knew each other well enough
that evasiveness was well out of their systems. It
was becoming impossible for either of them to keep
their minds on work. If it weren’t for the other
realtors under Norman’s hire, they wouldn’t spend a
minute a week in the office.
But as the door closed behind them, the few
thoughts they kept for the office passed from their
heads. Only pleasure was on their minds now, and
they would soon be absorbed in it. If this was
love, they had fallen as far as anyone could
imagine, and possibly deeper.
The ride to Janet’s apartment wasn’t quick
enough for the two. Their desire was building
beyond control. But as soon as Janet had her key
in the door, the phone rang. Ringing more than
twenty times, she hesitantly picked it up.
As Norman sat down on the couch, he heard
Janet hurriedly hang up the phone. A few seconds
later, she entered the living room with a blank
look on her face that could only mean trouble for
“Who was that, sweetie?”
“It…It was nobody.. There wasn’t anyone on
the line when I picked up the phone.”
“Then what’s the matter, hon? You don’t have
to take it so hard. It happens all the time.”
“I know that. But something was different
this time. I didn’t hear anything, but then I
“Well then, what did you hear?”
“I don’t know. But I heard something, and I
don’t know if it was words or what it was. It was
strange. It was very strange.”
“Well, can you put it out of your mind? If
not, I think that we might as well go grab
something to eat.”
“Let’s go eat then. I’m sorry, Norman. I
shouldn’t let this bother me, but it is.”
“It’s O.K. We have the rest of our lives to
have sex, maybe even later tonight, if you’re up to
“We’ll have to see. It was just so strange,
and I don’t have to deal with this sort of thing
A little depressed by the situation, Norman
slowly got up from his seat and walked to the door.
His thoughts traveled to later that night, and he
hoped that she would feel better. Just having her
with him made his life so much better. He would
have to keep himself cheerful, and maybe she would
As they were about to close the door, the
phone started to ring again. Looking into Janet’s
eyes, he saw exactly what he had to get rid of, her
uneasiness. Making his way across the room to the
phone, his composure was destroyed when the phone
stopped ringing as he picked it up.
“God damnit!” He screamed into the phone.
“Come on, Norman, let’s get out of here.
After we eat, we’ll go to your place instead. I
think I’ll feel better there.”
“O.K.” Norman said with rage still oozing
from his voice.
“That sounds good. We’ll take the phone off
the hook, too, believe me!”
This time, they made it out the door, and were
soon eating shrimp and French fries at Weatherby’s.
As the evening wore on, they gulped down a large
number of drinks, and with them came forgetfulness.
Again, they were becoming aroused. As it built in
their bodies, they began to caress each other under
the table. Drunkenness gave them the freedom they
sought, and darkness provided them with an easy way
into the men’s restroom. They had never done
anything as wild as making love in a restaurant
bathroom, but they were soon taking care of that.
The sense of excitement flared even greater as
they feared someone might intrude. Sweat began to
flow, and as they both lost sight of their
surroundings, Janet uttered words Norman had never
heard. They seemed so raw and sexual that his
whole body tingled.
As quickly as it had begun, it was over. They
both felt the wear on their bodies, but they were
still too excited to be tired. Quickly exiting the
restroom and then the restaurant, they made their
way back to Norman’s house. Here, they found what
Norman had been waiting for seemingly for an
eternity, the bed, and its promises of further
Sobered by their experience, and yet drunk
enough to enjoy a brief rest, the phone jarred them
from their peace. The two calls at Janet’s
apartment were long forgotten to them, and Norman
picked up the phone wondering who the hell would be
The line was dead. Not just a dial tone, but
totally, soundlessly dead.
As he slammed the phone down, the memory
slipped back into his mind, and he frowned in
disbelief. This couldn’t be happening here, too.
Who would want to ruin their evening besides a dead
woman? Her days of that were well over.
The phone came off the hook. They weren’t
going to be disturbed anymore tonight.
For some reason, Pete dreaded getting up for
the day’s paper route. The bed felt really good to
him, and the route was getting so boring. Maybe he
would change the delivery order again today. He
had already done that three times in the past two
weeks, and it hadn’t helped. He would do anything
to beat the boredom though.
Finally crawling out of bed a few minutes
before he was supposed to be at the paper office,
Pete rushed out the door without a word to his mom.
He was getting to the age where he felt it didn’t
matter if she knew where he was every minute. She
knew anyway, but not telling her every day made him
A half hour later, he came to the first house
on his route. The supplements he was also hauling
weren’t that important to people, he thought, so he
was going to take his time today. No one would
know the difference. Most people threw them away
or put them at the bottom of birdcages.
Deciding to zigzag around his route, hoping
not to miss anyone, Pete headed for the Lemonte
house. Maybe Marcus would ask him in like he had
last week. That had been the only good point in
his day, especially since he had gotten his hat
But when Pete knocked on the Lemonte’s door,
there was no answer. He knew they had to be up
because Dr. Lemonte’s office opened in half an hour
or so, and he would be going there soon. As he
continued to knock, he had an idea. Maybe they
were in the kitchen and couldn’t hear him. He
would have to go knock on the back door, just in
case. He really did feel like talking to Marcus
today. He had been thinking a lot about the old
funeral home, and he needed to ask him a question
or two about it.
Leaving his bike behind, Pete ran around to
the back of the house, looking in all the windows
as he went. At the back steps, he felt someone
watching him, and knew that they had to be there in
the kitchen. After a few knocks and no answer, he
gave up and started back to the front of the house.
A harsh and sudden realization made him turn
and look at the funeral home. There, on the grown
up front lawn was his father! Turning away, he
knew that it was impossible. His father had been
dead for over two years!
Another look and his father had gotten closer
to him. He was at the edge of the Lemonte’s yard,
and his hand was raised beckoning him to come
It was impossible! It was just impossible!
He had seen his father in the coffin, eyes closed,
and as dead as he had ever seen anyone! This was
Pete closed his eyes. But fear made them open
again, and the five seconds brought the figure to
within twenty feet of him. Panic rose into his
throat, and he felt the need to throw up.
Something smelled horrible, and it was getting
worse by the second.
From the front of the house, Pete heard a car
pull into the drive. Glancing back to the figure,
a dark suited man had taken his father’s place. An
instant later, it was gone as Marcus Lemonte pulled
up beside the wide-eyed, sick-faced boy.
“What’s the matter, Peter? You look like
you’ve seen a ghost.” Marcus said, regretting it
as the boy’s face grew whiter and he started to
shake after the remark.
Before Marcus was halfway out of his car, Pete
was wrapped around him crying so hard it shook
“Are you O.K., son?”
But it was obvious he wasn’t, and he kicked
himself mentally for his second stupid question.
The boy had seen something, and it had come from
the funeral home.
Pete continued to cry, and with a little
effort, Marcus picked him up and carried him into
the house. When he tried to put him down, he found
it impossible. The boy was clamped to him like a
vise. The strength a frightened little kid could
have was incredible.
About an hour later, Marcus had called in to
his office to tell them that he wouldn’t be in
until eleven o’clock. Pete was calmed down almost
to the point of talking, and Nikki had come and
gone. Hedda was taking Ray’s death terribly, and
Nikki had been trying to console her since five-
thirty that morning. She somehow felt Ray’s death
was her fault, and kept mumbling something about a
It was a strange and stressful morning. Ray’s
death alone had been enough, but to come home from
there to find Peter about to have a cow in the side
yard….it was just too much. The past few weeks
had been like some demented soap opera, and he was
getting pretty tired of it. Something was going to
give sooner or later, and he still wasn’t so sure
that it wouldn’t be him.
“Pete, can you tell me what you saw out
A few mumbled words came out, and then Pete’s
voice picked up.
“I saw my father…”
“What, Pete? I thought your father was dead.
Didn’t he die about two years ago in a car wreck?”
“Yes……I saw my father.”
“Yes, your father’s dead, or yes, you saw
him?” Marcus queried, feeling confused, and hoping
the first was true.
“Yes, I saw him, and yes, he’s dead!” Pete
blurted out before bursting back into tears.
“But that’s impossible, Pete. We both know
that, don’t we?”
Still crying, the boy nodded his head in
agreement. Marcus’s heart jumped as he thought of
something that scared even him.
“Did you see anything else, Pete, besides your
father?” He asked, feeling a chill rush down his
“No……yeah, I did…there was a man in a
As Marcus’s eyes began to water, he walked
away to the sink to hide his face from the boy.
This couldn’t be happening to him. He wasn’t
cracking up, but he knew it would probably be
better for him if he were. He wasn’t the only one
seeing the figure. It was tearing up this little
kid’s life now, too!
“I think you’d better stay here for the rest
of the day, Pete.” Marcus said as he finally
turned away from the sink.
“No…I can’t. I have to finish my paper
“I’ll take care of that for you. What’s the
paper office phone number?”
“I don’t know. I never have to call in
“Well then, come with me, and we’ll stop by
there. I guess I need to go to my office for a
while. You can go with me, O.K.”
A spark of light came to Pete’s eyes. He had
never been as afraid as he was now. Not even the
night at the funeral home. But Marcus was making
him feel a little better. He seemed to know
exactly what he was feeling. Maybe he had been
afraid one time when he was a kid, and now he
understood. Anyway, he felt safe with Marcus. The
thing had disappeared when Marcus pulled up, and
now he felt safe.
From outside, a loud noise drew both of their
attentions. It was several seconds before they
realized it was only a car, and a minute later
before their hearts calmed down. Nikki was home.
“We had better hurry up and get to the
office.” Marcus said to Pete.
But what he really meant was they had better
get away before Nikki saw Pete. She had made it
quite obvious that she didn’t like the boy. And he
could see no reason to push the matter, especially
with both of them close to hysteria. Nikki
couldn’t even begin to understand them.
Rushing for the front door, Marcus remembered
his car was parked at the side of the house. She
knew he was still here, unless she figured he had
walked to the office. They would have to now. The
kid couldn’t be alone, if he had any understanding
of what he had been through. They were just going
to have to walk.
The sight of Marcus’s car in the drive sent a
sigh of relief through Nikki’s body. All the grief
that Hedda was feeling made Nikki realize how much
Marcus meant to her. She was so lucky to have him,
even though she didn’t seem capable of showing it
to him sometimes. Maybe there was something wrong
with her that she couldn’t see in herself. Marcus
had to really love her if that was the case. It
almost made her cry to think that she had stuck it
out with him several times for less than romantic
Glancing up to the second story window of
their bedroom, Nikki saw the curtains close back as
if someone had been watching her pull up. Marcus
was home, all right. A flash of thought spurred
the deep-rooted feelings of love in her, and she
rushed into the house in anticipation of seeing
As the back door closed behind her, Marcus and
Pete were half way down the block toward his
office. Nikki quickly climbed the stairs and
started down the hall toward the bedroom. There
was a slight chill in the house, but she was too
excited at the thought of seeing Marcus to notice
it. Cold weather was well past by May in Hawthorne
The sunlit hall began to dim slowly as if
darkened by a passing cloud, but Nikki could only
think of Marcus. Nearing the bedroom doorway, she
could see no signs of his presence, but she knew he
was there. He had to be there. She had just seen
him in the window. In fact, she had seen his face.
He had seemed so handsome in that instant, and even
more so than usual.
“Marcus. Marcus, where are you, honey? Don’t
hide from me.”
But there wasn’t any response to her words.
The room seemed empty as if he hadn’t been there at
all. He had to be in the bathroom then, and just
couldn’t hear her.
When she crossed the room, the darkness that
had swallowed up the hall began to surround her.
Only seeing the brightness of the bedroom window,
she didn’t realize what was overtaking her.
Reaching the bathroom, she didn’t understand why
Marcus hadn’t acknowledged her.
“Marcus! Don’t do this to me. Please come
out, wherever you are.”
Only silence greeted her as she looked into
the mirror and saw the hazy darkness in the bedroom
behind her. Her thoughts flew through all the
possible causes for it, and settled on ‘fire’!
Panic rose in her throat. She had to get out of
Running into the bedroom, she couldn’t smell
smoke. What the hell was going on here!
The air began to close in on her, taking her
breath away. Total darkness soon surrounded her
with a viciousness she had never realized it could
hold. And then Marcus’s experience in the funeral
home floated into her mind. Passing out would be a
As if the darkness could sense her thoughts,
the haze lightened enough for her to take a rasping
breath. She again started for the hall, but didn’t
really know if that was where she was heading. She
felt herself flounder around the room for what
seemed an eternity, barely conscious. The door was
here somewhere. Why couldn’t she find it? What
was happening to her?
Arrangements for Ray’s funeral had to be made,
Hedda thought as she lay in bed feeling sick at the
very thought of it. She knew she wouldn’t be able
to take care of it. There was no way. She
couldn’t even look at his closet without breaking
into tears. One of their kids would have to do
everything for her. They’d be there within a few
hours, and they would be the ones taking care of
Again, tears took hold of her as she shook in
violent spasms that drained her of what strength
she had left. Why couldn’t it have happened to
her? Of course, they’d expected him to die within
a few years, but doctors weren’t always right.
They weren’t gods. How could they predict his
death, and then just sit back and wait for it to
happen while she struggled with every emotion
available to her to forget it had even been said.
It wasn’t fair! They’d had so many problems, and
things were just looking up for them. The doctors
could all go to hell for what they’d done to her
life. They could all go to hell!
Sleep came to Hedda fitfully, but as a blessed
escape. In her sleep, Ray still lived. In her
sleep, things were as they always had been.
Then, the dream of the past week began to
unfold in front of her. The graveyard, the hooded
figures, the huge eyes floating in the mist,
everything was the same. The figures approached
her, and began to reveal themselves. The
familiarity of the dream was comforting in its own
way. Even when her father revealed his face, she
felt no fear. All was good, but doubtlessly not
intended to be. Ray’s face suddenly appeared as
one of the cloaked figures defrocked, and her heart
stopped. This was new. He wasn’t supposed to be
in this now sacred dream.
Looking frantically around, the black figure
she had only seen briefly before came from behind
the eyed mist. The figure moved towards her,
closer and closer, until it was within inches of
her face. Her stomach churned as it had never done
before in this place.
Abruptly, the figure veered to her left, and
journeyed again into the mist. Relief swept over
her, and she again began to view the unmasking of
the other figures. Comfort returned, and fear no
longer held her tensely in its grasp.
With her attention taken totally by the
unmasking of the figures, she failed to notice the
eyes. The bulbous objects were slowly beginning to
swirl as the mist had done earlier. The eyes moved
in and out in patterns that she didn’t notice. The
eyes reached a certain point, and kept to it
lessening their swirls, but increasing their speed.
Darkness began to grow from within this point, a
deep darkness that eventually caught Hedda’s
Nothing escaped the darkness that was forming.
Even the eyes which seemed to be forming it were
eventually trapped, and disappeared forever into
Hedda tried to develop an answer, but there
was no explanation for the nothingness. It only
grew, taking everything with it. The figures began
to be swept up in the blackness, and were
disappearing as the eyes had done. She watched as
her father and then Ray were carried away into the
When all were gone, the blackness no longer
spread. Again, relief seemed to fill her body. It
was almost over. She could feel herself beginning
to wake up. The dream would soon be over, and for
once, she welcomed it. Too much was happening and
it wasn’t right this time. It couldn’t be the same
dream, and yet she knew it was.
Watching the blackness, an even greater
darkness began to form within it. It would have
seemed impossible an instant earlier, but it was
happening. The darkness took form, and the dark
figure soon emerged from it. And then, just as
Hedda’s eyes popped open from the dream, a gently
swaying rocking chair appeared beside the figure.
What had been nothing in her mind the night
before now became all too clear to her; evilness
beyond her comprehension was going to kill her. It
was going to take her life, and any that might be
tied to her. The evil was upon them.
A harsh realization struck Nikki as she groped
for the door of her bedroom. She wasn’t ever going
to see Marcus again. She wasn’t ever going to have
their baby. Tears came to her eyes, and she fell
to the floor giving up to what seemed a lost cause.
From out of the darkness that surrounded
Nikki, a figure emerged. Still near the point of
passing out, she couldn’t make out the person who
was there. She only hoped that they would hurry
and save her. Although she didn’t know what was
happening to her, she did know she wanted out. Out
of this room, and out of this house for good.
The figure neared her, and when it was a step
away, Nikki reached for it. She missed. But that
was impossible, she thought. It was right there
nearly on top of her. Didn’t it see her? If it
was Marcus, why didn’t he see her!
Curling herself into a ball to prepare for the
force of a body falling on top of her, she waited.
The shock never came. Had she imagined the figure?
Maybe she had even imagined seeing Marcus in the
A strange feeling overtook her. She felt
weightless in the haze of the room. As the feeling
became stronger, she felt the softness of a bed
come between her and the floating sensation. She
had been moved from the floor. By what, she didn’t
want to know. But she had been taken from the
floor and moved to the bed by someone or something
that she couldn’t see or feel!
Fear clawed at her heart as she prayed for
Marcus to find her. She needed him now more than
ever. Even the love he felt for her wouldn’t bring
her back if this person killed her. He had to help
A weight came down on her, the weight of a
body. NO, she thought. Not to me. Not with a
child resting in my womb. Marcus’s child and the
child of the only man I could ever really love.
This can’t be happening to me!
She began to cry as the weight on top of her
forced her legs apart. She would rather die than
have this happen. “I love you, Marcus!” she
screamed. “I love you, Marcus! Please help me!
Please forgive me for this! I love you! I love
The weight came down harder, and she could
feel her pants being torn from her body.
As a door slammed downstairs, the haze cleared
instantly. A second later, Marcus’s face was
staring in horror at the half naked body of his
wife stretched out on their bed. Anger overtook
him immediately, and then she turned her head
towards him. The look on her face… The tears
streaming from her eyes… He saw the misery in her
eyes and rushed to her.
“Marcus..” She cried. “It was awful…it
tried to rape me, but I couldn’t see who it was!”
As Marcus fell to the bed beside her, tears
came to his eyes and the grief of a thousand deaths
poured into his stomach. He couldn’t do anything
to protect her. She had almost been raped, maybe
even had been, and he couldn’t do anything but hold
her now… Laying there in the once safe and
comfortable security of their own bed, the two
cried. They cried until they couldn’t cry anymore,
and then they held each other for the rest of the
day, forgetting food and everything else that would
have made the day normal. Their lives and their
marriage had been violated in a way that could
never be forgotten. Marcus wanted to kill the man
who had done this to her, but it would be
impossible to find him without the slightest
fraction of a description.
Thoughts poured through their heads. Reasons
evaded them, but the thoughts came to them freely
anyway. Thoughts of the funeral home and the
problems it had already caused in their lives,
thoughts of the man in black, thoughts of death.
Would there be no end to the ruin of their lives?
Eventually having taken as much comforting
from Marcus as she could deal with, Nikki got up
from the bed and made her way down to the kitchen.
Marcus had to be hungry, even though she knew she
wouldn’t be able to bring herself to eat. She had
to take care of him, otherwise, he might not
understand. Losing him would send her over the
A few minutes later, Marcus came down to check
on her. “Honey, I’m not really hungry. Don’t go
to any trouble for me, O.K.”
“But I want to, Marcus.”
“You don’t have to though. You know that,
“Yes…no, I don’t know.. I did, but not
anymore..” And tears again came to her eyes as the
pain and confusion swept over her.
“Oh, honey. I love you so much. I love you,
and nothing can change that.”
“Are you sure? Nothing…not even this?”
They had spoken enough. There was a little
comfort in just being together, but the cut had
been a deep one. In the back of Marcus’s mind, he
wanted to know exactly what had happened. But he
knew now wasn’t the time to work it out. She
needed time to straighten things out in her own
mind first. So much had been going on lately. It
was amazing that they had held up this long. He
couldn’t think about the rest of it now. She
needed all of his attention.
Darkness overtook the house rapidly, and
neither one of them had realized it until it was
almost ten o’clock. They were in their own world,
a world of self-pity and remorse. Time meant
nothing to them, and they felt nothing to go along
At eleven-thirty, Marcus picked Nikki up and
started to carry her upstairs. She didn’t resist
him as she usually did when he wanted to carry her.
She needed him close to her and would allow
anything to keep him there.
When he had gotten her up to the bedroom, he
put her down on their bed and she curled up into a
“Honey, I’m going downstairs to shut the
lights off. I’ll be back in a second.”
“Marcus, don’t go. Just leave the lights on
for tonight. Don’t leave me alone up here…”
“It’ll just take a second, honey. Then I’ll
be right back. I promise”
“Please don’t leave me!”
He went anyway. He didn’t want to hurt her,
but she would have to get used to being in the room
Practically taking the steps in a single jump,
Marcus quickly made it to the kitchen. The lights
went out, and total darkness engulfed him.
Upstairs, the haze began to surround Nikki’s
body as she lay there watching it overtake her.
She tried to scream, but the words failed to escape
her mouth. The haze had her, and the weight again
fell down on her body.
Approaching the stairs, Marcus’s imagination
began to take him away. An old fear swept over him
as he mounted the stairs. What if someone reached
through the rails at his side and grabbed his feet.
The horrible implications of this threw him into
flight, and he skipped as many steps as he could
fearing the hand that would grasp his ankle.
The impossibility of what was happening to her
for the second time that day dawned on Nikki. At
the same time, she realized she had fallen asleep
for a brief moment, and this nightmare had been
Marcus came walking quickly into the room.
She was glad to see him, and realized that his hard
breathing had been the sound that woke her.
“What’s the matter, honey? Did you run up the
stairs or something?” Nikki asked, feeling the
drowsiness of her dream slip away.
“Uh..sure, Nik. Just trying to get back up to
you so you wouldn’t be afraid, is that O.K.?”
“Why of course it is, honey. I’m glad that
you got back so fast. Now climb into bed so that I
can hold you.”
Feeling he had managed to get away with being
scared without Nikki knowing it, Marcus got into
bed beside her and gave her a suspiciously large
kiss. She knew. He could tell by the twinkle in
her eyes as he pulled away from her lips.
The days went quickly for Matt and Terry after
they joined forces at the clothing store. Matt
felt like the weight of a million worlds had been
lifted from his shoulders. Not only that, but he
now had a friend who was less than a phone call
away. That alone tempered some of the fears that
were building from the nightmares he was still
having. The nightmares were worse, but he could
cope with them now that Terry smoothed out the
rough edges at the store. The coming night held
promise for further proof of that. They had been
invited to, of all things, a costume party.
Spending their lives surrounded by clothes, often
weirder than the costumes they made, was obviously
not enough for two girls at the store. Attending
the party was a major shift in Matt’s usual store
policies. Before this, he and his employees had
lived in different worlds even in a town the size
of Hawthorne, the immigrant pride of the Shawnee
Nation. It wasn’t what his father would have
wanted, but he was dead now and the decisions were
Matt’s to make. It had worked well until now.
From the moment Terry heard about the party, his
mind had whizzed to the possibility of making some
new friends and maybe finding a new girlfriend.
His life had improved tremendously and a girlfriend
seemed to be the next step. He actually had a
future now, and could imagine having someone to
share it. Matt wouldn’t be much help on his quest,
having the same problem himself. But Matt had
grown up here and couldn’t see beyond his history
with the people of Hawthorne. There was such a
thing as knowing too much about people after all.
But this wasn’t the case for Terry. It was all new
to him and he planned to seize the brief
opportunity before the store ruined it for him.
As the day rolled around to evening, Matt was
also beginning to think along the lines of a future
spouse as a result of Terry’s excitement. All of
his years had failed to provide him with even one
steady woman in his life. It was unlikely that
this night would be any different. This same
desperation in college was what had driven him to
desire Nikki. But she had been happy with Marcus,
despite some rough times. She was taken and he had
never accepted it. His best bet would be to find
someone to take his mind off her. Terry believed
the party might just provide that. Determination
was all that he needed, that and a hell of a lot of
“Well, Terry. What do you think of this get
up?” Matt asked as he made his way out of the
“Almost as good as mine.” Terry said
They had both chosen the late fifties, early
sixties, hippie look complete with shoulder length
wigs and peace medallions.
“We had better get out of here before I
chicken out on this nonsense.” Matt said as he
took another quick look in the mirror.
The ride to the party was a silent one as they
both tried to psyche themselves up. By the time
the sounds of the party met their ears, a
determined look had found its way into their eyes.
“Ready to make a fool of yourself?” Terry
asked as they stepped from the car and headed for
the source of the loud music. It was a wonder the
cops weren’t already there to harass the partiers.
At least that was the thought that lingered in
Terry’s mind until he stepped through the front
door. Standing there like bodyguards was what
appeared to be the town’s entire police force.
“Uh..hi boys.” Terry said as he quickly
stepped by them “Having a good time, I hope.”
“No problems here.” One of the officers said
as he lifted his half-empty beer cup up to the two
men. “Just making sure things don’t get out of
Cops! Small towns were truly amazing. The
mayor was probably floating around the place
somewhere in a drunken stupor.
Look over there.” Matt said, trying to get
away from the cops like he had just punched one in
the mouth. “Isn’t that Sue?”
“What” was all Terry got out before he was
shoved half way across the room by Matt’s hurried
Hitting a small clearing in the middle of the
living room, Matt stopped a minute to catch his
breath. While standing there, Sue actually did
walk up to them and start a conversation. Since
Terry had only met her a few days earlier, he more
or less stayed out of the little chat that went on
between the other two, and drifted off to find his
own company. The resolve was still raging in his
blood, but if he started to think about it too
much, he knew it wouldn’t last.
“What do you think of the party so far?” Sue
asked Matt as she hung close to him so he could
“I don’t really know. We just got here a few
“Well, I’ve been around the whole place, and
you’re the best thing that I’ve seen so far.” She
said pulling closer to him.
It was obvious she had been there quite a
while. She was already drunk enough to make a pass
at him, and he was her boss.
“Uhh..why don’t we get to someplace that’s a
little more quiet.” He quickly suggested.
Threading their way through the crowd of
people, Matt’s naive view of the girl’s simple
drunken pass at him didn’t register. Inexperience
was a big problem in his love life, and wasn’t
about to be fixed without a few letdowns.
After about twenty minutes, they finally made
it to the back door and freedom. The talk began
and continued for several hours with Matt feeding
Sue a steady flow of alcohol. Gathering his
courage, he managed to ask her to go back to his
house with him for a few more drinks.
“No..,” she mumbled, “I’ve had enough to
drink. But if you want to go to bed, I’m game.”
The shock of her words hit him instantly.
This was incredible. She had actually asked him to
go to bed without any of the crap that he had
expected he would have to go through. More than
likely, he wouldn’t have either. He would have
ended up driving her home after hours of hinting
conversation on his part, and been severely
depressed afterwards. This was great! Without a
further thought, Matt hurried Sue to his car,
totally forgetting Terry. There was only one
thought on his mind. A thought that constantly
plagued him but was always unfulfilled. Sex!
He made the drive back to his house in record
time. His anticipation far outweighed his worry of
a ticket. Besides, most of the police force was
drunk back at the party. Even the one cop who had
caused him so much trouble since he had returned to
Hawthorne was there, drinking like everyone else.
The bastard was a two-face, and that was the one
thing that made Matt madder than anything in the
world. To think that he had been pulled over for a
DUI by a cop who, in uniform, was now drinking like
a fish at a large, out-of- hand party.
The front door opened easily as always, and he
helped Sue through and to the bedroom. Hospitality
was out. He was too ready for this, and she was
too drunk to care anyway.
As he undressed her, he could feel himself
needing her more with each passing second. He
tried to hurry, but only fumbled with her buttons,
and had to slow down to get the job done. He had
time anyway. The house was his, and Terry wouldn’t
disturb him even if it wasn’t.
Finished, his clothes came off easily, and he
slipped into bed with her, excited beyond anything
he had ever felt. Ecstasy was at hand, and he
would enjoy every bit of it.
Taking control, he began a routine that,
although unpracticed, seemed to come to him as
naturally as drinking beer. Lust was all it took
to drive the sexuality out of him, deeply rooted
and unused as it was.
Slowly driving her to her first climax, Matt
felt the joy that most of the world, with the
exception of him, had managed to feel in their
lives. As she squirmed around and occasionally let
out a slight gasp, his own need began to overtake
him. He was going to have to get inside her.
As always, he fumbled when it was really
important. This time, however, as he slowly began
to lose his patience and the desire to enter her
faded, Sue acted, even in her drunken state, to
pull him out of it. It was as if she knew he was
having trouble. In fact, she did know.
Experience, drunk or not, kept them going. But the
time quickly came and went, and they were both soon
about to fall asleep. Matt hadn’t been able to
control himself, but Sue was too tired to mind.
A loud crash at four AM brought Matt jarringly
awake. Before he could even struggle into his
pants, he heard pounding throughout the house, and
fear swallowed up his sanity. The thing from his
nightmares was coming to get him, and he had
nowhere to go! He was going to die!
It was now just outside his door. He could
feel its presence, and he was going to have to deal
with it. Maybe death wouldn’t be so bad. In a
way, he had always enjoyed peacefulness, and death
would be no more than that. Permanently!
The door suddenly slammed open, and the total
terror that had built in Matt’s soul sent him back
against the wall and crashing into his nightstand.
Lying against the wall, Matt stared in horror at
the figure standing before him. At first,
recognition failed him, but then there was only
disbelief. Terry, a ragged and bloody mess, fell
to the floor at the foot of his bed.
A scream issued forth from the other person in
the room, and Matt realized that Sue had woken to
see the same hideous thing he had.
“Shut up! Shut up you stupid bitch!” flew
from Matt’s mouth before he could control it.
There would be no further relations between them.
Partly because of what they had both just seen, but
mostly because of his stupid words. It didn’t
matter to him now anyway. His best friend lay on
the floor half dead, and all the stupid girl could
do was scream.
Getting to Terry as fast as he could, Matt saw
the destruction to his friend’s body. Without
turning him over, Matt could see that Terry’s left
arm was almost twisted clear of his body. His
clothing was soaked through with fresh blood
draining down his face from the large flap of skin
and hair partially attached to his skull. It had
to have happened just a few minutes before he made
it to the house.
Frantically, he got to a phone and called for
an ambulance. He knew it would take at least
twenty minutes for it to get from Patton to the
house, but he didn’t dare do anything else. He
tried to stop what bleeding he could without
disturbing Terry too much, but he knew the internal
damage had to be unbelievable. He was struggling
to breath and his pulse quickly became weaker
slowing the flow of blood. Terry had been to hell
and back and would only make it if he had an
unequaled lust for life.
As Sue sat on the bed in a state of shock,
Matt ran back and forth from the bathroom bringing
towel after towel to mop up the slowing blood flow.
If his will alone could keep Terry alive, he would
make it through this nightmare. He knew there was
a lot more to it than that, and feelings of
hopelessness began to overwhelm him.
Terry’s eyes opened, and Matt listened as he
struggled to get out a few words. Almost
inaudibly, he managed to choke out what he could.
“You left me…I..I was walking home..” But
he passed out again, and this time, Matt thought it
was for good.
The ambulance arrived, and the paramedics
tried everything they knew to save Terry. Barely
keeping him alive, the ambulance screamed off to
the hospital. Matt wanted to go, but they wouldn’t
let him with the situation as desperate as it was.
He would have to follow and give information to the
desk when he got there. They had to be sure the
bills would be paid before they’d save his friend’s
Soon after, the minutes crept by in the
waiting area outside of the emergency room and Matt
began to wonder if they had taken Terry to another
hospital. There didn’t seem to be anyone in the
damn place. He had always hated hospitals. They
seemed to be about the most inconsiderate places on
the face of the planet. Snooty doctors and bitchy
nurses were the problem. They lived in their own
little world, and just couldn’t stoop down to
anyone who wasn’t in the medical field. Patton
sure had one hell of a hospital for its massive
population of fourteen thousand. High quality
doctors probably flocked to the place. That is, if
high quality doctors were inept enough to be in the
lower twenty percent of their class.
Just as he was about to start tearing the
place up for answers, a short, pudgy nurse came up
“Are you here for Terry?” she asked as if she
was about to get off work and this was her last
‘Yes..yes, I am. How is he? He isn’t dead,
is he?” Matt asked, trying to hold back the anger
festering in him due to the hospital’s lack of
consideration. “What took so long anyway?”
“Just take it easy there, we’ve been working
on him from the moment he arrived, and we didn’t
think it would be appropriate to tell you anything
until we were sure of his situation.”
“Thanks a hell of a lot! Sure, I don’t need
to know. It would only make me worry more, my ass!
What’s wrong with you people? Do you think you’re
gods or something?”
“Listen sir, I’m not going to tell you
anything until you calm down enough to be able to
handle it. Now, are you going to calm down, or am
I going to have to leave you alone until you do?”
The anger flashed in Matt’s eyes, but he
fought to control it. It was important to know
what was happening with Terry, and if the little
bitch wanted him to be calm, he’d show her just how
calm he could be. Cold, of course, but calm all
“O.K., I’m all right. Now, tell me what’s
going on with my friend.”
“You can’t see him now, for one thing.” The
nurse said as she looked into Matt’s cold, almost
demonic eyes. “He’s in critical condition, and
he’s been rushed into surgery.”
As the nurse began to walk away, Matt grabbed
her shoulder and whipped her fat body back around
so fast that her head spun for a few minutes
“Is that all you’re going to tell me?” Matt
asked coldly, keeping a firm grip on her shoulder.
Cowering below him, the nurse felt her body
shrink as the illusion of his increasing size hit
her like a thousand pound weight. He was going to
kill her, she could feel it. Words began to flow
from her mouth like water, and she slowly lost
control of her legs until she dazedly walked off.
Matt casually walked to the first chair in
sight and sat down. The nurse’s mouth was getting
on his nerves. He had heard enough.
“I want to know where you were tonight,
Janet!” Norman yelled as she ran into the bathroom
of his house. “God damnit! If you’re going to
live here with me, I think I have the right to know
what you do at night!”
“It’s none of your business! I just went out,
and you’re going to have to live with that, or
forget about having me here.”
There was nothing Norman could do. He had let
her go out on Friday night without him because she
had asked for a little time alone. Everything
would have been fine if she had come home at a
decent hour. But she hadn’t. She had found her
way back to his bed at about three o’clock, and had
enough alcohol on her breath to knock him over.
Then there was the change of clothes she had
made sometime in the night. He remembered exactly
what she had been wearing when she left, and it
wasn’t what she had on when she got home.
The idea that she had been with another man
hounded Norman to the point that he could almost
kill her. He knew she had been. He could smell it
on her. It was a strange smell, too. She had
probably picked up the first scummy bastard she had
found, and taken him who knows where, maybe to the
As the thoughts continued to pour through
Norman’s head, Janet sat in the bathroom looking at
her legs. The torment that Norman seemed to be
going through meant nothing. The streaks of blood
on her legs made her wish he could be right about
her. The thing was, she didn’t remember, and
couldn’t tell him anything because of it. Even if
she did know, it wouldn’t be something he would
want to know. The blood must have been the cause
of her change of clothes. She just didn’t
Drifting through her memories of the night,
the last thing Janet could recall was being at some
party. But where the party could have been, and
who threw it escaped her as easily as what happened
afterwards, it was all a blank. Even the clothes
she now had on were unfamiliar, and definitely not
Whether Janet remembered or not, Norman knew
in his mind what had happened. She had seemed so
perfect for him. He had made a mistake though.
This little affair of theirs was over.
As soon as he got home, Pete locked himself in
his bedroom and cut the old baseball cap that his
father had given him into tiny little pieces. The
event that day had him shaking so bad he could
barely hold the scissors.
After sitting there for what seemed an
eternity, he felt he had to talk to someone.
Making his way through the house, his mother was
nowhere to be found. She had gone to the store.
It was shopping day, and she had gone to the store
for the week’s groceries.
He had to find someone else to talk to.
Harold came to his mind. He hated Harold’s guts,
but Harold had been with him when he had seen the
ghosts at the funeral home. Maybe he could help
him with what had just happened. Marcus had made
him feel a little better, but he was an adult, and
adults sometimes pretended to understand so that
you’d feel better. Besides, he had turned around
and gone back home before they even got to his
office and sent him home alone for some reason,
adults were really weird sometimes.
It took a lot of courage for Pete to call
Harold. More than he would have been able to
gather had it been for any other reason. This was
important though, and without hesitation, he dialed
“Is Harold there?” He asked when a woman’s
voice answered at the other end.
“Well, I don’t know. Hold on for a second.”
The wait was a short one, and Harold’s
screechy voice was soon bursting from the phone.
“Yeah, who is it?”
“It’s Pete, Harold. I need to talk to you
The sound of disbelief came into Harold’s
voice. “Pete who?”
“Pete Blair. Can I talk to you, or what?”
“Sure, go ahead. Why are you calling ME to
“We can’t talk on the phone. I don’t feel
right about it. Can you come over here?”
“Well, I guess I can, when?”
“O.K.” And Harold hung the phone back on the
wall. This was pretty weird. Blair had always
hated him. Why did he need to talk to him so bad
now? It would be worth the ride over there just to
About an hour later, Harold was knocking on
Pete’s door. Pete rushed him into the house like
the plague was outside waiting to get in, and
pushed him all of the way to his bedroom.
“I hope you have a good reason for calling me
over here, Blair.” Harold said in the usual jerky
way that he talked to Pete.
“I want you to tell me everything that you
know about ghosts.” Pete said flatly.
“You heard me. I want you to tell me
everything that you know about ghosts and monsters
and everything else like that.”
Harold’s edgy voice cooled off a little as he
felt proud because he had knowledge that someone
else actually needed.
“What do you want to know about those things?”
He asked eagerly.
“Everything, I want to know everything.”
“Can’t you ask me some specific questions? I
can’t just sit here and tell you everything I
“O.K. then, you know that night at the funeral
home? Did you see those things through the window,
or was it just me?”
“I saw them.”
“Well, what were they?”
“I guess they were ghosts. Isn’t that what
“Yeah, but I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t ever seen
a real ghost until then. Then, and today.”
“What? Where did you see one this time?”
The time went quickly as Pete told Harold what
had happened to him that day. From their place in
the bedroom, they heard Pete’s mom come by with her
groceries, and that was all that they heard besides
each other’s voices. They talked for at least two
and a half hours before they ran out of things to
“I don’t know, Pete.” Harold said now,
feeling friendly towards his once bitter enemy. “I
really would like to go over there again and see if
something else happens.”
“Why? You still don’t believe that I saw that
“No, I believe you. I just want to see it for
“I don’t know if I ever want to go over there
again. Besides, my mom won’t let me out this late
“You can spend the night with me. My mom
won’t even know that we’re gone.”
“I don’t know, Harold…”
“Come on. It’ll be fun.”
“Well, O.K., I’ll ask my mom.”
Not really wanting to go, Pete’s luck was shot
down when his mother said he could go to Harold’s.
There wasn’t any way for him to get out of it
either. Harold was standing right beside him when
he asked. He had to go…
Too soon afterwards, Pete glared at Harold in
disgust as they trudged toward the funeral home.
“This is really stupid, Harold. I can’t
believe we’re doing this.”
“Don’t worry about it, Pete. We’ll be O.K.”
“And how can you be so sure?”
“Because I’ve been in there before, and
nothing happened to me.”
“What! You didn’t tell me that! When were
you in here?”
“Remember when that real estate man’s wife
fell down the stairs in here? I was in here that
night. I saw the whole thing.”
“Then why wasn’t your name in the paper? If
you were a witness to what happened, why didn’t
they question you?”
“Because they didn’t know I was in there. The
man whose wife died told me to just get out and not
say a word to anyone.”
“Oh..Harold, you’re lying to me. I know that
couldn’t happen. Those things only happen in the
“I must be a movie star then, because it
happened. I’ll show you where it all happened as
soon as we get inside here. You’ll see. There’s
even blood on the floor, if they didn’t clean it up
By this time, the boys were in through the
window Harold had used on his first night there.
The foul smell of the place hit Pete’s nose with
the force of a cannon. If it didn’t smell better
in the other rooms, he would throw up. He always
did when he smelled something as bad as this.
“Let’s get out of this room.” He whispered to
Harold, trying to hold his breath at the same time.
Harold made no objections. The smell was
getting to him, too. They got out into the hall,
and carried the smell with them. It soon
dissipated with the drafty air making their noses
and stomachs feel better. With the nausea gone and
nothing else to avert their attention, fear of the
unknown took hold. A shadow and a movement on
another wall were all it took to send their heads
darting back and forth at the slightest sound.
At the foot of the tremendous staircase,
Harold used his flashlight to look for the blood he
knew had to be there. It was there, too, a huge
dried spot of it. They could even see where one of
her arms had been by the print it had left in her
“I think I believe you now.” Pete said
timidly. Even so, his voice echoed throughout the
entire funeral home. Both boys cowered into the
shadow of the corner. Whatever might be in the
funeral home now knew they were there, too.
“Well, Pete, let’s go ahead upstairs. I’ll
show you how the lady tripped.”
“How do you know she tripped, Harold? Don’t
tell me she fell over you, because I won’t believe
“Whatever you say.”
A smile came to his face, and Pete knew that
this was as true as Harold being there that night
in the first place. Harold had killed the lady by
being here that night. A morbid thought hit him,
but he shrugged it off. At least, he tried to
shrug it off.
Climbing the stairs, Pete kept a close eye on
Harold. He was a tricky one, it seemed. He might
even like killing people now that he had a taste
With Harold to worry about, Pete forgot the
real reason they had come to the funeral home. The
thing he had seen that day pretending to be his
father was no comparison to a twelve-year-old
killer who just happened to be standing right
The sudden darkening of the staircase behind
the boys escaped their attention. Pete’s, because
he was worrying about Harold, and Harold’s, because
he honestly just didn’t want to believe it was
there. For a few minutes, the darkness hovered at
the base of the stairs. In that time, the boys
managed to get to the top and start down the hall.
The darkness moved in on them. They didn’t
know it was upon them until a force came down on
Harold’s shoulder, sending him flailing to the
floor. His collarbone had been broken instantly,
and had shattered into his lungs. The gasp Pete
heard brought him abruptly around. Spurts of blood
came from Harold’s mouth as he tried desperately to
yell out a warning.
The blood was all that was necessary to send
Pete running down the long hall away from the
stairs. Terror leapt at his heals, driving him
faster that he had ever run in his life. It never
dawned on him that he had been in this hallway
before. A time when he had woken to find he was
only in a frightening dream. He wasn’t quite so
lucky this time.
The hall never seemed to end. Reaching for a
doorknob, the walls shrunk away from his hand. He
knew what infinity had to be now. Infinity was
Suddenly, hands emerged from the walls and
clawed at his body. He couldn’t escape them! They
dug into his skin bringing blood with every slash.
The depths of darkness at the far end of the hall
began to swirl swiftly. He had to get to it. An
irrepressible force had been placed inside of him,
and he WOULD reach the end of the hall. Still, the
clawing of the bodiless hands tore him to shreds,
and the pain was agonizing. He had to keep
going…he had to..
An image emerged from the dark swirls. He
wanted to be there. His father needed him. He
could see it in his sad eyes. He would get to his
father, and everything would be fine. It had to
be… His father would only be there to help as he
always had been, until he died. The thought of him
being dead didn’t register. He was in pain beyond
anything he would normally have been able to
handle. But this wasn’t normal. He was a young
boy who was seeing his father, a father who had
been dead for two years, and had left an unfillable
gap in his child’s life. A gap that needed so
desperately to be filled, that Pete would take his
father in any way that he could have him.
A hard crash on the right side of Pete’s head
sent him tumbling. He fell and fell until only
darkness kept him company. And then there was
Janet sat at home crying the entire next day.
She hadn’t even seen the package arrive earlier
that morning. When she did see it, the package
from the nursing home scared the hell out of her.
Someone had found out about the blood-covered night
she had experienced without knowing it, and now
wanted her to pay for a funeral. No, that was
insane. Her nightmare had just begun last night.
A lot more time and trouble would pass before any
such bill came into her possession. She had to
settle down and think sensibly before she could
The letter opener rested in her hand now as
she started to open the package. It seemed to her
the opener could be used for a much better purpose
right now, but suicide had never been something she
was capable of. She had always believed that
things just couldn’t get that bad. With a shaking
hand, she slit the package open and the contents
dropped onto her lap. The burn marks and water
stains that covered it tricked her eyes into
believing nothing else was there on the pages. The
small, practically illegible print held its place
on the pages, however, as she soon realized. The
words, if you could call them that, meant nothing
to her. Not only that, but there was nothing else
in the envelope to explain what it all meant.
It had to be a hoax, a sick joke that some
idiot had thought up to scare her. Maybe Norman
had even done it to get back at her. The fire that
had been steadily burning in her hearth to warm the
chills sweeping over her body caught her eye. The
best thing for this package was the fire’s burning
hunger for fuel.
One page at a time, the three pages of the
manuscript went into the fire. Watching with joy
at the victory she had just accomplished over some
heartless asshole, the pages began to fill with
more words. Not scribbles like the others, but
totally legible ones. The heat brought them out,
not even singeing most of the remaining paper.
Stupidly, she reached for one of the pages
causing the skin on her hand to scorch and
instantly break out in a cascade of blisters. She
had a page though, and the others came out more
easily with the poker that stood by the fireplace.
In an effort beyond her usual capacity, she
ignored the pain of her burning hand, and plopped
to the floor to read what had apparently been
translated on the pages.
The previously invisible wording on the pages
flowed into her thoughts. To the best of her
understanding, her uncle had translated it. He
believed he had stirred up a lot of trouble in this
sleepy little town, and seemed to be regretting it
for some reason. As she read, the insane story
filled her head with nightmarish visions. The old
coot thought he had opened up the spirit world, and
now expected her to deal with his ridiculous
problem. The guy had really lost it! What a load
The whole thing brought the first smile of the
day to her face. She knew of Eagan Portraire, of
course. Everyone did. The stories of his
escapades had plagued her since coming to
Hawthorne. He had been the first member of her
family to make it to the Nations. She hadn’t even
realized he knew of her presence until the package
arrived. He had always been locked away somewhere
because he was a world class lunatic.
As she picked the package up again and started
to throw it in the fire, another piece of paper
fell to the floor. The paper must have been stuck
to the plastic lining, she thought. Grabbing it up
from the floor, she realized that it was actually
an old photograph. Slowly turning it over in her
hand, a sudden chill raced down her spine. A man
stood in front of an old funeral home, the one on
Restview Way, but obviously in its better days.
The picture was black and white and very dark, but
the haze around the man was unmistakable. It was
impossible, but there was no doubt in her mind.
There was something surrounding her uncle. This
was the dark figure he had written of! She was
relatively new to the Nations and couldn’t accept
some of their beliefs, but her uncle had apparently
swallowed it all, hook, line and sinker.
The hospital found Matt easily because he had
been making trouble for them since he arrived. He
hadn’t left the hospital, and still sat in the same
chair that he took after his spat with the nurse
the night before.
The surgeon sent a nurse to give him the news
that Terry died during surgery in spite of all
their efforts. The damage was too severe and as
Matt had imagined, the internal damage had been
extensive. He had continued to bleed internally
while he was here, and all of their surgery had
done him no good. Recalling his thoughts, Matt
asked “What kind of internal damage? Was it in his
head? That’s where the blood was pouring from.”
The nurse hesitated, unsure how much she
should divulge to the man in front of her.
“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t think it’s my place
to give you anymore information.”
“WHAT!” Matt’s voice rose as the intense anger
returned. “I’ve been waiting here, he’s my friend,
and I want to know what the hell happened!”
The nurse began to shake with anxiety. This
was definitely not in her job description. Now
angry that the surgeon sent her to do his dirty
work, she decided to get the screaming monster off
her back. She had nothing to gain or protect in
this and the patient was dead. She would take the
man to his friend.
“Come with me.” she said, still upset and
shaking. She didn’t deserve this, so she would
push it off on someone else.
Matt stormed after her down the hall and
deeper into the hospital with the anger that raged
inside him only covering up the hurt that he felt,
he had just lost his best friend… When he walked
into the room behind the nurse, the sight of
Terry’s lifeless body brought the full impact of
the situation back to him. He had started to
believe that maybe this was all a dream he had
festering in his mind. Not the kind of dream that
he usually had, but something in him was changing
and had been for the past few weeks. His attitudes
were changing. This incident with Terry was
driving him up a wall. Only a few weeks earlier,
he might have passed it off as nothing, well
probably not, this wasn’t nothing…
Staring at his recently alive and vibrant
friend, he couldn’t utter a word, not even in
anger. This was unbelievable, just fucking
unbelievable. He couldn’t accept it. He reached
out and touched Terry’s arm, an arm that was
already getting cold. This was real and not part
of a new nightmare, not a nightmare of his sleep
anyway, but a nightmare all the same. He suddenly
felt lightheaded and started to drop out, but the
nurse watched his face turn ashen and managed to
push him back into a stray chair along the wall.
She held him upright in the chair as his vision
went black, and then he slowly slumped against her.
He stayed that way for several minutes, and then
began to revive, feeling like he had been attacked
and nearly killed himself. The scene and the
situation didn’t register at first, but his horrid
reality slowly returned and he could do nothing
more than lean heavily against the nurse. Terry
was still dead on the gurney in front of him.
Restlessly, Matt tried to get up and leave the
room. He couldn’t take this anymore. But his legs
wouldn’t hold him and he slumped back into the
chair. His friend should have made it. He was
alive, breathing and alive. The nausea pushed him
back into his anger. The hospital would here about
this. They hadn’t done everything to save him!
They had fucked up somehow and they would pay for
“I want to see the chief surgeon!” Matt
screamed when he finally recovered enough to stand
“You have to be quieter, sir.” The nurse
said. “We have a lot of other patients here who
can’t afford to be disturbed.”
“I don’t give a damn about any other person in
this hospital, and you had damn well better get the
chief surgeon down here for me!”
“That could be awhile, sir. He’s probably in
surgery right now.”
Her words were gradually beginning to shake
again as they came from her mouth. This man was
enraged enough to kill someone in order to get to
the chief surgeon. He would have to settle down a
little again before she sent him to the doctor.
But Matt couldn’t let the rage inside of him
burn out. He didn’t know why, but a certain amount
of guilt for Terry’s death kept creeping up on him,
and he had to subdue it in whatever way he could.
The sudden sense that he had killed Terry sent
him flying through the hospital in search of the
operating rooms. He had to take this out on
someone else. He knew he hadn’t even been near
Terry that night. He had been in bed with some
girl. The idea that it had been his first girl had
lost its novelty to him. Now, he couldn’t even
remember her name.
The doors rushed in and out of his sight until
he came to the operating room corridor. The chief
of surgery had to be in one of these rooms, or so
the nurse had said. Maybe she had tricked him
though. Menials in fear of losing their jobs often
lied to protect their superiors. If she had, she
would pay for it!
All of the operating rooms were shut down.
The whole corridor lay dark and quiet. She had
pulled one over on him. In his rage at realizing
this, he punched one of the swinging doors within
his reach causing it to fly inward and break
several glass objects in its way. A different
nurse passing the front of the corridor started to
run for her station upon seeing this, stirring up
his rage even more. He dove at her, pulling her to
“Where is the chief of surgery?” He screamed
into her face.
“I…I don’t know…” She squealed out as she
began to cry.
“Goddamnit!! Where is he!! Tell me before I
break your fucking neck!!”
Totally breaking down, the nurse could do
nothing but cry. Losing even more control in his
rage, Matt lifted his fist to punch the nurse’s
whimpering little face. A force from behind him
held his arm back, and then he felt two or three
men yanking him back against the wall.
“Someone call a guard!” Came from one of the
men’s mouth and sent Matt into a flailing fury to
get away from them.
A punch to his stomach did nothing more than
rile him as he swung out in all directions, landing
his fists on every part of his holders bodies.
Their grasp on him loosened, and he felt freedom.
He had lost his need to see the surgeon. Now
all that he could think about was getting the hell
out of there. He had to find someone to comfort
his misery. He had to get out of this hospital!
The moment Matt got to his car, he knew where
he had to go. Even if Marcus were home, Nikki
would surely listen to him. He needed her help
now. He didn’t need her, he just needed her help.
As a matter of fact, he had no desire for her at
all anymore. This realization had just come, and
now he knew that all he wanted was her sympathy.
With the roar of his engine, Matt felt his car
take to the road. In his rearview mirrors, the
hospital people who had chased him all of the way
to his car slowed to a stop and gave up their
chase. He had escaped. Now only twenty minutes
separated him from Nikki, ten as fast as the new
Porsche was flying. This time…this time would be
the last that he saw her. He had to move on.
A disturbing thought broke through his
He would be alone in his house again now.
As morning came, Harold’s parents frantically
called in search of their boy and his friend. They
didn’t usually worry about the things he did, but a
dread feeling ate at their guts. He wouldn’t be
home this time. Something had happened to him.
Something far beyond what they had always expected
for him. Their dreams had told them so.
By noon, Pete’s mother was at their house
along with three hung over policemen. None of them
had any idea where the boys could have gone.
With the day dragging past, the parent’s
called every one of the boy’s friends, but the
results were always negative. Eric hadn’t even
known where the boys were, and all three parents
knew he was both of the boys’ best friend.
The possibility of them being runaways
eventually occurred to one of the cops. Kids ran
off a lot in the Shawnee Nation. It was a tough
world out there, and two twelve-year-old boys
wouldn’t make it more than a few days, especially
with no money in their pockets. That had been
checked. The little amount of money the parents
knew the boys had was still where they always kept
“I never should have let Peter come over here
last night…” His mother kept saying. Her bitter
face hardened and lined by the exhausting work that
had kept her and her son in clothing and food for
the past two years, plagued the other people in the
room. They all wished she would go home and vent
her despair on someone else, or shut up at least.
Finally, one of the policemen offered her a ride
back to her own house, fearing that she was in no
condition to drive herself. The atmosphere
lightened with her departure, but only until their
thoughts again turned to the boys.
By eight-thirty that night, the Shawnee Nation
Investigative Unit had been called in to
investigate the disappearance of Pete and his
friend Harold. Panic had left the parent’s that
morning, and regret filled its place as the day
went on. They relived the problems they had caused
for the children, and the problems the children had
caused for them. Thoughts of how they had gone
wrong in their upbringing plagued them. Had it
really been so bad for them that they would run
away? The SNIU seemed to think it was the most
likely reason for their disappearance. The agents
confirmed the local police claim that kids in the
Nation ran off pretty frequently. It was a well-
known fact in other parts of the Shawnee Nation
where hoards of people took off seeking a better
All of the people who had been in contact with
the boys within the last two weeks were called to
the police station for questioning. If the boys
had been acting strange, the SNIU wanted to know.
If they had been hanging around with ‘the wrong
crowd’, they wanted to know. The SNIU wanted to
know anything and everything. What they wanted,
however, made no difference to people who couldn’t
answer the questions. Everything had appeared
normal to the people involved with the boys, all of
the people except Eric.
From the first call he had received that day,
Eric had been mystified by the fact that Pete and
Harold would even speak to each other, let alone
run away together. Something had happened to them
that night at the funeral home, and it had changed
both of them. Pete hadn’t even called him since
that night, and Harold was acting weird, too. When
he talked to him, all he wanted to talk about was
ghosts and monsters and things that made Eric lose
sleep at night.
When the police station called Eric in the
next night, he debated on whether to tell them
about the funeral home. Kids weren’t supposed to
hang around there, and the SNIU might put him in
jail for being at the place that night. When they
found the two boys, they might put them in jail,
too. It all made Eric’s stomach turn.
But the SNIU men were nice and offered him a
soda when he got there. It wasn’t as bad as he had
expected. They assumed Pete and Harold had just
run off into the Forest somewhere and had gotten
lost trying to get back when they finally picked up
enough sense to return. Eric knew kids didn’t just
run off in Hawthorne, but the men made it sound so
real that he eventually believed it could happen.
The funeral home came up briefly, and he was
relieved when it was quickly passed over with a
“We’ll check it out.”
Eric returned home feeling secure in the SNIUs
‘lost in the Forest story’. The dark figure
standing on the corner as he rode his bike home
caught his attention. The figure had been showing
up in his dreams lately, and probably had leapt
from his imagination on account of his friends
When the figure appeared on the next corner,
Eric glanced back down the street believing that
his mind was playing tricks on him. The dark
figure was still there, too! Eric couldn’t see
into its eyes. In fact, the figure seemed not to
have a face at all.
The need to move faster pushed Eric past the
figure in front of him. If he hadn’t lived on that
block, he had a feeling he would have seen it
again. In fact, he knew that he would have seen it
again! It happened that way every time in his
dreams and now it was coming true!
As Eric jumped from his bike and ran for the
front door, his eyes darted from side to side in
fear of what would come next. The front door held
fast. His parents had gone somewhere and locked
him out! Tears came to his eyes. He had nowhere
Leaning his back against the door, he waited
for the inevitable approach of the figure. He
would be brave and face it. He didn’t want to die
like he came so close to doing in his dreams. But
it would happen. The dream was a prophecy, and he
had read a lot about prophecies at the school
library. You can’t escape fate, and the prophecy
of his dream had determined this as his fate.
The seconds slowly passed by, however, and
nothing happened. When his parents pulled into the
driveway, the sound sent him running toward their
car. He felt safe now. His parents would protect
him from the figure.
With Ray’s funeral in the past, Marcus and
Nikki made their way home. It had been a long day
for them and going to bed was all they could think
of. They were beginning to see that hitting the
sack at seven-thirty didn’t always mean people had
“I think Hedda’s taking this pretty well now.
Don’t you?” Nikki asked as the lock clicked on the
They now kept the house tightly locked after
her attempted rape several days before. Nikki
wanted the place locked up as much as Marcus did,
and that made him feel better about her whole
story. If he had walked in on her and Matt that
day, somebody would have died. The odds were that
it wouldn’t have been him either.
The house felt calm as the two walked through
to the stairs. Although there had been a hell of a
lot of trauma in both of their lives in the recent
past, at least they were both still alive. Nothing
could be as bad as one of them dying, and it made
them appreciate each other that much more with each
With the bedroom steps away, Marcus felt the
tension build in Nikki’s body. He knew that their
stay in this bedroom would never quite be the same.
It was a good thing there were three other bedrooms
in the house. A move to one of these would have to
In an effort to make the night better for her,
Marcus pulled Nikki back from the room and towards
the bedroom down the hall. A strange look came
into her eyes, but faded slowly as understanding
took its place. The change would be good. It
would be stupid to put it off. Marcus’s old
bedroom, whatever memories it held for him, no
longer held peace for them.
He had never stayed in any of the other rooms
before, but that didn’t matter. Maybe it would be
better for them both. Even though the rest of the
bedrooms held a certain mystique, and had since his
childhood, they had held his parents and
grandparents, not a bunch of monsters.
With those thoughts in his mind, Marcus took
Nikki into the room his grandparents had once
occupied. The smallest room on the second floor,
it had a certain coziness to it that no other room
in the house could match. A feeling of safety
emanated from its antique contents. The night
would be spent here.
They both fell into bed, absorbing the comfort
it held. Sleepiness quickly overtook them,
eliminating the usual need to take their clothes
off. What the night could possibly hold for them
never entered their minds. Only sleep in its
never-ending desire for control of life now
Trauma shook the Lemonte’s night three hours
after they had been in bed. The house had slowly
been chilling for the past hour, and the cold
restless sleep brought a dream to Marcus’s fleeting
From the coolness of his place in bed, Marcus
got up to find another blanket for Nikki and
himself. The realization that the air was not just
cold, but frozen, struck him as odd. It would take
more than one blanket to fight this off! It would
take a whole pile!
The linen closet with all of its enclosed
warmth could only be reached by leaving Nikki.
Moving through the room in the darkness, he had to
make it to the first floor. The closet was nestled
beneath the staircase, and he dreaded every step of
The cold hallway floor hurt his feet, but he
had to suffer a little to make Nikki comfortable.
It had always been the way of their relationship,
and this moment was no different than the past.
A movement from behind frightened him slightly
for some reason he couldn’t comprehend, but the
fear didn’t last. Only warmth held importance
right now. Even the thought of Nikki didn’t bring
him pleasant feelings.
At the base of the stairs, the need to go
outside took him to the front door. There had to
be snow on the ground for it to be this cold.
Early May had never been like this. ‘An ice age
coming’ floated to his mind. No, something else,
but what could it be?
And then, the funeral home called him.
Yes, the funeral home called him! He heard
it! He felt the vibrations of the sounds as they
screamed through the air and plunged into his ears.
The time had come to face the rapist, and the power
of the mysterious offender would not stop him.
The walk across the yard to the funeral home
drenched his feet. The grass didn’t feel cold at
all. The house had been colder, and being away
from it felt really good. Something about the way
the place kept calling him made his skin crawl, but
he couldn’t think about that now. Skin can’t crawl
anyway, he thought. If he remembered right, he had
read a medical journal on the subject one time, and
the whole idea had been totally blown out of the
water. Skin just didn’t crawl.
The calls became stronger as he walked faster
to get into the warmth of the funeral home. It
would be really warm in there like it always had
been in his younger years. His bed on the upper
floor waited for him to return as it always did.
And then, when he got into it, it would absorb him
in its warmth. Just as the funeral home itself
The front door of the funeral home opened
easily to let him in. A brief feeling of
wakefulness rattled the dream making it feel real.
But he knew that he still lay in bed with his wife.
He could hear her deep intakes of air. His legs
felt extremely tired though, and he did feel cold.
Again, sleep held him in its grasp. But the
realness of the dream scared him.
The slight fear that began to build carried
over into the dream as he entered the funeral home.
The place seemed to glow with warmth. It felt just
as he expected. Now he only had to get to his bed
In an instant, he made it to the top of the
stairs, and began the well-remembered walk to the
room with his bed. Soon, his life would be totally
pleasant, he would be lying in his funeral home
bedroom, and be amidst all of its isolated safety.
A sudden shift in the dream brought him to the
top of the funeral home’s basement stairs. He had
never been allowed to go down them, and what he
might find here sent a rush of excitement through
him. Now he knew why he had been summoned. The
ultimate wish of his childhood stood before him.
He only had to walk down these stairs to break a
lifelong fear his father had instilled in him.
Again, the dream undertook a radical change.
He now stood as a little boy at the top of the same
stairs. He stared up into the eyes of his father
who kept mumbling words that he couldn’t quite
understand. Occasionally, the word ‘monsters’
floated down from the huge mouth of his father, and
he shivered at its mention. He had heard a lot of
stories about this old place in his short life, and
hearing more, from his father no less, scared the
hell out of him. Adult thoughts crept back to him,
and he found himself at the bottom of the stairs.
A door stood halfway open. He knew what it
had to be, so he stepped quickly toward it. A
slight breeze came through pushing his hair back
from his face. The door flew open the rest of the
way exposing an office room with an oak desk the
length of a church pew. The desk faced out from a
wall of bricks that looked recently erected.
Seating himself at the desk, he began to look
through the drawers as if to find what had been so
long forbidden him. Something here had great
importance, and he now knew that a ghost hadn’t
been the real cause of his denied entrance.
He didn’t find anything in the drawers,
however, and his eyes lifted to the other articles
in the room to look for clues. From the far
reaches of his mind, he realized there was movement
behind him. It crept up from the depths and began
to cascade around him. Ghostly figures flowed from
the wall behind him and surrounded him, blocking
his view of the door. He panicked as the room
filled with their hazy malicious presence. He
could feel the hatred flowing from the entities as
an unbearable din of voices filled the room. The
temperature in the room plummeted, and he could
feel himself blacking out from the pain he felt in
The coldness of the downstairs abruptly woke
Marcus. He now found himself perched in the old
easy chair in his living room. As the sleepiness
wore from his mind, he stared out the window
towards the funeral home. The dream had seemed so
real to him. There could be no possible way that
it had happened though. The smell of hotdogs and
popcorn faded into obscurity.
Then it struck him that he no longer lay in
bed with Nikki. How had he managed to get
downstairs and into this chair? The idea that he
might actually have gone to the funeral home in his
sleep rocked his brain. And then the figure
appeared in his view outside the window. It stood
there, making no movements, but terrifying the
living hell out of him.
Jumping up to shut the curtain, he glanced to
his right. The figure stood outside the front
window, too! Terror attacked his body, and panic
followed sending him to every window to pull the
drapes. At the kitchen window…at the bathroom
window..the figure was staring at him through every
one! He had to get upstairs! The thing couldn’t
Racing up the endlessly long stairway, the
idea of being grabbed through the rails forced him
against the wall. He didn’t have time to fight off
anything that might go for him. He had to get to
Entering his own bedroom, he rushed to their
bed to save her from what had now moved in on their
lives. She was gone! He had lost her already!
A slight gasp echoed through the hall, and he
knew he had made a mistake. They had been in
another bedroom that night.
Another gasp filled his ears, and he feared
what he might see when he finally got to her. He
had been tricked. The thing had sent him into his
wild nightmare just to get at Nikki.
More gasps came, and words followed, words
that brought tears to his eyes. Running
frantically to the other bedroom, his eyes caught
hold of a sight that would burn into his mind
Nikki laid spread out on the bed. Her body
pushed up into the invisible rapist as he was
surely lunging into hers. The words floated from
her mouth defiling everything that they had ever
meant to each other.
“I love you, Marcus…I love you. Don’t stop
now, please don’t stop.”
By the time Marcus could make an effort to
stop what was going on, Nikki had been used for as
much as the figure wanted from her. Marcus had
been defeated by something more violent than the
wind, and yet just as invisible. Only the effects
were unmistakably apparent. He had failed her
With tears flowing from his eyes, and his legs
almost too weak to carry him, Marcus made his way
to Nikki. Her eyes opened to greet him, and the
pleasure of the past few moments glowed at him.
“Oh, Marcus..You’ve never felt so good to
me…I love you so much, honey..”
Fighting the increased flow of tears as much
as he now fought the urge to go along with her for
her benefit, he lost both battles.
“That wasn’t me, Nikki….” He cried as he
looked away from her face, too sick to look at her.
“Don’t tease me, Marcus. Of course it was
you. You’re here aren’t you?”
The puzzlement in her voice made him feel a
little better. But she had been violated by
some….some thing. He could only take so much of
this before he had the breakdown he had feared for
“It wasn’t meee…” He whined as the tears
made a spot on the turned back sheet. “It
was…..It was that thing..I couldn’t stop it. It
had me all over the house and everywhere
else……..I couldn’t stop it!!”
And then he totally fell apart. He wrapped
himself around her, and as the shock of the moment
hit her, she also began to cry.
They had both been so helpless and unprepared,
and now the whole world crashed down on them.
Whether their marriage could survive the attack
didn’t occur to them. For the moment, only pain
and degradation flowed from their eyes.
With only two weeks of school left, Eric knew
he shouldn’t be at home, sick and about to throw
his guts up. The last weeks of school were
considered the most important part of the year.
What it came down to though was FEAR, total and as
absolute as any eleven year old could ever know.
He could not leave the house. The mere thought of
leaving the house and going to school made his
stomach churn. Under these circumstances, he
really seemed sick to the rest of his family, and
they even felt sorry for him. If they could have
known the real reason for his condition, they would
be as terrified as he was. The nightmares had
rolled through his sleep since he’d seen the thing
on the corner. The funeral home had come up in
them every time, and in the past few, a strange
man. The man seemed familiar, but he couldn’t
Under these conditions, the time crept by with
every sudden movement material for his imagination.
The thing would come for him again. If he had been
important enough to watch the day before, he didn’t
have much time left now. It had to be waiting for
him to leave his house. His only alternative, he
couldn’t leave. Now, or ever!
A phone call that evening changed everything.
A scream outside his room broadcasted the call, and
nearly sent him through the roof. His little
sister had a daily habit of doing that, but
everything was getting to him now. The phone call
itself really threw him for a loop. He could
hardly believe it was Pete.
“Eric…” The whispered voice asked as he
picked up the phone. The weakness of it surprised
Eric. It had to be Pete though, because it sure
sounded like him.
“Where are you, Pete? Where have you been?”
“I have to talk to you Eric. It’s important.”
“Sure, Pete, but where are you? I’m sick
right now, so I can’t leave the house. Can you
come over here?”
The hesitation in Pete’s voice gave Eric his
answer. Something had to be wrong.
“No…I can’t. Can you meet me behind the
funeral home? It’s important…”
“Well…uh..I guess, Pete. Give me some time
The phone went dead. Eric felt an intense
dread sweep over his body. He didn’t want to leave
his house, but now he had to. Pete could be hurt,
or even worse. He had to brave the figure’s threat
and get to Pete somehow.
The idea of protection had to be considered.
Would it be smart to call the police and tell them
where Pete would be meeting him? If the cops were
there, he’d feel a lot better. Pete might hate him
for it, but he didn’t want to die trying to help
his friend. That’d be really stupid.
Before he even attempted to leave his house,
he gave the police a call. An SNIU agent answered,
and seemed to appreciate the information more than
Eric appreciated a good baseball game. They’d be
there for him. They made that absolutely clear.
He felt a little safer now. He only had to force
himself out of his house.
As Janet lay in bed wondering what Norman was
doing, the insanity of her previous night slowly
crept into her consciousness. She had enjoyed the
party a little too much, and had stumbled out to
her car sometime after midnight, alone and in need
of some male companionship. Norman would be
waiting for her, but he would be tired and pissed
off at her because she was wasted. He hadn’t
really wanted her to go in the first place, and she
would probably pay for her little bout of freedom
when she made it to his house. Not a very
Fumbling to get her key in the car door, a man
came up from behind and nearly scared the fluids
right out of her body. She hadn’t caught his name,
but he asked her for a ride home since his friends
had left without him.
He seemed promising at the time, so she
climbed into her car, sliding midway over in the
seat to allow him to drive. Seconds later, they
were heading along the road to who knows where.
Unable to control herself, she slid her hand
between his legs as he drove, and began to divert
his attention from the road. The next thing she
knew, they were pulling down the first dark side
road they came across. Moments later, she realized
they were at the old funeral home!
With inhibitions totally out the window, they
pulled their clothes off and fell to the ground at
the funeral home back door. The ground was soft,
and they rolled around for a long time before they
heard a scream coming from inside the building.
The guy jumped up, threw some clothes on, and
ran around the building looking for a way in.
Scared, she felt safer with him, and followed after
him to the side of the funeral home.
He crawled through a broken window and reached
around to pull her in with him. She felt the cold
sensation of moisture on her skin as the glass
shards in the window sliced her legs. It didn’t
matter, she didn’t feel any pain.
Once inside, they stumbled around until they
made it through a doorway and out into a large open
space. A small sound at the top of a large set of
stairs beckoned them up, and they moved toward it.
At the top, they found a small huddled mass, and
realized it was human.
The sight nearly made her throw up. A pool of
blood lay by his head, and streaked down from his
mouth. He was dead, and already growing pale in
the dim light of the old place.
Thumping sounds at the end of the hallway
pulled their attention away from the disgusting
sight at their feet, and they slowly moved toward
them. Fear was taking the drunken haze from their
thoughts, and they were beginning to realize the
stupidity of what they were doing when a dark
figure came towards them from down the hallway.
She screamed and turned back towards the stairs,
forgetting about the man with her. Before she knew
it, she was back to her car, and frantically
plowing down the driveway towards the main road.
She had left the man behind, but had forgotten
about him until now!
The current horrors of her life flooded back
to her. She had been tasked with going back to the
old funeral home, had lost the boyfriend that at
one time meant so much to her, and now remembered
having left a man to die. The whole nightmare had
fallen on her in the past few days, and she was
still reeling from it.
Looking for the thousandth time at the strange
old papers from the mail, Janet couldn’t understand
the meaning of the final sentence: “Go to the
It just didn’t make sense. What basement?
There hadn’t been a reference to a basement before
that. He had to have made a mistake. Then again,
sanity wasn’t a bright spot in old Eagan’s life
from what she knew.
An image of the old funeral home floated into
her mind. With another glance at the eerie black
and white photograph from the package, the funeral
home itself pulled her attention away from the
central figure. The darkened windows of the two
floors reached nearly from floor to ceiling in the
rooms she had been in, even though the ceilings
were extremely high. There weren’t any lower
windows indicating a basement. The picture just
didn’t give proof of a basement, or at least not by
the presence of a window. In fact, Norman hadn’t
shown a basement to any of the prospective buyers
when she had been around. Not that it meant there
wasn’t one, but it seemed unlikely to her. Norman
would have at least mentioned it once in passing in
all of the time she spent with him. He loathed
that place, and it was constantly a topic of
She fought the urge to call him. He wouldn’t
talk to her. He hadn’t the last fifty times she
had gotten through to him, and a question about the
funeral home wouldn’t exactly break through the
wall he had built between them. She had never seen
stairs to a basement anyway. The only way she
would know for sure though would be to find out for
herself. It would mean going back to the funeral
home, and the stupidity of the thought made her
Whether as a result of wild imaginations
sparked by the movies, or actual occurrences,
strange phenomena dotted the pages of the paper
occasionally, and filtered about the town by word
of mouth as well. Since she had arrived here, a
week hadn’t passed without her hearing a ghost
story. It sent chills down her spine. It also
brought a remembrance of all the people who told
her to never go into the funeral home. Those words
still hung in her mind, and had kept her away from
the place when she was younger and apparently
wiser. But there had always been a small part of
her that wanted to go in there for some stupid
The idea that she would be able to stop some
evil spirits seemed very unlikely to Janet. The
manuscript didn’t even outline a procedure. Hours
of thought on the matter had only managed to
complicate what little was in the pages, and then a
real problem still lay at the base of the matter;
on one side of the coin, the world, and on the
other, her life. She had come to that conclusion
within twenty minutes, and it seemed a realistic
How could she compare her one life to the
lives of the rest of the people in the world? They
far outweighed her own meager existence. She was
scared though, mostly for her own life but also
because she might fail. It had to be done… What
did she really have to live for besides her son
anyway? Definitely not Norman! In reality, he
hadn’t been worth much in the first place. She had
come to realize that it was the excitement of the
conquest that had driven her more than his
incessant sweet talk. What a revelation! To think
she had figured it all out in three miserable days
without the help of a shrink or even a priest.
The thought of bringing a priest or some other
cleric into what she had to do passed in and out of
her mind quickly, and happened to be the last
thought she had before she walked out the door.
The click of the lock behind her sealed it from
being more than just a thought. Parchment in hand,
the short walk to her car passed far too quickly
for her. The emotional strain caused by simply
pulling her car onto the street almost changed her
After driving through town, she pulled onto
Restview Way, not more than a mile from the funeral
home. Second thoughts continued to plague her. It
really pissed her off that her crazy uncle had
pushed this off on her. Sure, he was her distant
relative, but where did he get off sending this
horrible nightmare her way. Hell was a good place
for him as far as she was concerned. Whether he
currently dwelt there or not, she definitely didn’t
In the haze of these thoughts, her car swerved
slightly to the side of the road, and only the
raised curb kept her from hitting a tree or
whatever else might have gotten in the way. At the
same time, she came to the edge of the funeral
home’s massive lawn. The flash of what seemed like
a hundred police car lights drew her attention to
the funeral home. They lit the entire area, and
distracted her long enough to not see the little
kid who had just maneuvered his bike into the path
of her car. A dull thump on the car’s right side
brought Janet’s foot to her brake pedal, and she
screeched to a stop. But the boy lay on the road
already, twisted among his bike frame.
All thoughts of her task flew from her mind.
She had come to end some long festering problem,
and now she had ended a kid’s life instead. When
would all of this nightmarish crap end?
Frantically stumbling out of her car and
getting to the boy as quickly as possible, she soon
found herself surrounded by policemen, men in
suits, and what had to be soldiers.
“What happened here, lady?” A uniformed man
asked as another ran off to his car to radio for an
“I….I don’t know.. He just came out of
nowhere.” She said desperately. It was the only
thing in her mind now, and it wasn’t a better
replacement for what she had already been thinking.
The boy looked just like her son had a decade
before. Tears flooded her eyes and turned every
flashing light into a star. Barely able to see,
she stumbled back around her car and crawled
hopelessly into her back seat. She might need to
lie down. It was a good thing she hadn’t eaten
much that day.
Although it definitely wasn’t on her mind, she
soon had the cause of the huge convergence of
authorities on the funeral home. It was a manhunt
for two missing boys. They had been gone for days
and she didn’t know a thing about it. Pretty
pathetic in a town of three thousand, she thought
as she kicked herself over and over for being here.
Swallowing hard, she wiped the tears from her eyes
and looked around for the first time. She had
never seen so many uniformed people in one place in
Hawthorne. This many uniforms couldn’t have even
come from a fifty-mile radius in this area. The
soldiers stood out in particular, and it was the
soldiers that brought her some relief. Then the
sight of Eric’s eyes as they snapped open with the
aid of smelling salts gave her the most relieved
moment of her life. The boy would probably be O.K.
But the missing boys still hadn’t been found, and
these people were about to tear the old funeral
home apart to get to the bottom of the bike boy’s
As Janet sat back in her car to collect her
thoughts, she realized that her prospects were
actually better now than they had been when she
left her house. The policemen and soldiers were
definitely the answer. They would buffer any
danger she was waltzing into if she could even get
into the place now.
Glancing around the crowd, she recognized two
policemen she had talked to the night of the party.
It was a long shot, but if she told them she was
familiar with the layout of the old place, they
might let her go along on the search. It was
hopeless…well, hopeless and crazy, but she had to
give it a try. Hitting the kid had, for some
reason, solidified her resolve. Nothing to lose….
nothing to lose… played through her mind like a
restless tune making her just as restless. Pulling
herself together, she approached one of the
officers she recognized among the crowd, and was
soon talking to an SNIU agent and a uniformed woman
who appeared to be taking command of the entire
operation. She learned through whispered talk that
the woman was General Cochise of the Apache
military and that she was also a high-ranking
politician in the Intertribal Council. Everyone
deferred to her and the local police could do
little more than stutter in her presence. Aside
from that, whether they needed to be or not, she
and her soldiers were armed to the teeth, and the
mere presence of so many guns was somehow
comforting. The arrival shortly afterwards of a
massive, street-filling Apache military command
center and even more soldiers strengthened the
resolve that had been building in her since hitting
the kid. It didn’t matter now that she didn’t know
what the hell she was doing; she had enough support
to brave a visit to her uncle in hell.
Despair still rocked the Lemonte house. The
probing lights of the police cars surrounding the
funeral home barely penetrated the misery Marcus
and Nikki wallowed in. The hurt would be forever,
and if forever was anything like the past few
hours, it would be unbearable. The pounding at the
front door of the house went unheard for at least
ten minutes. But an acknowledgment that something
was going on at the funeral home eventually roused
Marcus due to the incessant banging at the front
“Honey….come with me. I can’t leave you
alone again..” He whispered to her.
But stepping away from the bed, Marcus saw the
total helplessness that had overcome Nikki. She
remained there, her face buried in the pillow,
shaking with the force of her sobs. He couldn’t
leave her again. He would carry her downstairs to
the front door with him. He wouldn’t allow another
trick to take her away from him. When he started
to pick her up, she didn’t resist him as she
usually would have. With a suddenness that
startled him, she wrapped her arms around his neck
and held him so tight that he could barely breathe.
The steps went slowly, and the frenzied pounding
continued. This had damn well better be important,
Marcus thought as he reached for the doorknob.
As if being chased by demons, the figure flung
itself into the house before the door even stood
fully open. Not until he turned back around to
face him did Marcus realize that the maniac at the
door was Matt.
“What the hell do you want?” Marcus asked,
already pointing to the door for him to leave.
“You..you just have to let me talk to
Nikki…” Matt said heavily, trying to catch his
“As you can see, you stupid shit, Nikki is in
no condition to talk to you, and even if she was,
she wouldn’t. I wouldn’t allow it!”
“No, you don’t understand.” He continued
“Damnit, I don’t really care. Now get the
hell out of my house!” Marcus screamed, his anger
bringing the smell of hotdogs and popcorn briefly
But Matt had gotten in, and that was where he
planned to stay. He would have to do whatever it
took to get Marcus to listen to him. Marcus did
seem to be right about Nikki. She looked terrible,
and so did Marcus as far as that went. But they
had to listen to him.
With Nikki in his arms, Marcus could do
nothing to stop Matt as he turned and walked
straight into their living room and sat down on
their couch. The man was unbalanced, Marcus
thought. Couldn’t he tell that he wasn’t wanted
here? Marcus shuffled slowly into the living room
since by now he was struggling to hold Nikki up.
He would have to use some psychology on this
fruitcake. He was unhinged and there was no
telling what he would do.
Taking a seat, but still holding Nikki in his
arms, Marcus gave in.
“All right, Matt. What do you want?”
The moment of hesitation that followed seemed
to swallow up the past few minutes and leave
nothing behind but a garbled blur. Finally, with
only a stare coming from Marcus’s face, Matt let
out a great shuddering sigh and began.
“Do you believe in spirits? You know, ghosts
and demons and whatever else people consider
Matt’s words unexpectedly hit home for Marcus.
The night’s experience welled up in his mind like a
snake about to strike, and with it came the fear
and rage that he had felt before. Muscles tensing,
he sat more rigidly on the couch with his hated
smells beginning to erupt.
Deciding to go on without an answer, Matt
sensed the sudden return of tension across the
room. He was getting through. Marcus was actually
“I think that a demon killed by best friend.”
He blurted abruptly.
“What the hell!” Marcus exclaimed, the
tension climbing exponentially.
“I felt it… It’s been around me..and….it
killed my best friend..” He muttered.
These muttered words now struck Marcus
peculiarly. He hadn’t heard anything about a death
in Hawthorne since Ray Krepp’s. Matt had either
lost it or more likely was trying to scam him.
“What are you talking about?” He asked
“Just this weekend, he died in the Patton
hospital…” Matt muttered further.
Again, the room became still except now the
phone was ringing and it seemed far away and in
some other house. It continued and Marcus finally
realized it was their phone. Still carrying Nikki
with him, he somehow managed to get up from the
couch and shuffle into the kitchen carrying the
smells with him.
“Is this Marcus Lemonte?” The person on the
other end of the line asked as he picked up the
“Yes, this is Dr. Lemonte.” He replied
weakly. He had only answered the phone with a plan
to hang up immediately and kill the nonstop
“This is the Shawnee Nation Investigative
Unit. We understand that you own the funeral home
on Restview Way. Is this true?”
He recalled the flashing lights now, and the
hesitation that followed in the conversation made
the agent on the other end of the line uneasy
“Yes.” Marcus said, waiting to hear the
“Uhhh..doctor…if you haven’t noticed out
your windows, we’re preparing a large-scale search
over here. We’d like for you to come over if you
could. We will pick you up if necessary.”
Pausing again, Marcus finally said, “No,
no..that’s O.K. I’ll come over there. What’s this
all about? I thought you had to have a search
warrant before you could search a place. I mean, I
don’t really care, but what the hell’s going on?”
“We had a tip that the two missing boys were
holed up in the funeral home. It was too urgent
for protocol. You can understand the
circumstances, I’m sure.”
Marcus paused again, but this time he heard
the line go dead. It was more than he could handle
tonight. For a second, he stood in the kitchen,
forgetting that he had Nikki in his arms. Then the
strong smell of hotdogs and popcorn returned in
full force along with the feeling he was being
watched. Marcus looked out the window and then
into the living room. Matt must have been
listening to his phone call because someone had
definitely been staring at him. It wasn’t just
paranoia this time; it was intense and well
defined. The room started to close in on him and
he leaned against and slid down the wall, somehow
keeping Nikki in his weakening arms. He just
couldn’t fit things together right now. A loud
cough from the living room briefly caught his
fading attention. Matt was in there, but he
couldn’t make it back. His attention lapsed
completely, the dreaded smell became overwhelming,
and he blacked out.
At the same instant in the living room, Matt’s
mouth twitched in anxiety. His tension and fear
were again building, and he could now also feel an
ungodly presence forcing its way into his
perception. In desperation, he wished that it
would end. But it continued, overwhelming him with
terror. And then the figure from his dreams
appeared! The dark figure from the corner! It now
stood in the doorway to the living room, and began
to gradually approach him, its shadowed face slowly
becoming visible. A twisted, distorted mask
appeared, and Matt realized the hideous smile was
coming from Marcus’s face. It hung before Matt
shrouded in blackness. Tears came to his eyes as
utter hopelessness swallowed him. Frozen in place,
he could do nothing but stare. Suddenly, a massive
rush of force swept over him, instantly crushing
and shredding him to pieces before he could utter a
cry or think of moving.
Janet pled her hopeless case for entering the
funeral home aggressively, and the General stared
at her without a word. After a few minutes of
consideration, the General unexpectedly gave
approval and walked off towards her command center.
Janet stared after her briefly in shock and
disbelief, but was then escorted to the front door
of the funeral home to wait for the General’s O.K.
to enter. It took a little while, but Janet’s
resolve remained firm.
When finally ready and with the funeral home
lit brighter than a baseball stadium, the General
authorized her soldiers to enter through the front
door and they did so with military precision.
Janet, trying desperately to keep up with the pack,
soon found herself at the base of the massive
staircase staring at a pool of dried blood on the
floor. An image of the man she had picked up at
the party flooded her thoughts for a moment until
she was pushed aside by two Apache soldiers on
their way up. Janet panicked, the man might still
be up there, DEAD!
“Hey, uhh… you’d better let me go up first,”
She muttered quickly, “we need to miss the rotten
steps.” She then managed to spit out, hoping they
would buy her ridiculous line without question.
Amazingly, the soldiers stopping in mid-step
and dropped behind her without a word, the General
had sent Janet in with them because she knew the
place. The woman had to be crazy or stupid, maybe
even both. It didn’t matter, as long as they all
made it back out alive.
Irrationally thinking that things were still
going in her favor, Janet grabbing the opportunity
before either she or the soldiers had more time to
think about it. Pretending to acknowledge the
presence of the imaginary danger, she climbed the
stairs, skipping a couple of steps near the top on
impulse. Ignoring the soldiers tailing her, she
moved rapidly down the hall after reaching the
second floor. If the guy from the party was dead
up there she thought, she had to be the first one
to get to him. It wasn’t rational, but it seemed
strangely urgent all the same. When she reached
the first door, she paused for a moment to look
farther down the hall. The soldiers behind her
were seriously taping off the top steps before they
went on. Turning back the other way, she saw that
the hall was empty as far down as she could see.
If the guy had been attacked, he must have crawled
into a room or something. Of course, he could have
gotten out, but she hadn’t heard anything about him
on the news or seen him around. She wasn’t a big
fan of the local news and she had barely left her
house since that night, so it was a pretty
meaningless thought. Without thinking now, she
pulled the first door open only to find the stupid
closet behind it was completely empty as far as she
could tell and she quickly moved on. The next door
down the hall opened to another closet, hardly
worth the tension that was building as she moved
along. Her second wasteful delay had given two
soldiers time to make it over and stand directly
behind her. Looking past her and blocking her from
traveling further down the hall, one of the
soldiers flashed a light quickly through the small
doorway. Impatient and irritated by the
confinement, she followed the light around the
closet interior and caught sight of a dull dark
patch on the floor that she hadn’t noticed in the
half-light. Stooping down to examine the closet
floor, one of the soldiers stumbled over her foot
as she tried to back out of her trap. A second
later he was gone, leaving both Janet and the other
soldier staring in disbelief. The only indications
the soldier had been there were a few scratch marks
through the dark residue covering most of the floor
in the closet. Janet blinked hard several times to
try to bring him back and immediately decided she
was losing it.
The other soldier recovered instantly calling
for assistance as he looked back to the stairs.
The soldier stayed at Janet’s side as horrible
thoughts passed through her head. What the hell
had just happened? Her resolve wavered for a
second, but then a swarm of soldiers flew up the
stairs skipping the marked last two and surrounded
the closet door. The soldier who had called for
help used the barrel of his weapon to probe the
closet floor revealing a flap that gave with very
little effort, popping back up like it was spring
loaded. A trap door, they had found a trap door!
Before anyone could grab her, Janet stuck her
foot on the panel and it swung down with her
weight. Off balance, she fell through the hole,
and was out of sight before the soldiers knew it.
The sensation of falling swept over Janet and
all she could think was this was it…she was going
to die like a crazy idiot…… But the short fall
ended with a soft landing, or at least, soft for
her. It was too dark for her to tell, but it felt
like she had landed on another person. Whatever it
was, it had probably saved her pathetic life. A
sudden burst of light from the trap door thirty
feet above brought the whole morbid scene to her
horrified eyes. The twisted body of the vanished
soldier lay beneath her, along with several other
bodies in a rotten stinking mass of flesh. She
threw up before she could get off of the pile, the
bile filling her nose and adding to the stench.
Still choking as she moved, she watched as several
soldiers scurried down the ladder bolted to the far
side of the shaft she had just plunged through.
She had been extraordinarily lucky to miss it. The
dead soldier hadn’t been as fortunate, and by the
looks of it, neither had a few others. The room
began to fill with soldiers, most trying
desperately to miss the disgusting pile of rotting
humans lying in their paths at the base of the
ladder. The most discernible figures in the pile
were those of two small boys, both bloating and
nearly unrecognizable. The soldier still lay on
top of them and would have survived the fall if it
hadn’t been for the ladder. It was the obvious
explanation for the fact that his head had almost
broken clear of his spine. She shuddered and
thought at least it had been a quick death. It was
impossible to even guess how long the others in the
pile had suffered after the drop.
She shuddered again and then began to scan the
room to avoid looking at the rotting mess. A wall
of red brick caught her attention at one end of the
room, standing out from the rest of the walls that
had been made entirely of grey cement blocks.
Jumping to her feet, she swallowed back a gush of
bile, and crossed the room to the wall. This had
to be the place her old uncle was leading her to,
nothing else she had seen in the funeral home came
close to matching the translations on the old
Leaning against the brick and deciding a
sledgehammer would be helpful, a loud click filled
the room and was followed by the unmistakable sound
of stone grinding on stone. She had tripped a
switch somewhere on the wall and the entire wall
began to swing open. The foul odor that poured out
through the gradually widening crack took her
breath away before she could stop inhaling. It was
all she could do now to keep the bile down. The
room full of soldiers stared at the opening that
had been a brick wall a moment earlier, none of
them making a move to stop Janet as she stumbled
into the adjoining chamber choking up bile. With
all of them now gasping for breath, the cave beyond
held their attentions like deer frozen in the
headlights of an approaching car. Only a couple of
them lost their stomach contents as the combining
stench permeated the stale air.
Floating over the bloody, nearly decapitated
form that had recently been Matt, the dark figure
shifted to face the two propped against the wall
down the short hallway. Marcus remained still and
unconscious, now in an outwardly peaceful state
that masked the status epilepticus storming his
brain for the first time since hospitalized
following his accident. Marcus’s seizure drew the
figure in toward him and it continued to drive the
dark form into a frenzied rage as his seizures had
ever since it had been pulled from the spirit
world. Sweeping ragefully down the hall, it
collected Nikki into its darkness, and abruptly
vanished, appearing simultaneously in the funeral
home basement with Nikki suspended below its
hideously smiling face. The abrupt appearance of
the figure in the already crowded basement pushed
the soldiers into a chaotic frenzy. A scream
expelled in terror was instantly muffled when the
figure expelled a massive force that crushed the
soldier’s chest. With the collapse of the mangled
soldier, the screams multiplied, becoming a
deafening roar echoing into the small cave from
behind Janet. The roar magnified the feeling of
doom that nearly overwhelmed her as soon as she
entered the cave. Even then, she clearly saw
petroglyphs covering the walls of the cave before
she was pushed deeper in as it quickly filled with
desperately screaming soldiers and the mingled
stench that swept in with them. Caught in the
flow, she soon found herself plastered into a back
corner unable to move more that a few inches.
With there expectations of compliance in the
Shawnee Nation extremely low, even from a doctor,
two SNIU agents had immediately driven the short
distance to the Lemonte house to collect Marcus.
Getting no response at the front door, one had
walked around to peer through the back door glass
into the kitchen. He gaped in shock as a dark mass
swarmed over a man and woman propped against a wall
on the kitchen floor. The darkness abruptly
disappeared with the woman, leaving the man slumped
over on the floor and possibly dead. Violently
throwing the door open, the agent scrambled to
Marcus in time to feel his thready pulse fade
Hearing the onset of ear busting screams over
her headset, the General barreled out of the
command center, weapon and her remaining soldiers
in tow. She hit the ground running and was across
the funeral home lawn before she had a chance to
consider where she was going. SNIU agents and
local police who had been content with the soldiers
taking all the risk followed slowly behind the last
soldier, weapons drawn, and the sweat of fear
covering their faces. The screams could be heard
from the road, and running toward them seemed wrong
to anyone still able to think. The General didn’t
need to think. Her soldiers were in trouble and
she had brought them here. Once inside, she
followed the screams echoing down the massive
staircase, and made it to the top only a little
winded. Scrambling to the second closet door, she
was the first down the trap door ladder in the
closet. She jumped the last few feet to avoid the
pile of bodies that had just been described over
her headset. Counting three down already, she felt
immediate guilt for being too late to save them.
Unfortunately, the timing of her arrival was
The instant Marcus’s pulse faded with him into
death, the dark figure was ripped through the back
wall of the petroglyph covered cave, returning
explosively to the spirit world it had escaped when
Marcus died and was revived following his coma
inducing accident. In the absence of total life
support provided by an ICU, Marcus would not be
returning to the living this time. As the figure
disappeared through the cave wall, a careening
soldier caught Nikki in mid air protecting her from
the fall. A clap of thunder produced by the
figure’s return to the land of the dead blasted
everyone in the cave and the attached room off
their feet. They all remained on the ground for a
while overwhelmed by the shock of the past few
moments. Slowly, they realized it was over and
their minds had already begun the struggle to
barricade the event out of their memories to
preserve their sanity. Even the open-minded
soldiers with extensive spiritual beliefs would
have trouble with this one. It was the making of
nightmares and the future thief of sleep.
One of the last to stand up, Janet caught
sight of the two mangled soldiers that had fallen
to the figure. The General stood over them and
Janet saw that her demeanor was no longer that of
the woman in command she had pleaded to not long
before. Regardless of everything else the General
may have been, she continued to be human and she
Janet staggered over to the only other
civilian among the crowd. The soldier who had
caught Nikki was then able to buffer her in the
fall when they were knocked down by the concussive
blast. She was now standing, but she appeared to
be stunned or in some form of shock. Janet
recognized the woman from the single visit she had
made with her husband to Norman’s realty office
concerning the funeral home. There was a dramatic
decline in her appearance, but it was Mrs. Lemonte.
She felt pretty sure of it for some reason.
Gently grasping her arm, Janet tried to
connect with Nikki. “Mrs. Lemonte…are you alright?”
But the woman only stared at her without seeing.
There was no point in pursuing her concern or
trying to explain why she was here among this mess
in the woman’s funeral home. The woman wouldn’t
understand and probably wouldn’t believe her if she
did. If she had been alone to witness this and
then tried to describe it to her own son, he would
have had her locked away like her old uncle. The
thought was vaguely comforting. Maybe her uncle
hadn’t been crazy after all.
Walking next to stand by the General, she
observed the ragged mess the figure had made of the
two soldiers. The General didn’t move or
acknowledge in any way that she was there, but it
felt like the right thing to do and she stood there
until the soldiers forced her to leave the Pit.
Remarkably, someone had already given it that name,
and it seemed more appropriate than anything else.
Back up the ladder, she was briefly blinded by
an array of spotlights the SNIU had already carried
up into the hallway. At least they could handle a
little manual labor. None of them had gone into
the Pit, and when none of them would even meet her
gaze, she realized they had no intention of ever
going down there. If she was being generous, she
could chalk it up to wisdom on their part, but they
didn’t seem to deserve her generosity.
Again remembering the man she had left there
after the party, Janet made her way down the well-
lit hall. She came across a couple of pools of
dried blood, but the guy definitely wasn’t in the
hall. Quick checks of the half dozen rooms on the
second floor revealed nothing, no more blood, and
no bodies. She felt a little relieved until she
imagined him being part of the mass of rotting
bodies in the Pit. That thought drove her out of
the funeral home and over to her car. She didn’t
leave, she just felt better in something large,
solid and familiar.
The following several weeks were spent trying
to explain the unexplainable both to herself and to
anyone else who would listen. The media was
unavoidable anyway, a whole train of vans having
reportedly followed the Apache mobile command
center to Hawthorne from some other local
She also spent a fair amount of time talking
with the General who avoided the media like the
plague, but didn’t seem to have any problems
talking to her. Maybe it had been the moments by
the General’s side standing over her soldiers.
Maybe it was just witnessing the same bizarre
event. It didn’t matter; Andrea seemed to benefit
from their talks as much as she did. She was the
most significant person who had ever given Janet
the time of day, but it seemed normal and it
bolstered the resolve that had driven her into the
Pit in the first place, and turned it into
something more significant.
Aside from the fact that the General and her
soldiers brought credibility to Janet’s story and
kept her from following in her uncle’s footsteps
like she would have if she had been there alone,
Andrea became her friend. A single event could do
that sometimes, especially when death was involved.
Death was the great equalizer of the world, no one
could escape it.
The rediscovery of the Pit brought team after
team of investigators to Hawthorne, and they all
wanted first hand accounts from Janet, the only
coherent civilian who witnessed the event in the
cave, and the only person who was talking. It got
old quickly, but there was talk of a book deal and
she needed the money now that Norman was out of the
picture. Work was a little scarce in Hawthorne.
But she had grown up here and she couldn’t imagine
When Mrs. Lemonte recovered from the shock and
the additional loss of her husband, she wanted
nothing more to do with the funeral home and didn’t
care if Janet took on the management of what
developed. In fact, Nikki moved immediately out of
her house next to the funeral home and only
remained in Hawthorne due to the support of a
friend who had also recently lost her husband. She
now needed Hedda as much as Hedda needed her, and
looking beyond their losses, they would soon have a
baby to raise. Janet gradually befriended the two
of them and kept Hedda apprised of findings at the
Pit when Nikki wasn’t around. Like Janet, Hedda
had grown up in Hawthorne and her interest in the
funeral home and what was below it was only
In time, it came to be known that construction
workers had apparently come across the buried cave
during construction of the funeral home, and the
owner of the land at the time, Pierre Lemonte, had
greedily hoarded the find until his death, telling
very few that the cave even existed.
The torrent of investigators drew quick
conclusions based on previous findings throughout
the broad expanse drained by the Mississippi River.
The experts claimed the petroglyphs in the cave
predated not only the Mississippian culture, but
also the earlier Adena and Hopewell cultures. This
would make them some of the oldest Native relics
found and possibly remnants of the northern reaches
of the Poverty Point culture that once inhabited
land on the lower Mississippi. Some speculated
that they were even relics of the first inhabitants
of the continent dating back more than ten thousand
years, but most of the experts were skeptical of
Following a very brief assessment, the initial
interpretation of the cave writings suggested the
cave wall had been seen as a bridge to the spirit
world by the extinct cultures that the Natives now
called the Ancients. The disappearance of the dark
spirit through the wall was black and white
evidence of the validity of their beliefs to
everyone who witnessed it. According to a reliable
SNIU agent, what is assumed to have been the same
figure had somehow transported Mrs. Lemonte out of
her house next door, and per numerous eye
witnesses, appeared in the cave with the woman out
of nowhere. The last part can be viewed as a solid
fact at this point. Further investigation of the
cave and its contents would now proceed without the
hindrance of the current property owner, the
granddaughter-in-law of Pierre Lemonte, Nikki
In spite of the financial boon brought by
researchers and investigative tourists, Hawthorne
had suffered numerous losses all of which the
authorities quickly blamed on the dark spirit. At
least they desperately hoped the figure had been
the culprit since any other explanation would leave
a violent killer still roaming the town.
All together, seven Hawthorne residents died
during the short time leading up to rediscovery of
the Pit. The clothing store would remain open even
though there were no known heirs to its owner.
This was a unanimous and immediate town council
decision. Hawthorne couldn’t afford to let it
close considering the number of people it brought
in to town.
The loss of the town doctor would send people
out of Hawthorne for their medical care. There was
no alternative considering the difficulty of
getting a doctor to permanently practice in such a
The deaths of the two boys carried an unknown
amount of damage to the town. They were still too
young to contribute much to the community, but
their loss was the loss of potential. Their friend
Eric would suffer indefinitely from their deaths.
He couldn’t get beyond the fact that he had dared
them to go to the funeral home in the first place,
and the guilt was crippling.
The deaths of Ray and Phyllis were loosely
attributed to the dark spirit based on reports of
the deceased’s spouses. But they still added to
the population loss in a Nation that couldn’t
afford to lose anymore of its people, but would
continue on regardless until there were none left.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author currently lives with his wife and
daughter in Las Vegas. He hasn’t decided if there
will be a Las Vegas in the Ravaging Myths world
yet, but is open to suggestions.