by Lloyd Wagoner
forum: Norman
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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      "No man, I'm not going! My parents aren't letting me leave the house because of my grades, I told you that already." Jimmy Chappelle hissed at his friend Ronny.

      It was Halloween night and Ronny and some of his friends were going down to egg the English teacher's house and had invited Jimmy to come along. And despite how much Jimmy hated Mrs. Phillips because of all the F's, he had bigger fish to fry that night.

      "Alright, your loss man," said an unconvinced Ronny. "Hey, I gotta run dude. I'll talk to you later, peace out."

      "Alright, peace." Jimmy was happy that he was now off the hook. Of course his parents hadn't actually grounded him. They didn't even know what his grade was in English. They wouldn't receive his report card for another 5 days, long after the death …

      Jimmy put the phone down and walked over to his bed, satisfied that he'd outwitted Ronny and excited at the prospect of what was to come. It wasn't that he opposed egging Mrs. Phillips' house, but he had ideas for that night... He'd been saving up for and thinking this out for weeks.

      He sat down on the floor next to his bed and determinedly flipped through his CD case, almost as if there was a mystical meaning behind his selection. Finally, he stopped and pulled out a black CD with Treesmoke written across the top in bold orange letters.

      Treesmoke was Jimmy's favorite band, and his worship was like a fever. He owned five different Treesmoke shirts. He'd given away all his other shirts last school year. After repeated plays of every Treesmoke CD, he'd also learned the guitar parts to each song as well as plastering his walls with posters and pictures of the band. He had also personally investigated and tested every rumor or myth about the band. Fortunately for Jimmy, there was no shortage of mystique surrounding his band. They had more musical stories and subliminal messages than the legendary Pink Floyd.

      A few weeks before, Jimmy and Ronny had spent three hours playing Treesmoke´s first album backwards trying to find the so-called "satanic prayer" that was supposedly hidden somewhere on the album. They had found the idea on one of many various websites that specialized in such rumors and theories. Finally, after their long and fruitless search, they came to the conclusion that there was no "satanic prayer" and they were never going to take suggestions from that website again.

      And on that Halloween night of October, 31, 1997, Jimmy was preparing his next test involving his idols. Three days earlier he had purchased the newly released and much anticipated fourth studio album. The acid rock album was named "All Hallows Eve" and the first track was named "1997". Loosely based on this information, a rumor had spread around circles of hardcore Treesmoke disciples that if you played the new album on Halloween night, 1997, while under the influence of marijuana and magic mushrooms, you would enter into the spirit world and be able to communicate with the dead. In preparation for the night, Jimmy had saved up $180 from his job at the Dollar Store and bought one fourth of chronic marijuana along with two $35 bags of shrooms. After about a half-hour he'd finished eating and smoking.

      For a while after the last of the pot was smoked, Jimmy sat on his floor listening to the music and crazy tripping. His sandy blond hair hung at his shoulders as he stroked his goatee and stared into the mirror. Usually when he looked in the mirror he saw himself looking back out, but this time, he saw many different things.

      A giant tortoise carrying Carlos Santana on its back walked through his closed closet door. From the corner of his eye he saw giant fruit flies fluttering on the pine tree branches outside like blue jays, and the floor was made of sour apple bubble gum.

      Jimmy was enjoying the music like he'd never before. He could hear every distinct instrument and sound effect with incredible clarity. He closed his eyes and pictured being with the band onstage at the concert they were having that night in Chicago. Suddenly, he was there, onstage next to David Page, the insanely gifted rhythm guitarist. The reality of it all was so breathtaking that Jimmy completely forgot he was in his room and abandoned himself to the dream. He could see every face in the frenzied crowd, and could feel the hundreds of hot bodies pressed into the small club. Combined with the overwhelming smell of burning marijuana, the beautifully simple lightshow, and the trippy band music, the experience was so far out that Jimmy stood up and took a stage dive right onto his bed.

      But then, at exactly 10:31 pm, something strange happened that Jimmy had never before experienced in all his years of drug experimentation and meditation. He completely lost control of the trip. The feeling was as though he had been wrapped in plastic and suspended in the air like a puppet. It seemed as though he was flying above a silent movie of the concert.
Then it was over, and he was standing back on the stage, struggling to understand what was happening. Beside him stood a familiar clay image of himself. It was as if the sculpture had been molded with Jimmy's skin and bone.

      "Oh, fuck you!" Jimmy said.. "Don't fucking come in here and ruin my good time, you son of a bitch!" Jimmy had seen this thing before. In many nightmares he was chased by this clay Jimmy. Each minute detail matched. Hand to toe. Eyeball to eyeball. The only thing missing was the healed gash on his left arm. The scar was about three inches long down his left arm near his wrist from getting bitten by a rat when he was seven. The gray thing had bitten him so hard that it had exposed the bone underneath his skin and Jimmy had to have fourteen shots for every possible disease the rat might have been carrying. In his dreams, the scar was the only thing that allowed him to tell the difference between himself and the thing.

      But something was different this time. The thing standing next to him not only looked completely real and tangible, instead of hazy or blurry like it usually did, but it also had the three inch scar on its left arm.. The only noticeable difference between the two was that the thing seemed to have been very carefully painted in three dimensions with pastel paints.

      Immediately after the appearance of his clay twin, the entire room went silent. The band kept playing and the crowd kept screaming, but no sound could be heard. It was a total, dead quiet. Jimmy looked around in confusion. Everything was silent, from his twin to the cute blonde in the front row who was singing along with the music she could apparently still hear. As he watched her, mouthing the words to a song he didnt recognize, he got the eerie feeling that someone was reading over his shoulder. He imagined the clay twin standing behind him.

      He wanted to look. Could he? Was it?

      He turned his head extremely slowly, but the figure was gone. It had vanished into the air.. Then, all of a sudden, Jimmy felt a light tap on his shoulder. Dreading what he would discover if he turned around, he squeezed his eyes shut and slowly turned to face the thing. Once he was certain he was facing it, he opened his eyes and saw exactly what he'd expected to see, only worse. The vibrant blue eyes had rolled back in the thing's head. It smiled with a malicious grin. Forever they stood, facing each other for what until finally, it opened its mouth and chanted, in a strong but raspy voice.

      "Stolen father, murdered son
      Dance with me and I'll have won
      Down the street you've heard about,
      The wicked candle, lights burn out"

      It chanted this three times, holding Jimmy hypnotized by his spell. After the third time it started laughing like a mechanical madman.

      Jimmy's eyes flew open and he stared around his room in a panic. The laughter was still ringing in his ears as though the twin was in the room with him. The music had stopped playing. He noticed that his body was shaky and nervous. He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself down.

      Breathe in. Breathe out. But the faces in the posters on his wall were still talking and dancing with each other. He concentrated very hard on a bright summer day with flowers and butterflies flying over a field.

      He felt his muscles ease up their tenseness and his heart slowed down to a regular beat again. Opening his eyes, he spotted something at the other end of the room in the shadows. It seemed to him like someone was standing just beyond his darkened vision. It stepped forward. The thing was there, in his room. It cackled loudly, opening its clay mouth and revealing a deep black pit where its tongue should have been. As the echoes of the outburst died away, the thing took another step into the light and spoke in the same raspy voice it had spoken with in the dream.

      "Down the street you know all too well
      The lights burn black and you fly to hell"

      As soon as the words escaped the thing's grinning mouth, Jimmy's bedside lamp clicked off. The room plunged into a pitch black. Jimmy, terrified of what the thing might be capable of in the dark, didn't move. He remained petrified, hoping that the thing couldn't see without the light. He listened intently into the blackness, trying to catch the sound of a breath or a footstep to let him know where the thing was. It was the most intense silence Jimmy had ever heard, only broken every few minutes by bouts of wild cackling sounds coming from different parts of the house. First it came from the kitchen, then a few minutes later from the living room, followed by the staircase, and then it came again from the hallway just outside his room. After the last screech, there was silence again. Then there were scratching sounds right outside the door and rattling of the door knob.

      Finally, after hours in the pitch darkness, the knob shook and Jimmy heard the door swing open. It was a bitter relief for him though, as he had been expecting the hallway light to still be working. The light was not on however, and although Jimmy didn't know it, no light was on in the whole house, nor was anyone besides him in the house. His parents and sister had gone to the movies. And since he'd told them he was going to bed, they hadn't thought it necessary to wake him up. They wouldn't be back for another two hours. Jimmy would never see them again.

      The cackling came again from right inside the dark doorway. Jimmy closed his eyes tight and clenched his teeth in panic. "If I can't see it," he thought "maybe it can't see me." He laid in the pitch darkness in complete silence for a very long time, concentrating on not breathing too hard and on slowing his heart, which was beating with the speed and loudness of an African war drum.

      Suddenly, out of the black came the cackling again. So loud was it this time that it seemed as though the thing's mouth had to be less than a foot above Jimmy's left ear. His heart was racing now like he'd just run a marathon and he couldn't possibly stand the suspense any longer. He leapt out of bed and rushed towards the door, fearing the entire time that he would run into the thing somewhere in the total darkness. He made it to the door however without hitting anything and he proceeded to flick the light switch up and down in the vain hope that it would turn the lights back on. It didn't work though, and, having lost most of his bravado finding himself out of the security of his bed, and in the middle of the house he now saw to be empty, he stood completely still for what seemed like hours. As he stood there in the total darkness he started trying to convince himself that all of this was just in his head.

      "It's just a bad trip, that's all," he told himself in his mind.

      "But why are the lights out?" answered a voice in his head that sounded eerily like the voice of the thing.

      "A squirrel probably got electrocuted on the lines and the power is out," he answered it, trying to sound matter-of-factly.

      "Possibly," it replied, "but then why do the neighbors still have power?" The voice was right. From his new vantage point, Jimmy could see out the window, and although his vision was still heavily influenced by the mushrooms, he could tell that the neighbors' houses all had power still.

      "Maybe our electricity short-circuited," he answered, trying to shrug it off while remaining completely terrified inside.

      "And why is no-one here, I wonder?" said the voice, sounding increasingly like the thing as it grew raspier.

      "They probably all went to bed," he answered quickly, without thinking.

      "Its only 8:30, though," spoke the voice without hesitation, "and your sister would never go to bed before 10 on a Friday, you know that. So where are they?" The terror inside Jimmy was such that he felt his heart was going to explode if this went on any longer.

      "Oh, duh-- they went trick or treating," he said out loud, still holding eyes shut and relieved he'd explained away the haunting questions. But the voice didn't stop. Now distinctly out of Jimmy's head and somewhere around him in the darkness it shot back:

      "Trick or treat ended at 8:00, smart ass. It's been a half-hour, and besides, your sister said she didn't want to go out this year."

      Jimmy, by now on the verge of outright panic, tried to keep talking to stall the thing and come up with a plan, but only incoherent babbles came out when he opened his mouth to speak.

      "So, they're not sleeping, or out trick or treating," the thing continued aggressively out of the shadows, "What could have possibly happened to them, hmmm?"

      Its mocking voice rang throughout the room, and it was obvious that it was about to reveal something horrible that only it knew… "They're dead, Jim-bo, dead, and by now, probably stone cold. It's been hours, Jimmy, you didn't realize how fast time went by at your little concert, but it's been two hours, and I killed them as soon as you left. You can check if you don't believe me, what's left of them is piled on the bathroom floor down the hall. But you know it's true, you know I'm not lying. Why would I lie? I don't have to lie. I'm completely in control no matter what…

      Suddenly Jimmy felt an invisible force grabbing him and dragging his entire body down to the floor. His face smashed against the hardwood floor and he felt his softened brain banging off the sides of his skull. He lay there in silence for a few seconds as though dead, staring out into the black, when suddenly, the flash light that he kept near his bed and that he'd completely forgotten about turned on at the end of the room. It hung as though suspended in the air on an invisible finger. Behind it, sitting on the bed, was the thing. It was sitting cross-legged facing him, the flashlight illuminating its face oddly and casting shadows everywhere…

      "What the fuck do you want from me?!!" Jimmy screamed at the thing as tears started to run down his face. The thing sat and stared him right in the eyes. Jimmy was channeling all his fears and adrenaline into stirring up a blind fury of hatred for the thing. His head was aching from his fall and his vision was still very blurry and occasionally things swirled around but he was so pumped with adrenaline that he was set on action, any action. The thing sat and watched him with interest and amusement clearly revealed by the smile on its face.

      "Fuck you!" yelled Jimmy, as loud as he could, still lying on the ground, "Fuck you!"

      The thing stared intently into its victims eyes, as though concentrating very hard on its task of driving Jimmy to the edge of insanity. But then, with absolutely no warning at all, Jimmy leapt up off the ground and charged at the thing with the resolution of a Spanish fighting bull. When he reached the middle of the room Jimmy jumped, launching himself into the air towards the bed. As he floated in the air he noticed the flashlight moving in front of him as though held by an invisible hand. He watched it pull back towards the bed then come swinging at his face like a baseball bat.

      The impact of the flashlight broke his nose and knocked him right down out of the air. He squirmed around on the ground clutching his nose with blood gushing out from between his fingers. The blood began to collect in a large pool on the floor near his face as he stopped moving and tried to see out of his pain-blinded eyes. The thing was standing now and it towered above him like a hunter towers above his cornered prey. Its cold, victorious blue eyes gazing down mercilessly at Jimmy's broken face.

      Jimmy stared up at the thing, the pain from his nose searing through the rest of his face. He watched in silence as it rose in the air like a crow on black wings that grew out of where its arms had been. It flapped in midair for a few seconds, its eyes having not left Jimmy's the entire time. Suddenly it flapped its wings hard and shot upwards through the ceiling. Jimmy could hear its insane cackle out on the roof, getting louder and louder. He sat up, still grasping his face and listening as the maniacal laugh grew so loud that it seemed as though he was sitting next to giant speakers blasting it out. It grew so loud that Jimmy screamed in pain as he felt the insides of his eardrums rip and tear. The excruciating pain surged through him and a white hot fire burned his brains to a crisp. No more sounds came to his bleeding ears and he sat, in the permanent silence as the thing rose out of the floor, drifted towards him, and pushed itself down his throat…




copyright 2006 Lloyd Wagoner.

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