Blue Light

Blue Light

Everything started two months ago, I think. The days, after a while, began to bleed together. It’s funny, I Had always had this daydream of running out of my job and making a living writing on the road and here I am, far away from my home in Missouri, overlooking the vastness of the Mojave desert in a run down motel on a stolen laptop typing this out..

As I was saying, this all started about two months ago. I woke up a Tuesday morning the feeling of my brain pounding on the walls of my skull: a feeling that I had grown accustomed to over the last couple of months, a hangover. I had no clue how I made it back home last night, nor what time. I still wore my work attire from the previous day and the strong smell of beer and wine permeated from the collar and pattern of reddish stains dotted the front of my white shirt, wine, I remember telling myself. I pulled off the shirt and went to my medicine cabinet for a couple of painkillers so I could make it through the day without a migraine pounding away the inside of my noggin.

I opened the cabinet and took out three white pills, drinking them quickly and closed it just as quickly. I looked at myself for a bit in the mirror: I had just turned forty, but looked twenty years older. Black circles sagged around my eyes and my hair was thinning and whitening and I had gotten a rather respectable beer gut over the last few years…I sighed, how did my life end up here, I remember thinking to myself. I yawned and rubbed the tiredness from my eyes. When I moved my hand from my face I noticed something in the corner of my mirror: a faint blue light peeping through the curtains in my living room. I kept looking at it for a while longer and decided to go check it out. I turned around and walked towards the curtains where it was peering out through. I opened the large, woolen curtains, and slid open the glass door and stepped out onto my balcony. I looked down onto the parking lot of my apartment complex: people were walking here and there, but nothing that seemed to exhume that bright blue light. I looked across the street to see if some kids perhaps were, in fact, shining a laser into my window, but I could see no one.

I walked back into my house and shrugged and went to get ready for work. I showered and put on cleaner clothes that what I had on and went down the stairs and through the front door.  As I stepped into my car I noticed a small ding on my bumper, I groaned. Had I run into a pole or another car last night? I tried to take good care of my car: a really nice BMW. I’d have to get this fixed…oh well, I thought to myself, another reason to drink tonight, and that made me happy. I clamored into my car and adjusted my mirrors. And there it was again. The blue light. This time it was shining out the window of my apartment. The light seemed to…flicker, I remember telling myself. Like someone holding up a small candle, or as if the light itself blink. But that was ridiculous, I told myself. Must have been a symptom of my migraine. I told myself this thrice and pulled away from my apartment complex and to work.

Now, you see, I lived in a different town that I worked: divided about thirty miles of highway that cut through a forest. It was cheaper to live in the town I lived in, and the job I was at was pretty lucrative. I didn’t mind the thirty minute or so drive. I found that it was helpful to get over any migraines that I might have because of the night before. The drive continued as normal until about halfway through the highway: there was a small commotion up ahead. I saw the red, flashing lights of an ambulance, and the blue and red lights of the police cars before, the blue unsettled me, even though I knew where it was coming from. I shook my head, pushing the unsettling feeling to the back of my mind and was stopped by a man in the middle of the road: a police officer directing traffic to ensure the safety of those working.

When I slowed down and stopped I rolled down my window to ask the officer what was going on.

“Some sick fuck dropped a kids body out here. We got a call about an hour ago about it: some driver by spotted him but he was already dead by the time we got here.” He answered. “Looks like he got hit by a car and was dropped off here later, well that’s my theory.” I remember at that moment that the officer’s voice seemed to bounce off the inside of my skull so I cut the conversation short

“Well, I hope you catch that sicko.” I told him and rolled up my window and went on my way. Probably some reckless driver that killed the kid, I remember thinking to myself.

I rounded the next bend until the accident site was out of sight and checked my rearview and I could have sworn I saw the blue light flickering through the oaks and the pines of the surrounding the area…once again a feeling of unease took over me and I pulled over to vomit on the side of the road. After I got back into the car I checked my rearview and the light was gone. I sighed, it must have been a side effect of my nausea, I told myself. That calmed me a bit, and I felt a bit better after throwing up. It took about twenty more minutes to reach my office building: the offices of a small start up tech company who I won’t mention here, they’re good people and a good business and don’t deserve any trouble my mentioning of them would cause. I went in and took a seat at my desk to begin work.

My job consisted of mainly taking calls from people who were having problems with our program and troubleshooting for them. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it either. Again, I had a dream of packing up and moving and writing for a living, but I never pursued it. Most of my calls were relatively easy that day, with simple solutions like a reinstall, or having them restart the program. Simple things like that. Right after lunch I got a particularly hard call. Nothing I told him seem to work, it seemed to be an actual bug in the program so I had to have him reinstall the program entirely and delete some cookies that would be left on his system . It took about thirty minutes to do overall and I sat in my chair sighing after it was done, waiting for another call. In the meantime my mind wandered to what I was going to do after work: back to the bar, more than likely. The lingering taste of alcohol on my tongue had me savoring it and before I knew it I was craving a drink. My cravings were interrupted by the ringing of my phone. I groaned and sat up straight and put the headphones on and placed the mic next to my mouth and pushed the button to answer the call and…

Nothing. There was nothing. No noise, no one speaking. I had thought that they had accidentally hung up – it happened from time to time  – so I hung up and waited for them to call once again, and sure enough the phone rang almost as soon as I had. I answered once again and this time there was sound…static. It was soft and distant, but it was static, like the white noise you’d hear on those particularly old television sets that had no signal. I shook my head, once more the unsettling feeling from earlier coming back. I wasn’t a believer in the paranormal, however that’s where my mind almost immediately migrated. Perhaps it’s a primal knowledge in humans? I wouldn’t know, nor will I ever.

After this I hung up, and once again the phone immediately started ringing once again. I answered, and static once again. This went on and off for ten more times. Each time the static on the receiver grew louder and louder until I heard a voice on the other end breaking through the white noise with a whisper.

“Hate…Hate…” It repeated itself over and over again. “Hate…Hate….Hate…” It chanted like some dark incantation again and again. I couldn’t bring myself to put down the phone until the chanting had ended and the static was replaced with, “If you like to make a call please hang up and try again…”

I remember feeling the cold sweat drench my collar and my teeth chatter. I wouldn’t doubt if I had whimpered after I had hung up. At this point I could feel the eyes of everyone on the room on me. I put down my headphones and stood up to go to the restroom to calm myself away from my desk when the phone rang once again and I froze.

I froze. That’s all I can say, like a deer caught in a headlight. It took several seconds before I regained my senses and retook my seat. I slid on my headphones and felt a knot rise in my throat I clicked the answer call button once more…and regretted it.

A loud squealing sound: somewhere between a scream and the sound of rubber burning on asphalt shot through the headphones It stunned me momentarily and it, once again, took me several seconds before I ripped off my headphones and threw them to the desk. I’m sure it made some noise but I couldn’t hear it. All I could hear was the ringing in my ears: my left eardrum had burst, I could tell from the trickling of blood down my temples and cheek. Once my hearing came partially back I could still hear the squealing over my headphones and I hung up the call. I sighed. What was happening? I remember asking myself. One last time.

I calmed myself once again, the knot in my stomach growing tighter and tighter. I sighed and sat back up straight. I looked to my computer screen desperately, hoping for no more incoming calls when it went black…And there it was, the blue light. It burned brighter than ever, no longer a candle, no longer a flickering light but now a blue blaze, closer than ever. It shone just outside the office window, hovering several feet above the ground with no discernible source. I could feel the blood rush from my face, from my whole body. I blinked, rubbing my eyes and fell out of my chair…there was the source.

He was young, he didn’t seem to have reach pubescence, the boy in the reflection staring at me with such a hate filled glare, with  his burning blue eye. His hair hung from his pale green scalp like strands of frayed rope. His eyes were as sunken as the dead and his skin was a slight shade of green: the green of rot. The smell of rotting flesh began to permeate from him and filled my nostrils even as I lay down looking at the reflection from the floor, once more the deer in the headlights. And…he began reaching out towards me, purposefully though I could only see him through the small mirror of my monitor I could still the air around me bristle with activity: with pure hate.

That’s when I stood and ran, I tripped over myself and almost fell down the stairs on my way out but before I knew it I was at my car starting the ignition. I checked my rearview out of habit more than anything and once again saw the cursed blue light…shining in my office. That’s when I got an idea, I could out run it! And so that’s what I did. I figured I had enough in savings to outrun this…thing.

I drove and drove, I drove westward and southward, stopping only for sleep, food, gas and to answer nature’s call. Every time I stopped to sleep I had nightmares. Nightmares of squealing wheel and searing pain as my body is dragged underneath several tons of steel and iron and across several dozen yards of gravel. The small stones peeling off skin and biting into nerves as the rubber burned my leg…before my consciousness faded the world stopped. I feel relieved for a few brief seconds before I feel a pair of calloused hands yank me from underneath the black car that had me pinned to the ground and toss me harshly into the leather seat next to him. A smell breaks through my gravel and blood filled nose: the smell of alcohol, of wine and beer. I tried desperately, in my dream, to focus on the one who caused me so much pain. The one who hadn’t said a word of apologies and the one who kept his drink at his mouth. As the car stopped and the interior light shone in the car as he stepped out and grabbed me, once more by the shoulders and yanked my small body I caught a glimpse of him: a fat, balding middle aged man with beer staining the front of his shirt. As he tossed me to the earthy loam on the side of the road my working eye followed him until the yellow lights of his car disappeared and so, instead I stared to the sky. And I felt hate. Strong hate. I focused on that hate until the pale light of the moon and stars faded to black…and the black faded to a bright inferno of hate. A burning blue replacing the black…I stopped sleeping in Idaho and continued west… the blue light following all the way, glowing brighter with each passing day…each passing hour.

I reached a town on the edge of the Mojave desert before my car broke down. I pushed my car to the parking lot of a rather run down motel and checked in. A family was unpacking and while they were all in their room I stealthily stole a laptop bag I had spotted on top of the other bags and went to my room to type this out..

I felt that I had to…that I had to write this out in some sort of redemption for that I had done. That I had to get my story out there somehow, as fantastical as it sound and so I have. I will wait, now, in front of the large mirror that inhabits the restroom of my motel room for him…for my revenant.

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Dust to Dust

Dust to Dust

It was just past midnight, when I had decided that I’ve done enough typing for the night. I stood, popping my knotted muscles and bones and walked over to the window, sliding it shut: the ambiance had kept me focused on my work, but would keep me from sleeping. I shut off the light, and then crawled underneath my polyester sheets and reached down to turn on my fan: the soft hum lulling me to sleep.

A sudden sense of dread jerked me awake. A primeval fear hung thick in the air: a primal response to something horrid, no doubt. I looked around frantically, but the darkness obscured my sight.What horrid monstrosity had crept into my room, what eldritch…thing had invaded my space this late summer night? I could see nothing: hear nothing save for the humming of my fan, and the soft ambiance of the city below my window.

I sprung out of my bed and rushed to the far wall, flipping on my light. With a soft buzz the fluorescent flickered slowly to life, chasing off the shadows of night, and bringing in the light of modernity. And with the darkness being flushed out of my room, so too was my irrationality. There were no monsters in the dark, of course. The modern era had banished all horrors of our past, with the flame of enlightenment. I chuckled to myself at how silly I had been. I emphasized my internal monologue by walking to the window and throwing open the curtains, allowing the fluorescent light of modernity to flood the outside darkness, if only a little.

The fear, however, crept back into me. Not with any movements, nor with any sound, but with a feeling. The feeling of the brush of a warm, breeze on my forearm. I looked to my left and froze. The window was opened. Just an inch or so, but opened nonetheless. I slammed it shut and turned around, once more, scanning the room: sweat forming on my brow. And, once more, fear slammed into me like a truck: overtaking all of my senses. This time coming in the form of a soft, yet audible, “click.”

With that click the lights flickered off once more, and darkness swarmed into the room. It was only then that I noticed the thick dust that hung precariously in the air: reflecting the ribbons of pale moonlight that now flooded the room. Millions of particles of dust, floating on the night air above, behind and around me. And then, as if disturbed by a strong gust of wind, they began to move. They swirled around the room and into a fearsome vortex in the center. Spinning and spinning until they began to coalesce, not more than a couple of inches from me.

First the particles of dust formed into a head: oblong in shape, and longer than any human or animal that I had ever seen, with not a speck of hair on it. The eyes were nothing more than to sunken ovals that barely penetrated the white, “flesh,” of the being, that took up more than half of its’ terrible, “face.” No mouth formed, yet I could feel it’s horrible grin. Next the dust formed into a body: as misshapen as it’s head, and even more hideous. With sunken pores and holes where moonlight pierced covering it, like some pale pumice stone.

It’s arms were longer than they should have been. Reaching to at least the middle of what could be called its calves. It’s knees were bent backwards and the legs themselves were short, yet it towered above even the tallest man, due to it’s long torso, stretching at least five feet. It craned its neck downward to look down on me, it’s sunken eyes peering into my soul.

I tried to scream, to have some stranger, some passing good Samaritan rush to my aid, and fill my dark apartment with the white fluorescence of the hallway. Yet no sound escaped my lips. Though my larynx strained and tore against the horror forming in front of me, I could not get a single terrible syllable out. And as the last of the swirling vortex of dust stuck to this sordid terror my silent screaming halted. As the being became complete it reached it’s long, gangly arms towards me.

I snapped out of it, slapping it’s arm away: the dust that formed the limb blew across the room and I sprinted for the door, towards safety. A gust of wind shot past me: the creature of dust had disconnected and reformed in front of the door: blocking my escape.

        I backed away…I needed to escape. My legs gave out and I fell on my backside. The creature once again reached out for me, and paralyzed by fear as I was I could only wait.

        It’s large hand grasped my face: it’s digits encircling my head. I kept my mouth closed, it, too, struck still with fear. I could feel a pressure on my occipital lobe as the creature squeezed and I involuntarily opened my mouth in a silent whimper.

        As my mouth opened it stuff something that I was not prepared for: all the dust that formed it’s hand rushed into my narrowly opened mouth. The creature wrenched my jaws open and I could do nothing but stare as each individual particle of dust flooded into my mouth, into my being. The dust scratched at my palettes, and my throat as it seemingly dispersed throughout my entire body, and I could do nothing but choke on the seemingly unending torrent of dust. And then it ended: my consciousness left me as the oxygen was robbed and replaced with dust…

      I woke up in a cold sweat, and looked around…I was under my polyester sheets on top of my spring mattress. It had all been a dream, a horrible nightmare. I sighed and laid down starting at the ceiling before I stood up. My heart sank as I saw the curtains wrenched open and the window opened just an inch…

Earliest Memory

Fifth grade. A year of change for us all. It was the year I entered the double-digits, and the year that I was only a year away, from being a year away to middle school, (which was very important at the time, believe me.) It was also the year that I developed my first major crush on a girl from my class, that lasted well into the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I was a big kid, now, and I felt it.

Something else, however, also took place. I began to see things that weren’t there. The earliest one, that sticks in my memory like a large tree in an empty field was of a man, in bright blue clothing, stalking through the overgrown stinging nettle that grew underneath the gnarled, diseased black walnut tree that grew behind my grandparent’s trailer. He moved without moving any of them, a long brown rifle in his arm.

He shone like a flashlight in your eyes — like he was a blue silhouette pressed against a burning lamp. He moved slowly. Deliberately, like a hunter after its prey. His head swerved from side to side, cautiously, before coming to a stop. His body faced my grandparent’s neighbor’s house, tucked the rifle against his shoulder and took aim. Before recoil could push his shoulder, however, his body was thrown back by some unseen, and unheard force, and he disappeared into the overgrown weeds.

I watched all of this playout without cresting my head around the corner of my grandparent’s baby blue tin trailer.

My parents told me it was just my imagination, and I would have left it at that, never to think of again, if it didn’t keep happening. From the fireless smoke that swirled above my head in the kitchen, to the hand pulling at my mattress in the middle of the night. The large black dog in the middle of the sidewalk, with eyes as dark as night, and snarling teeth as long as a man’s finger that vanished the moment I looked behind after running a couple of feet away.

I’ve heard birds speak plainly, and have watched as they became one fewer in the middle of flight. I’ve seen people fade in and out of vision, and have heard whispers from the deepest darkest places. And all of this — every single weird thing that happened to me during those tender years could be traced back to one thing: a dream I had when in the fifth grade.

It was one of those dreams that seemed to emulate life in an eerie way — where you’re caught in a familiar routine and you don’t even realize it’s a dream. For me, I was standing at the edge of a small dirt-trodden path that connected my parent’s trailer to my grandparent’s, and was walking back home. Something, however, stopped me halfway.

A figure rose from the ground, shining brightly like the soldier, but instead of blue, it was a bright pink. She wore pink clothes with blue stripes, and a hat on her head, from what I could remember. It was hard to look at her. She floated in mid air, a few feet off the ground and looked to me.

“You will die tonight.” She stated simply, facing me, but I felt no fear in the dream, as if I was barely registering what was happening.

As she sank beneath the ground once more, I continued along to the front of my house, climbing the creaking stairs to my laundry room, and entered inside.

Once in the familiar place, the room began to clatter, as the things that hung against the wall smacked against it. Soon things flew off the shelves all around me, running into me. It hurt. Physically. It was the first time that I’ve felt actual pain in a dream, though it wouldn’t be the last. As I ducked out of the way of a flying squeegee that embedded itself into the metal washer, my mother entered the room.

“Just die already!” The thing from outside said in her voice, and I woke up.

My body ached as if I had just done PE, but I kept it to myself for a week, until something else happened, but this time, not in a dream. I was lying awake, as I had done for the last week with memories of that dream still fresh in my minds, when something in the room began to swirl, like dust caught up in a dervish.

The dust began to coalesce in long, colorful lines, floating in the darkness of my room. Soon, those lines too began to form together, to become the same floating woman that I saw in my dream — burning white aura and all.

“Finally! I got you!” The same voice said.

I’m proud enough to admit that I screamed, as a colorful hand reached out towards me, only to disperse when my older brother ran in and flipped on the lights. As usual he saw nothing. My parents got my grandparents over that night to pray for me, and to drive out anything lurking in the dark. It worked and I was able to sleep again for the first time in a week.

Now, while this was a tame event, compared to others, it still became one of the focal points of my beliefs that — either I was crazy, or there was something else out there that we couldn’t grasp the reality of. Other events later in my life, up until my adulthood, would help cement these beliefs.

Old Wooden Bones

Old Wooden Bones

Old wooden bones, stripped bare by the winds of time, yawned towards the heavens: the brilliant whites and azure shrouded by the red-orange canopies of autumn. Nature had long since begun it’s reclamation — the hard packed dirt path, paved by the footsteps of a hundred or so people mostly eaten away by the encroaching green. Grooves gouged by wagon wheels, now invisible to the eye.

Vines crept up wooden walls, pulling them down back to work in heaps of rubble. Grass and ferns pushed up from beneath shattered floorboards. Mold, dropped from a century and a half’s worth of rain, ate at the wooden rafters.

It was peaceful, in it’s slow decay. Undisturbed by the whimsies of mankind, and his ever growing need for progress. Industry had barely touched it before the last man walked it’s dirt path. And there it sat, untouched in it’s decay right before the turn of the last century.

And so it was in this condition that I found it: this hidden gem, nestled deep within the forests of the Sierra Nevadas. It wasn’t on any map of the region that I could find, nor was it on any hiking guides. A lost treasure, tucked away in it’s solitude.

Slowly, I wandered the grass between the crumbling buildings, admiring what I was seeing. I had never heard of a western town being this far into a mountain. Normally, I thought, they were on the edges of deserts, or by mountain passes so travelers could stop and resupply, or settle there, if they so wished.

What was its purpose? A way-station for travelers looking to find gold in the mountains and in the snow runoff streams that ran just yards away? Maybe as a place of rest for those looking to make a home in California in its earliest days? How long had it been since a human last set foot here? Years? Decades? A century? More? These questions, and many more ran through my mind as quickly as a lightning’s flash. Each one, fueling the excitement that welled within me.

Most pressing on my mind, however, was one simple question: how did it die? Dozens of houses lined the streets, standing tall and proud next to a U.S. Post office, a general store, a bank and a saloon. This was once a bustling hub of civilization, where none existed — hell, where none exists to this day. But now, here it sat, alone and rotting with no mention of it in any history book, or in any guide of the area. Forgotten and buried by the sands of time.

I approached the least damaged of the houses: it’s front door held up more by the moss growing on its face, than the hinges that had rusted off and disappeared in the brush beneath. The door fell in with a gentle push, slamming onto the floor. Birds scattered with frenzied wing beats and quick chirps all around the town, and the forest rustled as whatever animals lay watching ran off. As the dust of what was once wood beneath the door settled I made my way in.

The air lay still and heavy, like the pall over a cemetery. Quiet consumed my entire being as a I fell into a hushed, reverent silence. I moved as quietly as I could, as if my very presence disrupted those living there: there was no one though. No shadows shifted, revealing a phantasmal apparition. No floorboards creaked or groaned, as weight shifted, deeper into the abode. No. Nothing stirred but the dust in the air.

Sunlight filtered through layers of dirt, caked on the window. I walked slowly and softly across the old floorboards, careful not to put too much weight on them in fear of them collapsing underneath it. The latch on the window was steadily locked, and with a bit of finagling, it flung off, swinging wildly before falling off its hinge.

After a few seconds with my shoulder pressed against the window, it slammed open, and air  rushed past, to the outside for the first time in a century, and it felt like the temperature had dropped a few degrees in a matter of seconds. It was worlds easier to breath, and see now, as the sunlight ran unabated into the room.

I was in a kitchen: it was small, by today’s standards, but probably large for the time. It had a wood-burning stove in the corner: it’s cast iron front covered by a thick layer of slime, with a large black iron pot lying on the burner. A small table, with four chairs sat around it lay in the center of the room.

Walking past the table, my hand roamed over the table surface. The moss slid off as my fingers past over it, until they came across a small mound under the moss. I paused and looked: there were four mounds around the edge of the tables.

What were they? I asked. They were all similar in size and shape. A hand? I shivered at the thought as I dug my fingers through the moss until I felt the resistance of whatever it was. Nope. Not a hand. I ran my fingers along a metal rim and pulled at it.

A tin plate. There was residue of old food still clinging to the sides, and a moldy mess, coagulated in the middle of what had once been a meal. Ants hadn’t gotten to it, I asked myself and looked around. Sure enough, no ant mounds popped up over the grassy carpet.

Wait a moment, food? I moved around the table and dug into one of the other mounds, and sure enough, another plate. I pulled it out just the same, and sure enough, the same congealed mold grew in the center. It was the same with the other next to it, and the last one.

No. No. I told myself, this meant nothing. Perhaps some campers found this area, years ago, and used the kitchen for a meal. I walked around the table and to the stove. The lid was covered with the same slimy moss that covered everything. It took a bit of pulling for it to come out: foul smelling dust flew from the pot into my face. I pulled my head back and spit out the taste from my mouth.

There was a big clump of mold on the bottom of the pot: the same as the ones in the tin plate, no doubt. How long had it been there? I shut the lid as the question went past my mind.

Down on one knee, I opened the small hatch to the wood-stove to peer inside: sure enough a pile of gray ash rested in the bottom of the furnace. I wiped the ash on my hand onto my pants leg and stood, the floor creaking ominously as I rose.

There was a set of stairs in front of the door, so I made my way there, walking past the table and making soft, deliberate steps on the way up. A few pictures hung on the wall on the way up in wooden frames. Now long since faded into white paper, hanging by wooden squares on old, rusted wires. Dirt caked the windows up here, too, though there was enough light to navigate from.

Wood creaked under-heel, though it gave no signs of giving out. The moss hadn’t yet crawled it’s way up those stairs, and most of the upper portion of the house lay in near perfect array, aside from being under a thick layer of dust.

Nothing in the hallway seemed to have been touched by human hands in over a century. Shelves still lined the walls full of porcelain and clay knick-knacks: features rubbed bare by time. No footsteps disturbed the thick layers of dust on the floors, and no doors had been pushed open by a careless explorer…save for one.

A door on my right lay on the ground: it’s hinges still clinging to the walls, in a mess of splintered wood. I walked towards it and into the room, expecting to see it ransacked. But no…it was not. It was something, much more chilling.

A small bed lay in the center — small for modern standards, anyhow, along with a wooden crib. Dressers lined the walls, and, a quick check confirmed that they were still full of clothes. An old dress from the late Victorian Era, yellowed from age. Baby’s clothing, men’s clothing, children’s clothing. All in there.

A footlocker sat on the foot of the bed — it’s lock seemed weak, and rusted. And, sure enough, it came off with one hard pull, splintering the wood of the latch.

Inside were a variety of things. A wedding dress, folded neatly. It was in good condition — though yellowed with time, and the wool going through natural decay, it had no moth holes, or tears of any kind, though there were some stitch marks, made by an expert’s hand. I set it on the mattress and dug further in.

An old pocket watch: lord knows how old. Silvery in color, and cool to the touch. It wasn’t tarnished like the plates downstairs. The chain was weak, however, and as I lifted it from the trunk from it, a link broke, sending the watch itself hurtling down. It shambled to the ground and bounced off the rim of the trunk, to the floor, and slid against the dust some few feet away. I went to it and held it in my hands once more.

The impact had caused the watch to open. Stuck to the inside of the latch, was a black and white photograph, but, unlike the ones on the way up, and the ones on the shelves in the hall outside, this one seemed to have been protected by the decay of age.

A woman sat within — dark hair hung in curls around her pale face, and light eyes. She wore a circlet of flowers in her hair, and a white dress around her shoulders. She was beautiful, even by today’s standards. I stared at it for a moment longer: then I looked back to the trunk, with the wedding dress folded neatly within. He loved her, it was easy to tell.

A shadow moved in the corner of my eye and caught my attention, as I looked at the dress, and, before I could shift it to out of my periphery and into full focus, it was gone. I heard no footsteps, no creaking of floorboards, nothing but the hushed rush of wind out the door.

I followed behind, but the wind was gone before I made it to the door. It was then that I felt my heart racing — I had felt this before, several times. When I was climbing Mount Shasta three springs ago, and the rocky face that I had stuck my pick in gave way, nearly sending me plummet down the side. I had felt it when surfing in the pacific, when a large, curling wave knocked me from my board and pushed me under the salty depths. I had felt it when backpacking through the Himalayas when a tiger stalked through my camp and pawed at the door to my tent…

I hurried out the front door — and breathed in as much air as I could. Calm down, I told myself, it was just a shadow. You’ve seen plenty of them all of your life. Nothing to be worried about. Nothing at all. A few moments later I was able to get my heart rate down to a good pace. I would continue exploring the town, I told myself. Something, didn’t seem right, and I know it would pull at my mind for the rest of my life unless I figured it out then and there. The call of a hawk drew my attention skyward, and it circled the outskirts of the town, like a vulture circling a carcass, and I felt my heart thump again.

Once more I wandered the green in the middle, this time heading to the general store, that stood in the middle of the town. It was in fairly good repair, compared to most of the other buildings in town. I had hoped to stop by the bank as well, seeing as they probably held a stockpile of gold at one point, but that had long since been collapsed by a collapsed redwood. There was no way I’d be able to get underneath it, then.

The glass doors had shattered, though it wasn’t apparent what from, though I knew enough to know that sometimes that glass could shatter in extreme colds, like those that the winters in these mountains have had throughout the years no doubt, so I thought nothing of it, though it was strange that none of the other glass in the town seemed to have the problem, nor any of the glass on the store’s walls. I put it out of my mind, however, as I walked through the front door.

Shelves were neatly stacked in the middle of the room, and on the wooden walls all around me. A variety of items sat on them — books, clothing, food, ammunition, guns that had long since rotted into uselessness. Canned food stood, neatly stacked on the floor and on tables. Jerky and rotted meats hung from hooks in glass displays — shattered by the same force that broke through the windows no doubt — dripping into  putrid puddles on the floor.

Silence lay like a pall over the store, aside from the dripping sound of rotted meat to join the puddle below, slowly seeping into the floorboards. The rot assaulted my senses, robbing me of my sight as tears fled to my eyes, and bile rose in my throat. I hurried outside and knelt over, and retched on the grass.

My arms trembled as I held the position for a while, emptying my stomach of all of its contents. When I had finished I stood and wiped my lips off with a handkerchief I kept in my pocket, and tossed it to the ground, and stood there shaking for a brief time.

A shadow jumped out from my periphery once more and I sprung up, and looked around frantically. Relief washed over as I saw a deer  rustling through the brushes on the outskirts of town. It walked on the outskirts, and made its way around the town, never venturing a hoof into the town itself. When it reached the very end, it moved inwards, towards the town, and continued running until it disappeared, down a slope.

I hurried to where I had seen it last, on the outside of the town, and, sure enough, a deer trail stretched off as far as I could see. I turned around and followed the path that the deer took: perhaps it was what I saw from my periphery from the room in the house that I had been in. That would put my mind at ease, I told myself as I followed the path, through the trampled grass. It led me around the town, through an underbrush…but never through the town. A quick glance to the house where I had been, revealed that it had no windows facing this direction. It continued to go the length of the town, and a few yards out, and stretched through the woods, further. I kept an eye on the house, but no angles from the path revealed a window, or even a hole in the wall that I could peer out from, just empty, rotted walls.

But something else niggled my mind — why did this track not lead through the town? When followed from end to end, it made a giant “C,” shape, as if they deer, and whatever critters used the same path intentionally avoided the town…but that was ridiculous, wasn’t it?

Was it, though? I hurried back to town and looked around, for anything to defy my welling suspicions. I looked towards the crevices in the roofs that still stood for nests. I checked the roads and by every house for an ant mound, for a swarm of maggots. For any droppings, or burrows…anything. But nothing.

I ran into one of the other houses — shadows scattering in the corner of my eyes. I turned my head as quickly as I could to catch…whatever it was, but couldn’t. They slinked out of the room through shattered windows and shattered floor boards…rodents? I sighed as I thought that. Rodents. Of course. I don’t know what had gotten into me. I turned heel to head out the door, and quickly glanced up the stairwell. At the top of the stairs, illuminated by the orange light of the sun, filtering through the dirty windows, was not a rodent, but something else entirely.

Skin that looked like boiled cabbage clung to it’s squat body. It was hairy — not like an animal, but as if he were a man, or an imitation of one. It stood no taller than my knee, and had feet smaller than my large toe, in which it wore leather slippers, and leather pants on it’s short, fat legs. Porcupine-like quills grew from the top of it’s head, and ran down it’s back like hair, and small, glass-like eyes stared back at me, equally bewildered.

“What…the…fuck.” I whispered aloud.

It sprinted down the stairs, screaming loudly and right past me, it’s quills bristling against my jeans. What the hell was I seeing? I ran off after it, not thinking for a second. I have seen every matter of animal in my life, but I had never seen anything like this. I have encountered platypus, bats, tigers, sharks and more, but nothing, nothing like this. Nothing like a small man.

The thing continued screaming — it’s voice warbling and changing intonations. Was it speaking? At that moment, all around me the same type of screaming echoed through the woods, it hurt to hear, but I kept hearing it. Several creatures stepped out of the shadows inside and outside the buildings, running past me and into the surrounding woods. There was a dozen now, no a score!

Soon, I chased them out of the town, and the woods rustled around us as animals sprint from their hiding places. Deer, squirrels, hares and all matter of rodents ran underfoot away. Were these things the reason why the animals seemed to avoid the town? Even a large grizzly barreled past, down the hill and away from the swarm of strange, nearly human like creatures. We rounded a bend and stopped near a small cave. No, not a cave. A small hole in the ground that seemed never ending.

I caught my breath, and before I could get anything out, I heard something move behind me. A dozen footsteps approached from behind, and something poked the back of my leg. I glanced downward and half a dozen of these creatures were using small black needles to poke at my legs to get me to move forward. The pain was something akin to jamming a pin into your leg, and it moved me forward with no problem. The twenty or so that I chased, stood on the edges of the hole, with tiny bows in their hands. I tried to back up, but was caught in the calves with the tiny spears.

Each one pulled a quill from his back, pointed it at me and released. I crossed my arms over my face and neck. The overwhelming pain and a couple more jabs on the back of my calves sent me onto my knees.

My arms went numb and fell to my side: was there something on those quills? They readied another volley, and fired. Each one entering a different part of my body. Limply, I hurdled down the chasm, into the hole. I hit the bottom with a loud crash, as a dozen broken rib cages stabbed into me. Slowly, ever so slowly I felt the life drain from me as stared into the face of a child’s skull. Slowly, ever so slowly, my blood painted the yellow bones red, to be washed away by the next rainfall.

Old wooden bones, stripped bare by the winds of time, yawned towards the heavens: the brilliant whites and azure shrouded by the red-orange canopies of autumn. Nature had long since begun it’s reclamation — the hard packed dirt path, paved by the footsteps of a hundred or so people mostly eaten away by the encroaching green. Grooves gouged by wagon wheels, now invisible to the eye.

Vines crept up wooden walls, pulling them down back to work in heaps of rubble. Grass and ferns pushed up from beneath shattered floorboards. Mold, dropped from a century and a half’s worth of rain, ate at the wooden rafters.

It was peaceful, in it’s slow decay. Still undisturbed by the whimsies of man, and his ever growing need for progress.

October 1864

The muggiest months had passed, and the end of October 1864 loomed over the small town of Fayetteville, Louisiana. It weren’t long after the war had ended in early April that the children began to disappear. First was young Bartholomew. He were a good kid, with high aspirations. His father was a confederate who fell at Blair’s Landing a year ago, so it was thought that some Union boy or some freed slave had come down to finish off the bloodline. It were a common thing, though not widely known. Course, when Jonathan, the son of a union boy went missing there were some confusion. Then Samantha. Timothy and Bella, Faye, and a host of others went missing over the months.

October were the worst: six children in one month. They was saying how they was just wondering out into the bayou and getting eaten by some large gators that moved in from the everglades. But six children? Ain’t no gators that eat children that much . Ain’t no child gon wander off into the bayous when there’s gators about.

When my nephew  Samson went missing, I just knew then that something weren’t right.

Samson weren’t an adventurous kid. He was sickly and weren’t fond of wandering too far out of town. He was fraid of the bayous, seeing as he was away from them, and only moved with me once my brother died fighting the union in Kentucky. His wife weren’t too far behind him, with a rope ‘round her neck. He weren’t the type to wander into the swamps for no reason.

He was acting strange the days afore he disappeared. He was talkin’ about how his parents was comin’ to visit him on the edge of the town. I told him he was dreaming, but he assured me that he weren’t. I shoulda listened.

I told the townspeople this, but they weren’t havin it.

“Just some gators, John. They’ll leave soon ‘nuff.”

“It ain’t nothin to worry bout. Sorry about your nephew.”

But we had already killed the gators in the area. Already looked for the bones. But they weren’t there. None of the gators we killed was big enough to have eaten ten children. Must be more, they told me.

But I don’t believe it. Six children missing in one month? Ain’t right. Samson gone? Ain’t right at all.

So, the morning of October 20th, 1864 I set forth from the town and into the bayous, I was going to find him. Dead or live. He deserved a proper burial if he were at least. Ain’t no good rotting out in the swamp.

It was hot for October, the humid air stuck to me as closely as my own skin. Mosquitos buzzed loudly around my head, though I tried swatting them away, they still bit. The toads and frogs croaked loudly. Louder than I had ever heard them afore. No gators stirred in the waters as I crossed through the waters, the muck sticking to the legs of my pants, nearly tearing my boots off my feet as I walked on.

The sun sailed high, it’s light shimmering through the bayou trees. It sailed and sailed, until noon came and I found nothing. It sailed and sailed until evening came, and the sky turned a damp orange, and I found nothing. It was about the time the orange began to disappear into violet, that I decided to head back. I had walked a good ten miles round the town, that day with no signs of the children.

I had always kept the town to the north of me, however, walking around in a circle, making arrows and x’s along the way to detail which ways I went, so I wouldn’t get lost on my way back. And so I turned and looked for my markers…but they weren’t there.

No arrows, no x’s nothing. There was nothin’ around me but swamp. Deep. Deep swamp. I lost my breath…had I forgot to put one on a tree? No. I still had my knife in my hand. Cypress bark still clung to it’s blade…

I looked around for what felt like hours, until the sun had completely extinguished it’s last hold on the sky. Where was I? How far away was I from home? Miles? Tens of miles? Hundreds? I didn’t know.

The night went quiet, and something behind my left shoulder caught my attention: a white glow. It weren’t no lightning bug, no, this thing shone as bright as the moon itself, hidden by the canopy of cypress leaves. It danced and bobbed like a child playing in the waters of the swamp.

I had heard of them before: the will-o-wisps. I had thought they weren’t nothin real, something that my parents and grandparents told to me to keep me out of the swamps. But here it was. Dancing. It’s white light reflected off the bayou waters, shining into the darkness like a lighthouse’s flame piercing the veil for some lost sailors.

Weren’t they supposed to lead you to safety? Like a guardian angel for those lost in the swamps and bogs of the world? It seemed to be  beckoning me. I had to follow it. I had to get out. I took a step and it moved backwards. Yes. Yes. It was leading me out. I knew it.

Another step, and it led me down. Another, and it led me further. Soon I would be out of the swamps. Soon I would be home. Another white light soon jumped to life at my side and sprinted to join the one in front. The light was blinding, but i knew I was lookin’ at the light of angels. Another step. Another step. The night didn’t seem to progress, but that didn’t bother me none. I would make it out of there eventually.

Soon more and more lights joined those in front, like a sun flying through the swamps. I was following Michael himself to get out of those swamps. I knew it.

The muck clung to my jeans, up to my belt-line, staining even my shirt. But I followed. I followed ‘til it was up to my neck. And then…I got out. It weren’t the town, but it weren’t the swamp neither. It were a clearing. Ten tall trees stretched around the clearing in the middle of the swamp. The lights stopped, and they split up. Ten small lights now, dancing over the grassy knoll, surrounded by swamp water.

I had ran for most of the night it felt: my lungs burned and my legs felt as if they would fall off at any second, as the muck dripped off onto the green grass.

Where was I? I had explored these swamps thoroughly as a kid, and as a younger man. I had made my way through them at one point, to New Orleans. But I ain’t never seen this place afore. There was no canopy of leaves above us, and the moon shone behind a canvas of clouds above. The only lights were the wisps, dancing in the middle, around a giant pumpkin.

Now, I had seen my share of giant pumpkins in the day,  but this weren’t like none other. It was twice the size of a man’s chest. And the ten wisps just danced around it like, like flies around carrion. It had a large green stem, and a vine attached to the ground itself. My eyes followed that vine, and it rain in ten different directions, towards the edge of the clearing.

And oh lord…when the moon peeked from behind the veil, and it’s full light shown on the clearing. My heart near dropped.

All around the clearing was ten trees, as tall as any I had ever seen. Knotted, and full of holes. The vines stretched to these trees, wrapping it’s way like a serpent climbing to find it’s perch to strike, and burying themselves deep where the roots of these cypresses had to be.

I followed these vines, turning in place. One, right behind me, was a sapling. And underneath the sapling, a large hill of soil. Large enough for a child to be in.

I ran. I ran like the hounds of hell themselves was after me and dug at the soil there. I dug ‘til my fingers bled, and then…there he was. Samson. The vines sticking to his skin like leeches. His face were pale and frigid to the touch. I had seen corpses before. I had seen how they bloat in the water. It weren’t like this. His skin barely clung to his small body. I shook him to no response. It was too late. He was gone.

A yell broke from my throat as I tore at the vines to get off him: red liquid poured from the inside, and they seemed to recoil as I pulled them off. The night smelled no more like the swamp: the gasses and the water mixing. No. It smelled of copper.

The wisp beside the tree grew frantic as I pulled out the vines. Flying around me, trying to blind me. To get me to stop. It were cold, like the breath of death itself had come to life.

It flew through me, and I felt my energy sap. I stopped my pulling as it flew through again. And again. Each time it did, I felt more tired. More like I was going to sleep…and soon…I would. I fought the urge to close my eyes, but it was a losing battle…

It stopped as my head nodded down. But something stirred in the night that shook me awake. The ground began to shake, and a great amount of soil became up-heaved as the vines retracted from all the trees. Every white light stood still. Even the frogs had ceased their croaking. And the mosquito their buzzing, as the pumpkin rose.

It was the head of a giant fiend, made of pure wood, and green vines. It pulled at it’s stem, tearing it clean off, and the all the wisps flew in. Two deep recesses formed on its surface: two eyes, piercing with white light stared at me. Another gap formed on the orange surface, as if the pumpkin was rotting inward, shriveling in on itself into a malevolent grin.

It’s wooden foot stepped towards me and I sprang up. Ain’t no way it would catch me. I sprinted for the swamp and dived right into its water, scaring the fish and the silent frogs along the way.

I daren’t look back, but I could hear the rustling behind me as it gave chase, and see the white lights of its eyes burning like the fires of hell reaching out to consume me. I didn’t stop. No. No matter how hard my legs ached. No matter how badly my lungs felt like bursting. I wouldn’t stop.

Soon the light of day burst in the sky, slowly the grey of dawn chased away the violet night. And the rustling stopped, and I stopped too. I looked back, and sure enough there weren’t nothin’ there. No wooden fiend giving chase, and no white fire burning through the swamp. Only the sun peeking through the walls of cypress.

To my left, I saw it: an arrow, pointing me away from where I was. I followed it until I had found another. Then another. And another. And soon enough I was finding them all over the place. When the sun held in the southern sky, and noon beat over me like a heavy fog, I found my way home.

They questioned me: where had I gone? Did I find the children? But I couldn’t tell the truth…they would think I were mad.

“Gators,” was all that I managed to spew out through my stutterin’.

They asked why I had been gone for the last week. Week? No. I had been in there a day at most I told them…but sure enough, it were the first day of November when I emerged from those swamps: my boots covered in bog water and mud. And my legs soaked to the bones.

I moved away from there, that year. Inland. I never wanted to see another swamp again. So I moved to a small town on the Appalachian Range…that was a good thirty years ago.

Today a child has disappeared and his parents tell of him seeing white lights in the woods.

Thunderstorms.

I don’t like thunderstorms.

When one looms on the horizon, it’s growl piercing the sky as it drifts closer towards me, I make sure to hide away inside my trailer. I lock all doors, close all windows and rafters and shutter and all curtains.

It wasn’t always like this: I would sit outside with Carrie and watch the storm roll by, and listened to the pitter-patter of rain on the thin tin awning above us, and the wind would rip by and shake the trailer and creak the old wooden patio beneath us, and howled through the woods crowding the northern horizon in front of us. There was a serenity in storm, where we sat and just enjoyed one another’s company. Wrapped in the aroma of the wet loam like a perfume that mother earth war.

Carrie was the love of my life. From the moment I first saw her, I knew she was the one. Have you ever had that moment, when your rationality ceases, and all that is left is a primal force within you, driving you? When your heart leaps in your chest, and tells your mind, “This is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with?” That’s what happened when I first saw her, my freshman year of high school.

What was it about her? The flaxen hair, as golden as the wheat fields? Or her eyes as blue as the midday sky? Her voice as sweet as a swallow’s? I didn’t know. All I did know was that I had to have her, I had to be with her for the rest of my life, or I would be incomplete.

But my cowardice would be the best of me for most of my time in school. She was…a distant star, that I had no hopes of coming into contact with. The years went by, and soon our final one was upon us. I knew that if I didn’t suck up my fear and ask her, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So one late autumn morning, before the first bells had rung,  and when fog still clung to the earth, I approached her on one of the rare occasions where she was alone and asked her to the winter ball.

I wasn’t expecting her to say yes, in fact I was anticipating the opposite, but it was something that I had to do: to get over her, or so I told myself. A definite no would have hurt, but I would be better for it, or so I told myself.  

Her rosy lips curled upwards, and her milky skin reddened slightly.

“Let me think about it.” She said, “I’ll give you an answer after English.”

A few of her friends walked through the gate, and I hurried away. I caught her glancing back at me, waving as she got caught up talking with her friends. I spent the rest of that day dreading my decision, and dreading the coming of our shared English class at the end of the day. The day went by slowly, and, soon enough I was sitting at my desk in english, the teacher droning on and on about some subject I couldn’t care less about. Every so often I’d shoot a glance towards her, and sometimes I’d see her swivel her head around back to look at her papers.

The bell rang and I stayed in my seat, while everyone else filtered out, and collected myself. I was ready for that no, I told myself. A few more seconds, and I pushed myself off my seat and headed outside.

Carrie was waiting for me, outside.

“Yes.” She said as soon as she saw that I stepped out.

“Huh?”

“Yes. I’ll go to the dance with you.”

The smile she gave still lives on in my memory to this day.

I had never been happier. Over the coming weeks we talked and bonded over things neither of us knew we had in common: television shows, music on the radio, bands, books and hobbies. We talked about our plans for the future: she wanted to be a teacher. She loved the color blue. She loved my eyes.

She wore a bright blue dress to the winter ball, that swept the floor with every step she took. She was like a flower, dancing in the wind that night. Her feet swept the floor, and they stole all of the attention that night. But that didn’t interest me: she was the only thing on my mind. Her bright blue eyes watching mine, as we spun to I Wanna Know What Love is, playing over the D.J.’s speaker. It was the happiest I had been in my life.

After the commotion died down, and the song ended we walked outside, her arm caught in the crook of mine, just in time for a thunderstorm to roll in from the woods.

“Hey, want to watch it?” She asked, tugging me by the arm towards the campus.

“What do you mean?”

“I dunno. I like watching them come by.”

“What, storms?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“My dad and I used to watch them together.”

I shrugged. Why not? That was a good enough reason for me.I didn’t want that night to end any time soon.

People hurried by, into waiting cars or limos, while we hurried through the campus, looking for a place to watch the storm.

There was an overhanging covered cement bridge separating two elevated portions of the school,  with enough protection from the sky to allow us to stay dry. We snuck up there, past the security guards scanning crevices of darkness for prowlers, or for horny teenagers who slipped away from the dance to do their business in the darkness of the school grounds.

We reached the center of the bridge just in time for the first flash of lightning. She watched it enthusiastically: a smile illuminated by the sudden brightness of the storm dancing across her face. She watched the storm, and I watched her. She was enthused as the sky roared to life, and the wind began to whip through the gaps of the steel support bars in front of us, sweeping past in a flurry of cold. I took the initiative again, and by the light of one of those lightning strikes, I took hold of her chin and brought her lips into mine. She seemed surprised at first, but leaned into it after a few seconds. Her lips tasted like strawberries.

The school year went by, with us never leaving one another’s side for very long. Every time there was a thunderstorm announced for the following day on the news, we’d find somewhere to watch it together, and share in each other’s company. I grew to love them as much as she had. We shared our first time in the back of a beat up toyota, while the storm covered the world around us.

We graduated together that year, and, with the next thunderstorm that summer, I went down on one knee and asked her to spend the rest of her life with me. She responded with a kiss.

My family was ecstatic, and my father bought us a used tin trailer for our first home, and allowed us to use his father’s land as our own, until we could afford our own place. We never did move out of that tin can — we grew to love it as much as we loved each other, and was hoping to spend the rest of our lives together there.

We got married three years after our first dance at the winter ball, to the date. And moved in together. I got a job at one of the farms in town, and she started classes at a local college, to start her process to get her teaching certificates.

As time went on, we replaced the tin can, with a larger trailer, with a tin awning, and yellow painted aluminum walls. My brothers, my father and a few of my coworkers built a wooden patio underneath the awning where we could sit outside, and pass the time watching the thunderstorms.

We continued watching them together as often as we could: when sickness racked through us both, we’d still go out and watched the storms roll past the woods, past the trailer, and past our three or four acres. We’d say nothing for hours on end, just holding each other’s hand. We’d kiss. We’d make love as the thunder roared over head.

It was one of those gray days, that promised another storm that I found myself at work. Early afternoon came, and a rumble of thunder started me. It had been clear just moments before, but now black clouds loomed on the horizon, moving ever closer.

“Ay, John!” Our crew leader called, “Go home.”

“You sure? We ain’t done yet.”

“Yeah.” He cast his eyes to the sky, watching the dark clouds grow closer, “Looks to be a bad ‘un.”

The sky growled in response.

“Best hurry, too. Don’t want to get caught out in this mess.”

I put the tools back in the barn, and hurried to the old beat up chevy I still drove. I was going to surprise her, I told myself. And we’d sit outside to watch this big one: make love. Be happy. There was a store on the way home, I got in a bought a bottle of wine, and when I got back to my car, the first whip of lightning shot down from the sky and struck in a field nearby: it’s thunder called after it. There would be a fire, if it weren’t for the sheets of rain that began to pour from the heavens to put it out.

Home wasn’t a very far drive from the store: a mile or so, and another quarter of a mile down the packed dirt drive that led to the trailer. I stopped right before I usually stop in front of it: there was a truck parked there already. One of them new, plastic ones, with California license plates. God no.

I hurried past, and made it to the door in time to hear their muted moans, and the creaking of my bed under their weight, at the window that looked out over the front of our property. She giggled, and my heart shattered, and my whole body burned, as if consumed by an inferno.

The truck door creaked open silently, and I rustled around in my glove box, pulled out the revolver I kept in to scare away the coyotes or feral dogs that sometimes wandered onto the property, or onto the farm lands and spun the chamber. With the heat of hell burning inside of me, I stuffed the gun inside my coat pocket and pushed open the door as loud as I could, and the creaking stopped.

I said nothing as I pushed the door open, the lock ripping off. She covered herself with my sheets.

“What the fuck, man.” The man underneath my wife said.

I pulled gun from my coat and fired a shot into the man’s head. His body went limp, and the remains of what was his face, splattered against the white sheets that covered the mattress, and stained her white skin.

Carried screamed. But not for long, as another round entered her as well. Her body went limp, and she fell on top of her lover. I stood there for ten minutes, looking at what I had just done my chest heaving.

I threw up on the ground then, and sprung into action, pulling the sheets off the mattress, and covering their bodies with it. I pulled the bloodstained sheets across the floor and, with the strength gained from pulling up bales of wheat, pulled them into the bed of my truck and drove deep into the nearby woods after I got a shovel from the tool shed. The storm was like none other, raging above. Lightning struck every minute, thunder roared every second, and the rain came down in sheets. I spent the next few hours digging two shallow graves underneath a large oak tree. The rain and mud clung to my body, soaking me to the bone. But I continued. God, what had I done? I vomited again into the hole.

I buried her there, along with her lover, naked, wrapped in those linen sheets. I drank the weeks away after that, told my family she had found another man and moved to California and left me. No questions were asked, and I was able to clean the blood from the walls and floors of my home, and hide his truck away deep in the underbrush of the forests. I got away with it.

The next thunderstorm came,  and I sat outside, a bottle of whiskey my only companion now. I watched as the dark gray clouds rolled in, and then watched as the first lightnings flashed across the sky….when something caught my eye.

In the distance there, at the line of the woods, I saw it: a black silhouette of a woman draped in a linen sheet. Another flash of lightning and she was a bit closer. Another. Closer.

I dropped the bottle of whiskey and shattered it on the wooden surface of the patio, the alcohol disappearing into the gaps, and hurried inside. The storm roared and I chanced a glance whenever I could. And sure enough, every time the lightning flashed, there was a silhouette at the treeline. Getting closer, and closer with bright flash. With every rumble of thunder.

That was five years ago, and ain’t no matter where I went: what part of the country I would go, if I were on the road or not, I’d see her there in the lightning flashes, getting closer and closer. Closer and closer. I began to see signs of those once vivid blue eyes, burning like coal. I began to see traces of her yellow hair wherever I went. Closer. Closer. Hate burning in those cerulean orbs.

The last time, I was close enough to kiss her. Closer. Closer. To smell the mud dripping from her matted hair. Closer. Closer. And to feel the coolness radiating from her body. Closer. Closer.

A thousand miles away, a different continent even. Oceans away from my sins, and still still, she follows. The weatherman said that there would be a thunderstorm coming tonight, and I swore I felt her breath rolling down my neck like ice.

I don’t like thunderstorms.