(From the Lumiere stories)
Lumiere County Jail. May 1st 2007 2:10am
“Did you know, detective, that when tobacco was first brought back to England from the New World, a misnomer if there ever was one, King James likened it’s smell to a reeking scent from the pit of hell?”
Christian Rhodes smiled and rested his hands on the antiseptic steel table in front of him. Across the table, framed by the dour cinder block walls of interrogation room four, Det. Sam Cahill took a drag off his cigarette and blew the smoke into Christians smirking face.
“That a fact?” Det. Cahill said.
Coughing softly, more for effect than anything else, Christian nodded and locked his red tinted eyes on the detective.
“It is. He was right, King James, about the pit of hell thing. I know; I’ve been there.”
Det. Cahill stubbed out his cigarette and stared into the face of the eighteen year old kid he had known since the day he was born. He was nearing the end of a pack that he started only an hour ago when his questioning began.
“After what you and your little buddies did tonight,” Det. Cahill motioned to his right, “you may very well be going back.”
“So far, all we’ve gotten is a load of grade A bullshit Stephen King outlines out of Lance and Sam, but what we can make out is that you had a little book and somehow that made you the ring leader in turning your parents backyard into an abattoir.” Det. Cahill leaned forward, his thick face a mask of expectation. “Now, do you want to tell me what happened, from the top, minus the smart ass comments?”
Christian leaned back with his hands behind his head. His handsome face was dotted with a thin coat of blood and dirt that leant his smile a morbid, decayed quality.
“Sure, dick, but I don’t see why everyone’s so upset. I mean, the meat we left in the backyard didn’t suffer that much. Not like in the old days; no time to do things right. I can remember when this land, this place you call Lumiere, was home to a people who could hold out for hours; warriors who did not want to appear weak in the face of their masters. This chattel passed out from shock a few seconds of having their intestines torn out. Really, it’s not like my brothers and I crucified anyone.”
Shock broke like the tide across the face of Det. Cahill, and then anger rushed in to fill the void. Before he could say anything, however, Christian sat forward and stared into the detective’s eyes.
“Okay, dick, you want to know what happened? Alright, once more from the top, with feeling.”
April 31st. 11:00am
“Dude, stop being such a fuck ass. Change that CD again and I swear to God I will pop your eyeballs out with my thumbs and piss in the holes.”
The tone in Lance’s voice danced between amusement and anger, so Sam decided to play for the amusement side. Being outweighed by 30 pounds of Lacrosse muscle made the decision easy.
“Alright man, look,” Sam said, sliding a large CD book behind his feet and under the passenger seat, “I’m only changing it once more because the Dandy’s rule, ok?”
Lance glanced at Sam and scowled, oblivious to the pop culture reference.
“Alright, jackass, but only because we’re on the way to pick up some of my favorite party starters.”
“A.K.A. guaranteed panty droppers,” Sam said, sliding the new CD in.
“Word up to that,” Lance said, glancing in the rear view of his Dad’s GS 300. His blue eyes fell on the lone figure in the back seat. The lone figure that hadn’t chimed in on where to drive thru for lunch (Wendy’s for the frosties). The lone figure that hadn’t helped with CD choices (so far the BJM, Death Cab and now the Dandy Warhols because Sam was in charge of the music) or even on what beer for the kegs. “You still with us back there Christian? Or you already thinking about the ‘dro back at your parents house man?”
Sam laughed and before Christian could respond he said,
“Sheeeeet, as quiet as he’s been, I think he already hit that bong and broke him off something.”
In the back seat Christian turned his head slowly, breaking his gaze out the window, watching the quaint streets of old town Lumiere. They were approaching the University district with its faux Victorian streetlights and new (artificially aged since the eighties influenced tear-down of the originals) custom brownstone shops and homes.
“I’m here. Just thinking…just remembering,” Christian said, hazily.
“Hey man,” Sam said, turning around in the passenger seat to face Christian, “fuck all that. We graduated and it is full on Schiavo-time, dude.” Sam smiled, pleased with his current events allusion and pushed his thick black-framed emo glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. “We don’t start school, excuse me, college studies, for three and a half months, dig? And even then, the man’s not telling you to go to class, so I don’t plan on doing any remembering or thinking for the next few months.”
“And I will be drinking to that tonight,” Lance said. “Of course,” Lance’s gaze shot to the rear view mirror again, “where the hell are we headed right now? Tell me again where we’re going Christian?”
Christian caught Lance’s raised eyebrow stare and held it in his own in the rearview.
“To the library Lancelot,” Christian said, his face partially obscured by shadows as the car passed under the large live oaks that lined the approach to Lumiere’s Jackson University main entrance.
“To the fucking library,” Lance said rolling his eyes with a vigor that matched the disgust in his voice. “If that doesn’t seem more fucked up than Hogan’s goat.” Lance said, shaking his head and returning his eyes to the road.
“I told you,” Christian said, his eyes boring into the back of Lance’s head, “I think I left my I-pod in one of the reading rooms. I would like to get it back: it’s got the Sneaker Pimps Becoming Remixed.” Christian turned his gaze to Sam. “The one you don’t have Sam.”
“Rub it in, ass,” Sam replied, pulling the CD book out yet again.
Lance made a left turn and the Lumiere University library’s imposing Doric façade rose ahead, squatting in the pale pallor of the afternoon sun. Lance pulled to stop out front and Christian was out of the car like a kid going to see Santa. As he hit the first step, Lance yelled out the window,
“Why didn’t you just call the front desk and ask if anybody turned one in?”
Christian pretended not to hear him and pulled open the large oak door, stepping out of the sunlight and into the cool shadows of the colonial library.
I remember the day I found the book I’m here to steal.
Two weeks ago, it was zero hour for Professors Treadway’s history final. Everyone had figured we would all get a topic assigned to us from something we had studied during the semester: World War II, the gilded age, whatever. Instead, in order to graduate, we had to write 25 pages on an event of our choice in the history of our antique little town, Lumiere. Nothing like civic minded bullshit. Now, living on the East Coast in one of the oldest towns in America, it wasn’t like we were without a wealth of information. Before television, movies and midriffs, people kept the best records; or went insane, ala Salem.
I had no idea what I was going to write my paper on and I had thirty-six hours to figure it out. Much to my surprise, it figured me out.
The thought that the book didn’t just appear hidden, but was hidden, didn’t occur to me at the time of my discovery. I was actually reaching for Marcus Coleman’s Lumiere: Historic Maps and Places when I stumbled over a pile of books on the floor (probably left by that cow ankled pig, Marcy Willis) and knocked several books off the lowest shelf with my foot as I steadied myself. And there it was.
The book was old, the spine arthritic and the crimson cover faded to a hue of dried blood, but I could still read the gothic gold letters of the title: The Dark History of Lumiere Towne by Calvin Thomas Rutledge. Now, if that isn’t hitting the jackpot, I don’t know what is; ten pages in and I knew I had a gold mine. Rutledge’s book detailed everything from the voyage of Anthony Seward and his crew aboard the ‘Mercy Flame’ from England to their founding of Lumiere (including the strange events that plagued the journey: storms with ‘green lightening’ and a “…constant devil’s whisper in the wind driving two men to throw themselves into the frothing seas”) to the village’s fifth year and eventual grant of township from Her Majesty. Like I said, a goldmine.
The majority of the book, however, wasn’t a linear historical record. In fact, two thirds of the book was taken up by Rutledge’s account (first hand) of the ‘Strange Incident of Heathen Magic and the Blood Lust of the Adversary’s Acolytes.’ Sounded like a Super Friends episode to me, but what the hell, I thought I could use it.
Turns out that the real first settlers of Lumiere town happened to be Mackahotchie Indians. Rutledge relates they were first drawn to Lumiere by the presence of the Big Blackheart river and the ‘voices of the trees’ that seemed to offer protection…for a price. That price turned out to be, much to the chagrin of the God fearing Anglican settlers, the regular and bloody sacrifice of several virgins each year on the night of the summer solstice. Rutledge goes on to describe the Mackahotchie rituals as they were related to him: the victims were lined up, naked and blindfolded, under the moonlight in a large clearing not far from where Lumiere Senior high sits today. The sacrifices were made to kneel at the very edge of a large pit and their throats were slit so that all the blood in their bodies flowed into the earthen cauldron. After each sacrifice had bled out, a piece of each victim (usually a finger or an eye) was ground into a fine powder. This powder was then smoked by the elders of the village, after which the bodies were dumped into the blood filled pit and set ablaze. The blood formed a black pool that the bodies sunk into as the conflagration reflected to the starry sky. It was then, Rutledge relates, that the Mackahotchie elders claimed that ‘those with night black eyes’ would emerge from the trees.
This practice was not, as can be imagined, widely condoned by the new settlers of Lumiere and they made their displeasure known from the barrel of a musket. This did not endear them to the indigenous population and a standoff ensued. There were three men in Lumiere, however, who seemed more than casually interested in the practices of the Mackahotchie and how closely they seemed to mirror the pagan rituals of the Aztecs, the Druids and one Giles De Rais, the great French general. Rutledge reports that, “…many of those settlers did verily believe that the man who Capt. Seward, founder of our goodly town, had entrusted with our military considerations, Miles Reston, was an acolyte of that butcher of two hundred years past, the devil Count De Rais of France. Often it is said Reston could be heard expounding upon that monster’s military genius and fortune that would make the queen seem like a West end Pauper.” Rutledge goes on to explain that given Reston’s position of trust with Seward (for reasons unknown) and the fact Reston controlled the guns (an important consideration) it was difficult to prove that Reston or the two men who were always at his side, James Fantinon and Francis Lloyd, were involved in anything untoward.
Eventually, however, Reston and his cronies went too far and suspicions turned to fact as Reston, Fantinon and Lloyd were found in the clearing that had been condemned two years earlier. The three men were there with an ancient Shaman of the Mackahotchie, who it was rumored was instructing the three men on how the ‘ingestion of innocence opened the gates of void for the forgotten ones.’ Also, in the clearing, the men who captured these ‘vile, degenerate worshippers of the fallen one,’ found that the ancient pit had opened anew (although they found no shovels or picks) and swallowed the blood, bodies and life of seven of Lumiere Towne’s children. Their bodies had been excoriated, their hands and tongues severed, with both being placed in a white linen cloth that rested at the lip of the pit, just under the shadows of the trees. Rutledge notes that many of the men of the town, ‘stout hearted and godly men, not given to flights of fancy’ had later sworn they ‘heard the very voices of Lucifer and his demons, acid tongued and whispering of pain and torment,’ emanating from the forest that night.
The shaman was shot on site and his body hung from a tree, denied burial and left for the crows. The three others were taken back to Lumiere and were going to stand trial for their crimes. There was no real doubt as to the outcome of the trial, but the events leading up to it were strange indeed: Fantinon swore that “the beast that had visited him and scratched at his soul to enter again.” He split his own skull against the heavy oak door of his cell. Lloyd, a skilled taxidermist, used a stick that he sharpened on his own teeth to disembowel himself, stringing his entrails along the walls of his cell in the shape of a pentacle star. They were not mourned.
It was, however, Reston that came to the strangest of all ends. In a night that Rutledge notes as being ‘torn by one of the worst and most terrifying displays of God’s wrath in the storm clouds in the brief history of our town and longer history of my life,’ the Mackahotchie descended from the hills and ransacked the town. At least that was what the residents who huddled inside their cabins, muskets aimed squarely at the front door, thought. When morning broke, the town was untouched with one exception: Miles Reston was gone. His cell door had fallen from its hinges and the jail keep was found with his head resting on his desk and his body broken and twisted into five points. Rutledge states that the common theory was the Mackahotchie were taking vengeance on the man they believed lead to the death of their Shaman. However, if Rutledge really believed that he would not have included the whispered belief that Reston, firmly in the service of Satan, called upon deceiving spirits to aid him in his escape and return to worship them in the wild and ancient forest. Miles Reston was never seen again, but Rutledge did not forget him and went on to draw parallels between the ritual that was interrupted and Giles De Rais’ ‘Ritual of White Linen’ that was reportedly used by the mad duke to call upon the devil himself.
Again, if Rutledge really believed that, I had a hard time believing that he would have described the rituals of De Rais and Reston so vividly, listing body positions, methods of killing, instruments used, etc. But I do know that even back in the day, sensationalism sold, and I have to admit, I was excited at finding this nugget guaranteed to snag at least a B with minimal effort. I took my notes, got my outline done and fired up my laptop, but I had a really hard time focusing. I kept wandering back to Rutledge’s book and tracing the pages with my fingers, reading and re-reading the passages describing the rituals of the ‘pagan and base Mackahotchie.’ There was a terrified reverence with which De Rais was mentioned by Rutledge and I have to admit the fate of Miles Reston lead me to imagine a triumphant escape aided by ancient masters with great black wings whispering legends of power and wisdom. Yeah, I thought that and I was freaked out too.
I got an A on my paper (I wasn’t really that surprised since the majority of the other papers were paeans to either the genocide perpetrated by the town’s founders or the history of the only civil war battle fought in Lumiere) and a strange look from Prof. Treadway.
“Interesting paper; even more interesting source material,” Treadway said. “Where’d you find Rutledge’s book? Last I heard the copy the library had was lost.”
“I guess it still is,” I remember answering without hesitation, “I found a copy on line.”
I have no idea why I lied and even less of an idea how I made it sound so natural. All I know is I went all Gollum and there was no way I was giving up the fact that I had hidden the book in the romance novel section. Second shelf, fourth row, third from the right; I knew it was there and it was waiting for me.
At night I dreamed of the smell of the pines and the scent of sea air that drifted through the infant Lumiere on winds out of the east. I dreamed of the stars in a void black sky, twisting and turning and holding their secrets. The last few nights, however, my dreams have been dreams that shifted from the idyllic setting of the newborn Lumiere to those hard days of the town’s second year. Images of starvation and desperation and greed…greed for power and knowledge and dark lust. I can smell the blood as Reston and his Shaman opened the windpipes of those small children. Dark pilgrims stare with wide eyes as hulking figures move behind the trees and the children, with their dying, ragged breaths try in vain to scream. In my dreams I see three shadows emerge from the trees, obscured by shadow, but moving in ways that creatures in this world shouldn’t move, the moonlight bouncing off their forms with no illumination. I am not repulsed or frightened though; I only want to know what these creatures are and know if the whispers of unlimited power they offer are true.
The only way to know for sure is to do what I came here to do. I am going to take this priceless antique, put it under my shirt and walk out the library. I am going to take this book that sings to me in my dreams and study it and I will know if Rutledge was a fool and a liar or just a fool. I will steal this power.
It was no problem walking out of the library. In fact, the most nerve-racking moment came when my cell phone blasted ‘License to Ill’ as the library doors slammed shut behind me.
“Hey C-note, we’re heading back your way man. Kegs are loaded and live,” Lance’s voice crackled over the cell phone, “we’ll be there in, like, twenty minutes.”
There was a pause and I remember there was genuine concern in Lance’s voice.
“Hey man, are you alright? You sound like your fearing and loathing Las Vegas; as in mescaline style.”
“I’m fine. I’m good.”
“Did you find what you were looking for?”
It was at that exact moment that I saw her. She was young, she couldn’t have been older than seven or eight and she had hair that was so blond it rivaled the sunlight that mingled with it. She wandered by herself, along the hedges that lined the library walls and away from the shouts and screams of the other children on the playground just off the south campus. She was perfect and I knew she was perfect because the voices from the pages in my told me so. ‘The digestion of innocence shall open the gates…’
“Yeah,” I answered, “I found what I was looking for.
“Alright, ma, I’m heading out,” Sam said, walking into the kitchen. He grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge and as he closed the door he revealed his mom, standing inches from his face. Restrained worry and cautious words were on her lips as she spoke.
“Sam, sweetheart, I want you to be careful tonight.”
“I’m always careful; I’m the music nerd of the group,” Sam said, sliding his cell phone in his pocket.
Sam’s mother smiled at her son’s self-deprecation.
“I also know that there’s a big party tonight,”
Sam’s mouth dropped slightly revealing his surprise at his mother’s knowledge. She relished the fact that she could still shock her son as she continued,
“Yes, word gets around to mom’s eventually. I just…”
She trailed off, looking past Sam and out the kitchen window. Dusk was settling and shadows were spreading over the backyard.
“This place can be dangerous,” she said, “it looks like Mayberry, but there are things here that are more Jonestown than anything else. Drinking, taking drugs, I think it can be more dangerous here than other places; I think it can lead to unique problems…unique to Lumiere.”
Sam, reeling from the double shot of shock from his mother’s seeming resignation to drinking and drugs and her cryptic words could only muster,
“Jesus Mom, you make it sound like we live in a Tobe Hoper movie. I’ll be fine and I don’t plan on going all fiend tonight. I’ve seen reefer madness.” Sam tried to edge past his mother out of the kitchen, but she stepped in front, blocking his way out to the garage.
“Promise me,” she said, her eyes never leaving Sam’s face, “that if anything strange happens you’ll call me.”
Sam nodded and said,
“Sure Ma, no problem.”
Sam’s mother hesitated for a second and then stepped aside. Sam stepped down out of the kitchen and opened the garage door, but before he closed it behind him he said over his shoulder,
“I love you, Ma.”
As Sam’s Civic fired up in the garage, his mother walked to the window. Darkness spread out before her and she ran her hand over the small countertop calendar. The date was one that on the surface would appear to be innocuous: April 31st. To those in the know (or the pre-twentieth century world) it was something entirely other than innocuous. It was Walpurgis Night, May Day eve.
April 31st 8:30pm
“Hey, I’m gonna load another bowl,” Christian said, grabbing the glass one-hitter on the patio table.
“Dude,” Lance said, rubbing his chin slowly and staring out from the second story deck at the fading sun, “I’m out; I’m already Johnny Fuckin Blaze and the party’s not starting for like another two hours man. This weed, yo…tastes like shit, but it’s a rocket ride.”
Sam, staring at the same page of the magazine in his lap for the past twenty minutes, nodded and without looking up concurred thusly,
“Word. Stones to Bones man.”
Lance lifted the television remote.
“Alright, let’s see what’s going on in the world then.”
The small flat panel on the table sprang to life and a news bulletin greeted the three young men.
‘To recap our top story: the body of nine year old Jessica Bellhorn was found today after a brief search in a shallow grave outside the Luimere University’s Seward library. While the University is mostly empty of students during the summer holiday, the three parks on campus attract children all year round. Police are refraining from providing details in the preliminary murder investigation, but details have leaked that there appears to be what has been referred to as a ‘small amount of specific mutilation’ to the victim. Details will be reported as soon as they are released. Turning to lighter matters-‘
Christian switched the television off and took a sip of his beer. Lance looked up and around the table, shaking his head.
“What the fuck man? I mean, who the shit would want to kill some little girl. Piece of shit probably raped her too cause he couldn’t get it up like a real fucking man. God that shit pisses me off.”
Lance’s anger must have penetrated the haze in Sam’s brain because Sam tossed his magazine on the deck and said,
“You know, you’re probably right. I mean, most sexual or serial killers kill because they can’t get off like normal people. It’s all about control of the situation, getting control back from your mom who smacked you around during potty training or dad knocking you around for finding his gay porn or whatever. I mean, it’s sick as fuck, but you have about as much control over someone as you can have when they’re dead. I read somewhere that the FBI estimates there are between 50-100 serial killers working from sea to shining sea right now.” Sam paused and sat up in his chair. “You know, I’ll bet we took off as this fucker was right there by the library. Did you guys see anything?”
“No, I didn’t see shit,” Lance said. Lance turned, along with Sam, to Christian. Christian looked past the smoke of his cigarette and shook his head.
“No, I didn’t notice anything, but I was inside except for when I was waiting for you two.” Christian took a deep drag and locked onto Sam,
“The news report didn’t mention what kind of murderer they were looking for; it’s a very 21st century bias to assume a sexual serial killer was involved. Serial murder and ritual murder are two very different things.”
Sam sat forward and said,
“Meaning,” Christian said, standing and leaning on the deck railing, “that a serial killer kills for the exact reasons you described: power, control, sexual release. These are all intrinsic, personal reasons to kill. A killer who kills for ritual, however, is looking to serve or worship and is seeking something outside oneself. The oriental versus the occidental.”
“Well,” Lance said, “you brains can debate on all that horseshit all you want; all I know is that whoever killed that little girl is a sick fuck and if I had the chance I’d send him straight to hell.”
Christian turned and opened the patio door.
“Who knows, maybe you’ll get that chance Lancelot; you never know.”
Christian turned and walked into his parents empty home.
“What the hell was that,” Sam said, motioning to Christian’s exit.
“I don’t know man, probably the weed, probably all those weird books he’s been reading lately. Who knows?”
The shadows on the deck retreated as headlights swung up the gravel driveway.
Lance smiled and said,
“Enough of this depressing bullshit, man. Time to party…bring on the bitches.”
By 11:30pm, the bacchanalia was in full swing. The stereo was pumping with Supergrass, two kegs had already been floated and three semester long relationships had been consummated in various bedrooms in the house (two of which had been planned for prom, but whiskey had deflated the plans). The soirees host, however, was nowhere to be found.
“Hey, Sam, have you seen Christian?”
Lori Preton, blonde, rail-thin and with a tan like molasses fought her way through the crowd in the living room to the small bar where Sam was mixing drinks. He smiled and said,
“No, I haven’t. Which means that either A. you’re late finding him, B.he’s already occupied (Sam winked) or C. well, who gives a shit; they’re all bad for you, sooooo…
Lori, who had no love lost for Sam since he decided to pop her bra in sixth grade and a shower of toilet paper ensued, rolled her eyes and said,
“Obviously you never learned nobody likes a smartass Sam; otherwise you wouldn’t be stuck behind the counter living that bartender dream.”
Lori weaved her way to the back staircase and ascended. Her goal for the night was to give Christian who, with his GPA and good looks was perfect husband prospecting material (never to early as her mother taught her) a reason not to forget her when he went away to school. She remembered from their study groups his room was third on the left. The door was closed, but the light was on so Lori took a deep breath, lifted, separated and knocked.
“Christian?” Lori asked sweetly.
The door opened slowly and Christian looked out of the small sliver, milky light behind him.
“Hey,” Lori said, “I just wanted to say this was really cool, you know throwing the party, and wanted to see what you were up to.”
Christian opened the door slightly and looked Lori up and down. It was the look of a predator assessing an attractive meal. Seconds passed in silence with the sounds of the party wafting upstairs and Lori shifted uncomfortably, her smile fading. Finally, Christian said,
“You’re very welcome. Come in.”
Lori stepped into Christian’s room and heard the door close behind her. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the weak lamplight of the room, and as they did, she noticed it wasn’t lamplight, it was candlelight.
“Were you planning on putting on some Sarah McLaughlin or did you know I was coming,” Lori asked?
Christian smiled bemusedly and said,
“None of those; just doing some reading.”
Christian motioned to his desk. Towers of worn papers and decaying books covered the surface of the desk with Reynolds’s book lying open in the center. Lori stepped towards the desk and looked at the open page: it was a comparison of the symbols of power used by Giles De Rais and those found by the first founders of Lumiere in the accursed clearing. The symbols found in Lumiere were carved into the trees around the sacrificial pit, 10,000 miles away and hundreds of years from the first time the western world had seen them used in the dungeons of De Rais.
“Is this like Tarot or something?” Lori said, turning back to Christian. “I’ve always thought this stuff was fascinating. I had a ouija board when I was kid. I tried to have a séance, but it never worked. At least I don’t think it did; we never called anything up as far as I know.”
“Well, perhaps we should try again. Together.”
Lori smiled at Christian’s suggestion and put her hand on his chest, moving close Christian could smell her, could feel her breasts rising against his chest and he could taste the wantonness on her breath when she said,
“Sure, and after that, we can make something else rise.”
Christian smiled; he could not wait to know what her blood tasted like.
Lance stared at his naked body in the mirror of the upstairs guestroom. He marveled at his toned and defined muscles, honed from years of football and Lacrosse, stretching his arms out and flexing. It was as if a walking incarnation of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ was standing in the art deco bedroom.
A voice from the shadows, throaty and seductive, spoke from behind Lance.
“You know, I don’t think I can love your body as much as you love it, but I can try. It is early.”
Lance stirred, shaken from his self-examining revelry and turned. Amber Marsh was lying under a thin white sheet, her curves outlined and very noticeable. She smiled and the deep crimson on her lips leapt to erotic life.
Lance moved to the bed, staring into Amber’s eyes. They had dated on and off for the last two years and Lance knew that she would be happy staying in the room all night. That was fine with him.
Lance slipped under the sheets and Amber snuggled up next to him, running her hands over familiar territory. Lance was just closing his eyes when the weak lamplight in the room seemed to flare to Chernobyl proportions. Wildly, Lance jerked his head to the right, looking for the source of the flash and his eyes met Amber’s; time seemed to stop and the room felt like an incinerator. Suddenly, Lance heard what sounded like a choir of young boys, high and clear, singing of worlds and things he could not understand. Suddenly, the choir of confusion ceased and Lance saw what he thought was Amber once again, but before he could say anything Amber’s face contorted and twisted so that it appeared her features were quivering and melting away.
“You know what you have to do,” Amber said, in a voice that was foreign, made of sandpaper and glass, “you know now who you have always served. The black dawn is breaking again.”
Lance screamed a scream of primordial fear. Over and over again he screamed as the world went black around him. He knew that he must have screamed his throat to a bloody, shredded mass as the acrid taste of iron and heat flooded his mouth. Slowly, the world came back into focus: Amber lay sprawled on her back across the bed, the white sheets now red and growing a deeper shade by the second. Lance stood up slowly, as if in a dream and stared in silent awe at the carnage spread out before him. Amber’s throat had been ripped apart and her (formerly) perfect breasts had been decimated by what appeared to be bite marks.
Two emotions welled within Lance; revulsion and exhilaration. He found himself understanding neither until he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Blood smeared his face and hands; his bloody chest glimmered black in the soft light. It was at this moment that revulsion faded, exhilaration gave way to understanding and Lance said quietly,
“It’s good to be back.”
“God, Spengler wasn’t kidding about the fucking decline of the West,” Sam flipped through a CD book that lay open next to the stereo console behind the living room bar. His face revealed revulsion (Alanis, Mayer and other genero tunes) and disappointment (he’d left his MP3 library upstairs on the deck) and after a few more futile turns he settled on Zeppelin. It wasn’t the best, but it beat the shit out of a mullet mix of Bolton.
As Sam pushed play and the opening chords of ‘Ramble on’ bubbled up from the speakers, Sam fell forward, clutching the counter. He felt the world spin and for a few seconds, every sound became muffled and far away, as if he was suddenly plunged into the ocean depths. Looking up, Sam saw the room was out of focus, the edges blurry, and everyone had lost definition. Sam tried to shake his head and clear out the sudden cobweb infestation, but as he did, his eyes settled on the only two figures in the room that had remained crystal clear; two hulking teen boys that rippled with testosterone. Sam knew the Harrison brothers, he had gone to school with them since the third grade and they knew him. Actually, they knew him in a specific sense only: a target. Fag, homo, queer and pussy were the names they had bestowed upon him on a regular basis and, even though Sam had laughed all of their insults off as “homoerotic banter from two incestuously inclined brothers,” he hated them with a pure, crystallized hate that had reinforced itself year after year. Now, as the Harrison brothers approached the bar, Sam heard one thing cut clearly through the fog; Robert Plant was telling him in a clear sharp wail that he had the power to make these fuckers pay. DO IT. DO IT. DO IT.
“Hey, I didn’t know this place was a gay bar!”
Josh Harrison laughed at his brother Jeff’s bon mot and both slabs of beef rested their massive forearms on the bar. John grinned and said,
“So, the chicks got you pourin them drinks, cock gobbler? I always heard you little fags were good cooks, but I didn’t know that went for bar tending as well. Give us two whiskeys and put it in fast forward.”
Josh and Jeff turned their backs to the bar, proceeding to dap each other after they described what they planned on doing to each chick that walked past. Most of the ideas seemed to fixate on ‘up the ass.’ Sam, meanwhile, looked out across the living room and saw Christian descending the stairs, leading Lori by the hand and followed by Lance. Christian and Sam locked eyes and Christian gave Sam an almost imperceptible nod.
“Here you go,” Sam said twenty seconds later, handing the brothers their double shots of Makers.
“Fuck man, why’s this shit so cloudy?” Jeff asked, looking from his drink to Sam.
Sam locked eyes with the 18-year-old giant and, making his way around the bar and towards the back door where Christian was Pied Pipering an ever-growing group out of the house said,
“It’s high quality whiskey man, aged, so it has a lot of peat in it. Just give it a minute and then down it. It’ll be the best drink you ever had.”
Exactly one minute later, as Sam had joined the group Christian was leading out of the house and into the night, the brothers Harrison gulped their first, and last, swills of their whiskey. The coroner’s chemical analysis confirmed that the Drain-O responsible for the brother’s massive internal injuries was from the same bottle resting on a shelf underneath the living room bar. The amount ingested indicated it was not an accidental poisoning.
April 31st 11:55pm
Christian lead Lori, Sam, Lance and seven others, assorted friends and acquaintances who decided to tag along past the pool (which now resembled something a Bob Guccione production) and the pool house where shadows were drawn to each other and merged into a writhing single entity in the darkness. The bass and laughter faded more with each step and the well-manicured lawn devolved into underbrush as trees began to dominate the landscape.
“Where the hell are we going?” Lori asked, the sweetness in her voice slipping as she stumbled over a cluster of nightshade.
“Yeah, C-note,” Jeff Skillman, an acquaintance of Christian’s since kindergarten, “we know your parents are loaded and shit, but I don’t want the Green Acre’s tour.” Jeff was the guy that always had the best weed and could hook you up with whatever else you needed (and had for the evenings festivities) but was always on the side of the angels with teachers and parents. They had to keep their orders coming in too, of course.
Christian, his back to the group, led his band of followers deeper into the darkness and said only,
“Not much further now.”
Just as Lori and the rest of the group were about to turn back, they stepped into a clearing, ringed in a semi circle by a series of large, dead oaks. Moonlight bathed the break in the trees so that shadows seemed to shift with each whisper of wind, fingers beckoning in the darkness.
“Here,” Christian said, “this is the place. Could you ask for more atmosphere than this for a séance?”
“So, uh, what now,” Lori asked?
“Now,” Christian said, “Everyone form a circle and join hands. Lance, Sam, I need you facing each other on opposite sides. I’ll handle the metaphysical lifting.”
Christian stepped into the center of the human circle and opened the Dark History of Lumiere Towne. As Christian opened his mouth to speak, Lori said,
“Can you even see the-”?
Lori never finished her sentence, however, as she noticed that Christian’s eyes were closed. His voice became sullen, but melodic, the sound of concentration and dark adoration.
“We supplicate ourselves to you, those who walked these lands under the old sun, and call upon the Stalkers in the Shadow. Hunters in the dark, we offer ourselves to your service and ask for you to walk through the gates of void and enter this plane, this defiled ground, once again…”
It was Darryl Washington, Lance’s teammate in every sport since the third grade, that screamed first. He had closed his eyes (figuring that was proper etiquette for a séance), but a low, almost electronic hum seemed to be rising as Christian’s voice faded, so Daryl opened his eyes to see if he was about to the victim of a practical joke. He had been the victim of Christian and Lance’s air hose gag in freshman boot camp. Instead of laughing, however, he began to scream.
The rest of the group that had entered the forest was gone, but a circle was still formed. Daryl found himself hand in hand with a group of children and the circle now encompassed the radius of the clearing. Each child had been long dead, their decaying flesh like scales of a fish exposed to the sun and their putrid organs were exposed in the moonlight. The dark haired and dark eyed young men and women had been slashed from their waists to their throats. Still, it wasn’t this scene of horror that made Darryl scream a scream of damnation, nor the fact that these long dead children were chanting one word over and over in mournful voices of agony. It was the word, a name that weakened his hold on his soul with each repetition. A name that had not been heard or uttered on Earth in over three centuries; a name constructed of sounds and aggregates that the human ear was not equipped to hear. It was then that Darryl saw shapes, that like the name that rang with discordant horror in his mind, were not of this Earth, this time. The shadows emerged from the trees and moved in ways things in this world should not.
‘My God, I know their name…’
It was the last thought that Darryl Washington would have.
Lori heard what sounded like screams from far, far away as if she was rising at great speed above the Earth. As she rose higher and higher she could feel her lungs straining for air and she grew cold as if ice was coating her skin. Finally, she opened her eyes with Herculean effort and saw she was staring into eyes that had looked lovingly on pain and torment; she was looking at the face of the man who had died after leaving Lumiere three hundred years before. She was looking at Miles Reston. He smiled a smile of rotting teeth and flesh and before Lori could scream, she felt warmth explode out of her frozen skin from her neck and cascade down her chest. Reston had ripped her throat out with his teeth. As Lori’s last breath escaped from the gaping wound in her trachea, she saw that Reston, when lit by the moonlight, bore more than a passing resemblance to Christian.
The screams from the clearing were so piercing, so drenched in terror, that they must have reached a plateau beyond audible sound and burrowed their way into the minds of the rest of the revelers of that evening. Of course, that wasn’t in the official Lumiere PD incident report, but there was no way with the music as loud as it was with the murders taking place a quarter mile from the house that any screams could have been heard. But they were and seven cell phone calls (along with the house’s land line) lit up the emergency services desk beginning at 12:05am. It became evident, as soon as the police arrived, that something was very wrong. Something so terrifying, so horrible had happened that a group of underage, strung out kids were willing to request a police presence en masse. Any confusion or astonishment on the part of any police officers at the scene was dismissed immediately upon arriving in the clearing.
Christian, Lance and Sam were found sitting in the lotus position, staring intently at each other, surrounded by the mangled bodies of the others who had ventured into the forest. They seemed oblivious to all else and appeared perfectly serene in the moonlight.
Darryl’s body ceased to exist in any sense of the word human. His limbs were contorted and twisted at angles that seemed…inorganic and in place of his head there were moistened chunks of flesh attached to black, crystallized nerves.
Lori had fared better (her head was still attached to her neck), but she was just as dead. Her throat was torn as if an animal had ripped it out (which, was determined to be the cause of death), but the animal didn’t stop there: Lori’s face had been literally bitten off. It was not only dental records that identified Lori’s body, but also her killer: the bite marks on her face were from Christian’s teeth.
The first two officers in the clearing suffered the brunt of the psychological aftermath. Officer Charles Rydel was in the Lumiere county hospital psych ward for three weeks and Officer Gerald Conrad still likes to drink until blackout most every night. They were given early retirement with double pensions.
The other five victims of the ‘May Day massacre’ as the incident was dubbed by the Lumiere Daily Advocate were found disemboweled and most appeared to have been ‘fed upon.’ The bite marks were reported to be those of the killer, but the coroner’s official report (which was never released in consideration of the victim’s families) stated that he believed many of the bites to be from ‘an animal of unknown size and origin. It is possible, however, that the bites are of a human origin, but doubtful.’
May 1st 2:40am
“So, you’re telling me you admit to murdering seven of your classmates, guests at your little party?” Det. Cahill said. “And you’re saying it was some kind of devil worshipping black magic shit? You’re name is Christian for fuck’s sake.”
Christian fixed his stare on Det. Cahill and said,
“There are far older powers in this world, and far older worlds that these powers and principalities have seen than the creature you refer to as the devil. What transpired tonight was not a sacrifice; that occurred this afternoon, with the death of the child. Jessica Bellhorn I believe you said her name was?” Christian asked the question with amused detachment that he knew was the shortest fuse for Det. Cahill. “What happened tonight was the consumption of a delicacy…one you have tasted a morsel of, haven’t you Det. Cahill?”
“The fuck are you talking about?”
Christian sat as far forward as his shackles would allow, his eyes never wavering from Cahill’s.
“Fear, detective. That sweaty, electrolyte charged sweetness of pure, heart clenching fear that you can smell on a person who feels it isn’t their time to die, but is faced with the reality that their next breath will be their last. That feeling that you savor when you pull your gun on your wife, right before you pass out drunk and right after you tell her that you should have splattered her brains on the living room wall a long time ago. Now imagine that fear magnified a hundred times, crystallized at the moment of realization that death is imminent and my brothers and I are carving your soul to shreds while you are still alive. That is the definition of delicacy.”
Det. Cahill stood and moved around the table so that he was inches from Christian’s smiling face.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about you sick fuck, but…”
“I grow tired of this conversation, detective.” Christian leered and moved closer to Det. Cahill. “I can feel the weariness of my brothers as well. It’s the geometry of this world; it’s too constricting and rigid for my kind now. Your people have learned and memorized only a portion of the foundation of the universe and molded it to fit your perceptions. You have forgotten so much…it has been a nice visit and we leave with pleasant memories, so I thank you.” Christian broke off his gaze and closed his eyes. “I will promise you one thing, detective: a million stars will have died and you will be nothing but molecules, but I will return one day. My brothers and I always do. You may want to stand back.”
Before Det. Cahill could respond, Christian’s eyes flashed open. In less than a second, he was on his feet, the steel manacles around his legs snapping like string. Det. Cahill stumbled back, reaching for his pistol, but as he did, he caught his leg on the table and fell hard to the floor. As his head snapped back and his skull bounced off the concrete, he heard a scream and the sound of metal clattering to the floor. Shaking off his pain, Det. Cahill sprung (well, sprung as well as he could) to his feet and pointed his gun at Christian’s motionless body.
“Motherfuckingsonofabitch,” Cahill huffed as he cautiously approached. Christian did not move, but neither did Cahill’s pistol. Cahill crouched down cautiously and placed his fingers on Christian’s throat, feeling for a pulse. He was alive.
“What…where am I?” Christian said groggily, his eyes fluttering open. “Det. Cahill?”
Christian moved his head slowly and looked around the small interrogation room. Det. Cahill, his senses recovered, had his gun inches from Christian’s forehead and said,
“Don’t you even twitch you mother fucker.”
Christian’s brow furrowed and he felt a ball of ice build in his stomach. It shortly turned into an avalanche of fear as Det. Cahill leered centimeters from Christians face.
“I’ve seen Primal Fear you little bastard and the Ed Norton act isn’t going to work here. You’re going to burn for what you and your little buddies did tonight. I can guarantee it.” Det. Cahill stood and pulled Christian upright, checking Christian’s handcuffs which were still intact. Before he left the room, Cahill turned and said,
“I fucking guarantee it.”
December 22nd, 2024
The evidence room in the Lumiere sheriffs department was one of those places, like antique stores or church (at least how church used to be before health and wealth), that seemed to have stood still as time flowed around it, a rock in a sea of change. Single, uncovered light bulbs dangled like raw nerve endings among overstuffed shelves full of memories and mementos of pain, suffering and depravity. The air in the evidence room felt old and stifling as a tomb.
“…I know it’s got to be worth something, given what you’re paying me, but I really find it fucking sick man,” a man’s voice echoed through the main corridor, his hushed tones magnified by the bare walls and linoleum tile floor. “I mean, that book was the key piece to the biggest, bloodiest and weirdest murder case in Lumiere since the Red Man as doin rain dances. Who the hell would want that?”
Two men turned the corner, walking slowly, their eyes sweeping the spaces between the shelves and the corners. Both men were tall, but the man in the Lumiere police officers uniform was the taller of the two, his skin sallow and his face drenched in sweat. Officer Ryan Smythe was very nervous, but not so much that he didn’t put his arm out and stop his thicker, older companion from stepping into the light in front of them.
“Watch,” Officer Renyolds said, pointing to the camera in the corner, “where you’re going if you want to remain ‘anonymous thief’ in my report.”
The older man, Karl Amerton, nodded and followed officer Smythe’s lead, walking parallel along the shelves.
“Hey, I agree by the way,” Amerton said, dabbing sweat from his brow, “but you gotta earn your ducats somehow right? I’ve got the connections and believe you me, there is a big market for true crime, uh, memorabilia out there in the shadows, man. Stuff from big, famous cases is hotter than a whore on dollar night.”
Officer Smythe stopped at evidence shelf 237. A Lucite case with a large, rusting lock lay innocuously on the shelf in front of the two men.
“This should be it,” Smythe said, looking over the paper list in his hand. “Yeah, this is the book from the Mayday murders. I remember hearing about this shit when I was kid. Really got people in these parts upset. Bad shit, man. Just wanna check the evidence number against the other records here-“
Amerton, however, stared at the case transfixed. He moved towards the box, rubbing his stubby fingers along the case and in an instant he snatched it close to him.
“No need,” Amerton said shakily, “this is it.”
Officer Smythe looked up with mild surprise on his face.
“I thought you’d want to triple check it, you know, to be sure.”
“I am. I can hear it singing to me.”
Paul King is based in Dallas, TX. and is a connoiseur of fine movies, comic books and beer. Currently working on an adaptation of one of the ‘greatest works of western literature’ and a comedy that is much less high-brow, Paul is married and knows that whoever Snape is really loyal to, he still deserves to eat it.
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