Today is Labor Day. In Independence the Santa-Cali-Gon festival starts Friday night and lasted until Sunday night. My dad used to take me to the Square the Saturday before Labor Day. You couldn't park within five blocks of the square so we would walk. There were shuttle buses, but my dad was one of those people that just knew EVERYBODY in town. He would stop and talk to people we met along the way. Walking up Liberty we would pass Saint Mary's Catholic school and he would talk to a friend of his that he had worked with years ago. This would sometimes take an hour or more. Once we got there we would look at all the booths. I would get some Dr. J's Root Beer and everything we ate that day would be either deep fried or on a stick, sometimes both. I would hit all the rides at the carnival, sometimes even convincing dad to ride with me. In later years I would go with my friends and we would hang out till the last rides closed at the carnival and all the booths were boarded up. Another tradition I had hoped to continue with my own son.
Our mystery man showed up yesterday. He just walked up and knocked on the glass door of the lobby. Emily announced his presence before he even got close to the door. He rode up on an ATV so we all heard him coming. He was dressed almost exactly as I pictured him. A bit skinny though. He seemed nervous and looked almost ready to bolt, but smiled when he saw Dee. He introduced himself as Micheal Eastland. He is seventeen and was My first impression was that we are not the first people that he has encountered since the disappearance. He seemed eager to talk and I took the liberty of recording his story. He agreed readily.
Below is a transcription of his story.
"Last April I was in the middle of Football practice, I'm not really much of a jock, but it meant a lot to my Dad that I be on the team. I was blocking, coach thought that was a big joke, a beanpole like me blocking. There's a big guy on the team that likes to get opposite me, just so he can knock me down. I wasn't at my best anyways. My allergy medicine was fuckin' me up... sorry messin me up, I forgot about her being here. Course he bulldozed right over me, wrenched my knee and stomped my hand. He's laughing while he did it too. I was seeing red. I grabbed his leg and that pulled him off balance and he fell on me. Asshole weighs probably two-forty, two-sixty easy. He landed hard. And then he just wasn't there anymore. His uniform, pads and helmet was, but he wasn't in 'em. I tossed his gear aside and looked round the field. All I saw was empty uniforms all cross the field. The bleachers were empty."
He paused a moment here and pulled out a cigar. Kathy gave him a disapproving look and he put it away.
"I wandered about the whole town for a while before I ended up here. My sis worked the kennels here, cleanin up a twice a day and walkin the dogs. She's got Downs Syndrome. She can't get a job anywhere else, but they treat her good here and she loves the animals. By that time I had already figured out that everyone was gone. I released the animals so they wouldn't starve to death. I put a horse down cause it was sick and suffering. It would have died slow on it's own."
"Three days later a big van drove into town. A FedEx van, you know one of those Freightliners. I was eager to meet someone else so I flagged em down. There were three men inside. One of them got out of the van and and, he grabbed me... They beat me up and did...other things to me."
I had a feeling I knew what those other things were, and I could see that Kathy did too. He shook his head and continued.
"After a while one of them decided he wanted to kill me but the others disagreed, there was a fight and the two others killed him I think. I didn't hang around to be sure. While they were distracted I managed get away. They took off."
"I have been trying to keep a low profile since. You're the first ones I've seen since they left. Been watching you since you came into town. She's the only reason I approached" at this point he nodded to Dee, who by this time was playing with her doll house. "I would not have approached if I had not seen her."
That made sense to me, a couple of adults alone would have been very intimidating to him after what he had been through. But a couple with a child would have seemed safe. Despite what he has been through he seems to be an open and trusting boy. I think he has a crush on Katherine. Despite her attitude sometimes, she is an attractive woman. Dee likes him and Emily kept trying to climb in his lap.
He did not mention the wraiths or anything unusual and did not seem entirely believing of us when we described our encounters. He seems to think we are a couple of city folk that have mistaken a bear or a coyote for something supernatural.
He stuck around for a couple of hours but left for the night. I don't think he is entirely ready to give up his independence yet.
The fact that we have two, possibly three, psychopaths tooling about the countryside in a FedEx van worries me.
© 2009 R. Keith McBride