That’s Nice

Jeb thought the new stranger who’d rented out the old Spencer cabin out by Oak Road was… unsettling. Yeah, that was the word: unsettling.

Not only was he not at all bothered by Jeb’s grotesque facial deformity, which he took pride in and wielded like a Da Vinci wielded a paintbrush, but he didn’t seem fazed in the slightest by the smattering of rude swearing and insults he directed at the well-dressed man in lieu of cordial exchanges. ‘Do you want to die, city boy? ‘ Jeb would gander, to which he got a smile and ‘Nice weather ‘round these parts, isn’t it?‘ in response. ‘How ‘bout I rape that pretty face of yours and take a shit in your mouth? ‘ Jeb would stab with, only to receive a friendly chuckle, a conspiratorial look – the nerve! –, and ‘I bet you see all sorts of folks coming down this road, eh? ‘.

Jeb still did his job – he always did! –, because it was part of the way things were in this neck of the woods. You made sure the new strangers renting out the cabin got their gas fill so as that they would arrive without too much trouble at said cabin, while also making sure that they got riled up and creeped out. But it just wasn’t working with this one. That was another odd thing; this was just the one person, rather than the usual group of horny college students.

No longer glaring at the weird stranger – that unassuming smirk on the man’s face was making Jeb real uncomfortable – he finished pumping gas into the Oldsmobile and handed the keys back to the clean-shaven man with the neatly combed hair, keeping his head down lest he catch another flash of that perfect set of teeth smiling right at him.

Yer goin’ to that there cabin by the Oak Road, aintcha, boy? Yer gonna get fucked, alright.‘ Jeb ventured weakly, a last ditch effort, no conviction in his mild vitriolic jab. ‘I’m sure it’ll be a great time, thanks for the pump. ‘ said the stranger, still smiling, as he handed Jeb a twenty note and patted him on the back before getting into the driver’s seat and driving away, at a respectable forty miles per hour.

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Madame Lupescu only managed to hear the roar of the Oldsmobile’s engine in time to sprint into the middle of the road. How the hell did the car get to be so quiet? No matter, she was in place on cue for “the cursing” as she liked to call her part of the scheme. She loved being the crone, the old gypsy witch. She had come to relish the role and was quite likely the best at it, never mind that she was really the only one that ever played the role round these parts.

She braced herself for the inevitable hit from the vehicle as it came around the curve, closing her eyes, and heard the classic screeching of the tires and the driver hit the brakes – futilely, of course – as he was assaulted by the appearance of the old lady lost in the middle of the road. She was always good at the dying curse part, when the occupants would at times get down and out of the car to look that the dying woman, who would spit out the damning Romani verse that would mark them for certain, horrible death. Sometimes they didn’t get down, so she would have to reappear several times down the road, pointing her crooked, gnarled fingers at them, her face bloody and misshapen. She preferred the former, though.

The screeching stopped and she realized she was still standing in the middle of the road. She opened one eye and looked sheepishly in the direction from where the car had been approaching and saw no car. She turned around with a jerking motion in the opposite direction and saw the Oldsmobile stopped on the side of the road, then, to her surprise and confusion, the car backed up slowly.

There was only one person in the car, a nice looking man in his thirties, who asked her if she was ok and that he would like to offer her a ride to wherever it was that she was going. She simply stared at the man as her mind chugged and churned, her mental gears jammed with the sudden change in the norm of how these things were supposed to go. This just never happened.

He insisted after a few seconds and, before she knew it, she had somehow opened the passenger door and taken a seat. The man smiled as he might to a kindly grandmother and said ‘Where to, ma’am? ‘. It took her a few more seconds to gather her bearings enough to blurt out a staggered ‘J- Just a mile down the road is fine, s- s- sonny‘. Sonny… Sonny! What the hell is wrong with me? She thought to herself as sat there, brooding, glaring now and then at the stranger who never stopped smiling and would look at her kindly without flinching at what she knew were terrifying milk-white eyes and spittle-rimmed lips.

She was scared stupid, taken out of her element, and she simply didn’t know what to do. The stranger would ask all manner of pleasant questions, small talk, though he seemed genuinely concerned for her, which was, of course, most unsettling.

What was worse was that she would reply as if her mouth had a mind of its own, stuttering out the appropriate replies to the harmless questions. She wanted to wash her mouth out with brimstone!

A mile later down the road, which took too damn long given how slow the stranger drove, she got off and walked sullenly toward the entrance to her cave. She would be the laughing stock of the town, she was sure.

******************************************************************

Tommy, dressed in a mechanic’s jumper, a ski mask, and wielding a large wrench with a screwdriver tip soldered on the bottom end, watched as the Oldsmobile parked a few meters away from the old Spencer cabin. Odd choice of vehicle, he thought for a moment. Not much he could do with the spare parts there as his resale clientele was more particular to the off-road vehicles and gas-guzzlers preppy college students usually drove. His second surprise was that only the one person got out of the vehicle, the driver, and it wasn’t a college-age person but a man in his early thirties – or so it appeared to him.

The stranger went into the cabin with a small duffle bag he took from the back seat, then he return three more times for larger duffle bags from the trunk, which were clearly heavy given that the man grunted in effort every time he had to pick one up out of the trunk, which he then dragged into the cabin. Once the third and last of the large bags was in the cabin and the stranger did not return from inside, Tommy set about his business.

He inspected the car quickly, finding it odd that there was no sign of impact from where the stranger hit Madame Lupescu. Must be tough tin, this car, he thought. He pried open the hood of the car and was hit by a few juddering bolts of electricity from two sharp prongs that shot up from the engine and lodged themselves into his chest. He had little time to experience the jolt as he blacked out.

When he came to he was being given water from a cup by the stranger. With a start which nearly knocked the cup out of the man’s hand he jumped to his feet and slowly back away, eyes wide. He couldn’t understand what was happening. The stranger was smiling! Tommy had just tried to sabotage his car and the man was just smiling… after giving him freakin’ water for crying out loud!

He bolted. He couldn’t have done anything else at the moment. He wasn’t scheduled to kill anyone until after midnight, but, well, there was only the one person, right? He didn’t have to stick around. Surely one of the others would get him. Yeah, that’s right. Another of the crew would get him…

 

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Cooner was eager to get the party started, but he had nothing but bad feelings about this caper. First of all, he had only heard the footsteps of one person. One! And then there was all that dragging he’d heard, heavy stuff, like sacks or something, and no loud music or merrymaking of any sort! What sort of frat did these guys belong to?

Well, it was time to make an appearance, so he got up from his little hole under the basement stairs and proceeded to climb them. As he put his hands up to push the trapdoor open he found he could not budge it at all. He tried a few more times, pushing up with all his strength – which was considerable, taking into consideration that he was short in stature but dwarf-like and heavily muscled – to no success whatsoever. The hell…?

Fuck! He was trapped down here. Fuuuuuuck.

 

******************************************************************

 

Abboleth was deeply troubled. Incorporeal as he was, he appeared to be unable to get out of the damnable cabin. The current tenant had done something, but he couldn’t quite tell what. Salt, surely, but something else… this smacked of holy water and sacred geometry.

Well, he hadn’t been able to take his usual flight through the forested mountains and missed out on possessing the hillbillies – so he didn’t get his buzz on from their drunkenness and the sweet smoke of tobacco – and he was angry, to say the least. He was going to enjoy desecrating the flesh of this person, the defilement of his soul.

There he was, lying down to sleep… wait, was that a sleeping bag? Damnit! He wasn’t going to be able to do the bed thing! Brimstone and damnation! He liked the shaky levitating bed bit. It was his favourite. Very well, no matter, there were other ways to get business done.

He swooped down to break into the man’s body and found himself paralyzed, feeling a burning… how could he feel without any body? What the hell?! At that moment Abboleth noticed, for the first time, that there were chalk marks on the wooden boards of the floor. Shit! It was Solomon’s key… and was that the Roman Rite the man was reciting? Oh no… noooooooooo

Was the last he could muster to express as he was sent back straight to Hell. Great. Getting out again was not going to be easy.

 

******************************************************************

 

Morning had come, the dawn had proceeded with no screams or howls or bloodshed, and the sun had risen quite brightly. Around the Spencer cabin could be seen all manner of dismayed zombies, semi-visible spirits, and a few dejected lycanthropes. Inside the house the smiling stranger yawned, stretched out of his sleeping bag, and then poured himself a cup of coffee from the thermos he’d brought with him. He finished his cup as he read the psalms from a leather bound bible, a family heirloom, and nonchalantly prepared incense to burn. He was pleased with how things had taken place. Add another one to the count, one more notch on his bedpost, another place cleansed.

He changed without bothering to shower – there would be a motel down the road where he could do so –, hopped into the trusty Oldsmobile his father had bequeathed him, and drove off sedately down the road.

The spooks could only look on as he drove away. They avoided one another’s eyes – where there were eyes – and shifted away from the place, to find refuge somewhere deeper into the forests and mountains.

In her cave Madame Lupescu tried desperately to pry the image of the nice young man from her mind, that damnably bright smile burning her mind’s eye, and continued to fail. She couldn’t focus on anything else!

At the gas station Jeb felt the urge to travel, maybe see new places. The thought crept into his mind that he might be able to get some surgery done, some corrective procedure for his congenital deformities which, he thought with newfound kindness toward himself, were not so appalling if he smiled rather than frowned and glowered as he normally did.

Somewhere, a few miles down the road, Tommy was still running. He didn’t know when he would stop, or if he would stop. He just wanted to be as far away from that man as he could.

In hell, Abboleth was relegated to a menial task, corralling the souls of the newly damned. It really would be an eternity before he could get out of there again. With a sigh, he got back to poking fat corporate bastards in the butt-cheeks with a pitchfork. How quaint, he thought.

 

Disagreeable Living Arrangements

Note: Yes, I’ve been bad. Yes, I’ve been lazy… but to make up for the lack of tangible production – my mind has been busy with ideas but alas not with actual writing – I will be posting a short story every day from here until the end of July. So, here we go! I hope you guys will enjoy.Thanks for reading. 😀

 

It was hard enough that things were tight money-wise, but the amount of time spent just trying to get things tidy enough and the absolute absence of any help were simply more than he could handle. Jamie knew he had to take a stand and draw a line on the ground; his roommate had taken advantage of his good will and kind nature, but there was a limit to everything.

He was wondering how he might broach the subject. Rent to date was covered but Jamie knew he could no longer take care of it all on his own. Utility bills were still outstanding for the previous month and surely the electric company would cut their power any day now.

Bo, his roommate, had been living with him for nearly a year, but he had known him from before. They had been friends for a few years and Jamie had felt comfortable taking him on as a roomy. About 5 or 6 months into the living arrangement Bo had become unemployed, the exact circumstances of said unemployment coming to be were not known to Jamie as Bo had been quite vague, actively avoiding to delve into the subject whenever it came up. Jamie would not press the matter too hard, of course, feeling it might be a touchy subject, sensitive, and that Bo might not have come to terms with whatever may have taken place that led to his unemployment. Nevertheless, the fact was that Bo had no means of income and had effectively become a burden to him. He had to get his shit together or get out.

The more Jamie thought about it the more he fanned the flames of his angry indignation. After a few minutes of turning the subject around in his mind he decided to get up, rather impulsively, and storm into Bo’s room, which was across the hall from his own room.

Jamie marched to Bo’s room door, his gait a testament to his determination, and knocked thrice on the said door.

No answer.

He did so again, rapping harder, and yelling out Bo’s name.

No reply.

He took the door handle and turned it, twisting forcefully and pushing the door inward. Darkness met him from beyond the threshold.

Darkness, and a stench of weeks-old sweat mingled with some unknown substance that reminded Jamie of shit and his more reptilian brain, in some atavistic manner, of ancient things.

The darkness was not solid, despite the initial impression he had gotten. No. Rather, the darkness was something the eyes could become accustomed to, as one would expect of darkness in the human experience. What his eyes decrypted, decoded from the information laid before them once they had learned to recognize that which lay within said darkness, was decidedly not something one would expect from the human experience.

Jamie took a slow, deep breath, slowly shut the door – making sure there was a satisfactory click – and backed away in a cautious manner, his eyes glued to the door.

Once he was in his room he took as few things as he could – without losing sight of Bo’s room door for more than a couple of seconds at a time – and dropped them into his book bag. He then walked out of his room, halfway across the hallway, into the living room and out the front door.

He never looked back and never made any attempts at finding out what became of Bo. He did wonder, over the years, on nights when that darkness and what was nursed within it seemed frightfully near, why his landlord never got in touch with him about rent, the contract, and any unpaid utility bills.

 

Who Was That in the Bush?

“So there I was,” said the grizzled, greying old man to the gathered crowd. “Just minding my own business walking down the bushy path with my wives and my kids, the little farts all piss and vinegar, when out of the bushes jumps out a naked maniac with crazy, bugged out eyes. Hardly having enough time to register the shock of this sudden appearance the crazy bastard jumps at me and starts to wrestle me. Yeah! Wrestle me!”

 

The audience nursed ceramic mugs with alcoholic libations, but none paid their drinks any attention, not while old-man Yakov was talking.

“The sumbitch was strong, too! He had me pinned down pretty badly a few times but all these years of training paid off because I turned him around and had him in a full-nelson. The crazy, spittle flaring bastard had the gall to offer me a chance to concede. Concede my arse! I had him dead-to-rights and wasn’t going to budge.”

 

“Then the sumbitch does this weird thing where he dislocates my damn hip!”

 

“The pain was harsh, I tell you, but I hung on. What was I going to do, give up? Hells no. But while I had him in the lock I managed to figure out who it was. Yeah, who’s the biggest dick you guys know? Here’s this crazy old coot just up and messing with me for no good reason and somehow does some magic trick that screws with my bones, it’s got to be Yaveh!”

 

“So I began pressing down his neck and demanding that he bless me. After a few minutes of this, with my hands and arms beginning to numb from the effort, the stubborn bastard gave in and just like that my hip was fine again and now I’m freaking invincible.”

 

With the story clearly concluded, one younger man said, “So’s that why you can outdrink us all?”

 

“Yeah, that’s why, but the problem is I don’t get drunk,” replied Yakov with a mirthless grin. “There’s always that hint of a buzz, a warm glow, but I never get there. So much for a blessing,” he said, spitting on the ground at his right. “Can’t go on a decent binge, I can’t!”

 

After a somber pause for the grievous condition of being unable to get properly plastered, Yakov stated finally, as he stood up to leave, “In any case, next time that sumbitch shows up, you tell him I have a bone to pick with him.”

Sewage Salvage

“A sewer dragon… A freak-kin’ sewer dragon. A you fuckin’ kidding me?” I’d had enough with the vicissitudes of being a sewer-dweller. It was hard enough eking out a semblance of dignified living when you were what amounted to a human rat, but having what appeared to be a creature of urban myth cramping on your turf was too much for any man to take.

“I’m tellin’ ya, boss,” Rudder’s nasal voice was grating, annoying, as he continued to explain what he’d seen in the lower tunnels. “Dis ain’t no dire rat droppings or anything like…  Dis da bad stuff, clawf and teef marks and dat smell of fart-.“

“Enough, man. I believe you,” I really did, much to my own surprise and contrary to my hopes of it just being something else, something easy. “Leave me alone, will ya? I need to think.”

Rudder beat a hasty retreat. He knew better that to hang around when I got into a pensive mood. Most people, topside or bottom, learned quickly enough that life could get quite tough and unpleasant if you didn’t know how to read my moods. Not like I was some whimsical hissy, just that I’m very particular about my time and company.

The rumors, the legends, they had all become such exaggerations that no one with an ounce of sense thought of the Sewer Dragon myth as anything serious. An ancient cautionary tale about how to dispose of one’s expired pets lest the city’s sanitary installations become anything but. Flush a little exotic pet down the toilet, dead or otherwise, and said pet might find itself terrorizing the denizens of the Undercity.

No one, absolutely no one, had ever believed this story outside of grade school. And yet, here I was, faced with the nigh irrefutable evidence that the freaking mother of all urban legends, the proverbial Sewer Dragon, had mapped out its lair in my turf. My turf. I was going to have to get the unions to help; the Magi union, the Knights Errant union, the Thieves union –though that one technically didn’t exist, off the books, as a matter of fact – whopsmack and dungspittle, I was going to be in eeeeveryone’s pocket by the time this extermination was done. Shit. Maybe my turf wasn’t worth the trouble. I could just move out, pick another place and start over, murder another Sewer-head and take their claim… bah, who was I kidding. This was my turf and I was already too far in years to act like an upstart and take someone else’s domain.

Well, this is how we hunt the big lizards, I guess, and this sort of thing comes with the territory, I thought to myself. Boy, was I ever underestimating the lengths to which I would have to go to get this unwanted guest out of my claim. Barbed Danger is my name and this is how I became the Blorbex of the Seven Thargaxl, the most undignified and dehumanizing  of all the possible charges in the nine kingdoms.

 

Off the Wall: Number One

” Aging with Grace and Dignity, Songs of the Elder Worm, Part IX. On Draconic Diagnostic Procedures: The Rectum”

The fay, the fell, the false abased decry
Our Nemesis has come to loom and see
The lark, the lake, the rune, let arrows fly
His dark visage from sky be torn, then flee

Obtuse, the monk, will call forth three to come
And cull the willow tree. The fruit secured
Then carried out by wing and claw, undone
The very song of lords, our fates obscured

What votary could make him see the truth
That this proctology would show, for once,
The secret hoard of his behind? Forsooth,
Such dooms and ills and pains it does ensconce.

This opulent visage of his cannot
Belie the warts betwixt his scaley butt