Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Land of Shadows: Chapter XXII - A Bad Day

Jonas squatted on the pot trying his best to take care of business. But it just was not happening. Not like yesterday. Damn that dump had almost been a holy experience. He felt like friggin Superman for an hour afterwards. Like he could have run down to Park City or maybe even as far as Wichita and trotted back. But struggle as he did all he produced was one little minnow of a turd and that made that God Damned hemorrhoid itch like mad. He wiped his ass and then with one jagged thumbnail proceeded to dig at that sum bitch. He hit it just right and it was almost as good as sex. Not that he knew much about that lately. His wife had died eight years ago, screaming under the claws of a nightmarish Hell spawned thing. He dug at the hemorrhoid for a bit longer before wiping his thumb on the hem of his jeans.

Uncontrolled diabetes had rendered him impotent years ago. His feet were a constant pain and his digestion frequently troubled him. Scratching that damn hemorrhoid was damn near the only physical pleasure left to him on this cursed world. And now he was constipated again. He dumped a pitcher of old wash water in the toilet to flush it and went to see if that no good daughter of his had fixed supper yet. At twelve she was shaping up quite nice. A real pleasure to look at. At times he could even feel a stirring in his loins as he watched her, but his impotence was saving her from that at least. It didn't prevent him from giving her the back of his hand when she pissed him off, or just happened to be in the wrong place when he was in a bad mood. Like now.

The kitchen was quiet, empty and cold. It would be at least an hour before dinner could be ready.

"Damn that lazy child!" he muttered to himself as he went to the back door. She was spending more and more time out wandering lately. Especially in the winter when the monsters were holed up somewhere. She had probably gone out back to check on that runt piglet again. He would take the axe out there and put a stop that tonight. The sun was going down so he decided to take his rifle. There was snow on the ground, but you could never be too careful.

Standing on the back porch he could tell that she was not in the barn. The lights were all dark and there was no way she would be out there in the dark. At twelve she was still afraid of the dark.

There were a lot of factors that could have caused the closing of the day to end differently for him. He could have looked to east first and not seen the silhouette of the stranger on horseback, his daughter might have decided not missing or the generator might not have picked that time to quit. But the single factor that might have changed things the most would have been if he had just been able to take a decent dump tonight. That always put him in more pleasant frame of mind.

He would tend to the generator after he had dealt this this interloper. Probably just out of gas or something simple like a clogged filter. But it was just the perfect topper to an already crappy day. Right now he was pissed off, his daughter was nowhere in sight and here was this approaching stranger. He had to vent on somebody and here the Lord had supplied him with a perfect target.

As he watched the man come down off the highway he crept over to the corner of the house so he could watch him without being seen. He quickly crossed over to the remnants of the mobile home that squatted on the property to the west of his. He circled behind it and peeked out again.

The man had dismounted the horse to better navigate the maze of trucks and and broken down tractors in the yard of the house across the road. He crossed the road quickly and the man was still unaware of his presence. He seemed to be making his way directly to Jonas' house. In his paranoia he believed that he was probably here looking for his daughter's young pussy. He imagined the stranger lying in wait, watching his daughter go about her business, a pair of binoculars in one hand, his dick in the other. Well Jonas would be damned if he would let this stranger have her!

With stealth gained from years of hunting for his food, he got behind the stranger without being seen or heard. But he could not just shoot the man in the back and be done with it. It was not any kind of ingrained sense of honor that prevented him from blowing the trespasser to kingdom come.

No, nothing like that. It was because Jonas had long ago touched on a great truth. If you went to Heaven, everyone would worship the same master or his minions. It was pretty much an exclusive club. Unless you martyred yourself or had the pope declare you a saint, then you were low man on the totem pole. And Jonas had long ago given up the idea of going to Heaven anyway. But in Hell, the people you killed were destined to serve under you for eternity. The more people you killed the more powerful you were in Hell. Even before the disappearance he had done quite well for himself. Serving in Iraq had been quite profitable. He could kill any damn towel headed bastard and get away with it as long as he took certain precautions. Getting booted out on medical reasons for his diabetes had slowed him down, but not stopped him entirely. At the time all the people bugged out he had already twenty or more bodies tucked away here and there on the farm. Mostly drifters, drunks, drug addicts and salesmen. But his first wife and a state trooper were buried out there too.

The disappearance could not have come at a better time for him. He had just finished a putting trooper in the ground and turning his attention to his partner when he noticed that the second was not quite fully dead yet. He raised the shovel up above his head, being very careful to keep his eyes locked on the big man's eyes when the man just suddenly was not there anymore. There was a soft sound of air rushing to fill the void where he had been. His uniform remained. Jonas had dropped the shovel and stared as the uniform slowly caved in on itself. Being very careful not to touch it himself he had picked up the shovel again and prodded at the now vacant clothes. Not so much as a toenail remained. He had somehow been cheated out of this one. He would have been a good one too. Young and strong. It spooked him badly but there was still work to be done. He buried the empty uniform and placed the gun holster in a heavy ziploc bag just like the other one. He never knew when an extra gun might come in handy.

They had come by asking questions about a missing teenage boy he had buried the week before. And he felt at the time that his run was nearly over. It would not be too long before the police came with cadaver dogs and backhoes and forensic experts. Of course he intended to be dead before then, and maybe take a few more cops to Hell with him.

But it was not to be.

The disappearance had slowed him down, but it had not stopped him. He still managed to snag the occasional drifter. If they were alone they were fair game, if they travelled in a group, he usually doused the lights and let them pass. His second wife had been the daughter of a man that had passed through here that first winter alone. She had been docile enough after the first couple of times he had beaten her senseless. But when she had tried to run away with their daughter he just could not let that slide. He had tied her to a tree on a summer night and let the black beasties have her. She was too weak to serve adequately and her constant mewling was irritating enough on this side, there was no way he would want to put up with that shit for all eternity. But he didn't even bother burying the bodies anymore. He just left them where they fell if it were summer. The monsters took care of the disposal for him. In the winter he just drug the bodies out into the woods and left them somewhere. He was already planning where he would dump this latest trespasser.

"You just freeze right there in your tracks or I'll shoot you where you stand!" He ordered as he stepped out from behind an old Farmall and cocked his rifle. "You come her for my daughter I reckon. Well you cain't have her. Now you just march right on ahead there and tie the reins of your horse to that there tractor. She looks like a fine animal, wouldn't want her to bolt now if any sudden noise were to spook her."

Elias did as he was told and turned to face the man that had so easily taken him captive. He was not really a big man and he looked to have at least a decade on Elias, but there was an evil air about him. He remembered his father telling him that anyone can be dangerous. A ninety year old quadriplegic can best a trained Marine if he has a sharp mind and the will to kill. And Elias had no doubt that this man had the will.

Elias tried to think of some way to escape, but sometimes there just simply was no way out. The man was hanging just far enough back that he would have plenty of time to shoot Elias if he tried anything. He was directing Elias well away from anything that could possibly be used as a weapon or cover. He just walked where the man pointed and soon found himself in front of the steel sided barn to the southeast of the house he had been heading to. The man gestured Elias to open the door. The door screeched along its track but opened easily enough.

"Gonna haf to grease those wheels soon dontcha think?" The man asked. But it didn't appear to Elias that he was looking for any kind of response, so he kept silent.

He hesitated there at the edge of the barn's shadow and the man pointed the rifle at his knees. He stepped inside. The interior of the barn was pitch black. The door faced to the north so even had the sun been up or the moon been full, no light would have reached the interior. Elias had once thought himself above common irrational fears, especially fear of the dark. But in the last few years he had discovered sound reasoning to dread being caught outside when the sun went down. But this barn was somehow worse. He knew that death waited inside.

The darkness of the barn closed about him in an almost palpable sense. He stepped forward into the gloom waiting for his eyes to adjust. Just as dim shapes began to form in front of him a light flared behind him casting long dark shadows that danced menacingly across the jumbled landscape of the barn's interior. The dancing light calmed a bit as the farmer set the lantern on a nearby workbench bolted to the concrete floor.

Elias looked about the barn trying to find something that would help, but the crazy old man fired a shot into the concrete floor at his feet. Chips of cement sprayed across his pants leg, some of them even cut through to his shins. He yelped and jumped back.

"Look here!" Jonas yelled at the intruder. He wanted to be looking in the man's eyes when he put the bullet into him. Had to really, or it didn't count. The man was a tall and strong, a worthy addition. He raised the rifle and lined up the man's left eye in the sights of the rifle. He could feel the familiar surge in his loins as he pulled back on the trigger. It was the only time he truly felt alive anymore. He knew he would have to change his drawers afterwards, but that was ok. It was a further sign of the divinity of his purpose.

The gun thundered in the confines of the the barn. The corrugated metal gave back a terrible echo. His knees buckled and he collapsed forward.

Elias stared at the fallen lunatic for a few seconds surprised that he was still alive.

"Who owns who now you SICK BASTARD!!!" a voice shrieked from behind. Elias whirled around to see the owner of the voice and saw a young girl of perhaps eleven clutching a large revolver in both hands. She was bundled in a large parka and a what looked to be four or five pairs of sweats. And the expression on her face as she approached the inert body sprawled out on the concrete floor did little to reassure him that his situation had improved. She fired the gun with each step as she advanced on him but her hands were shaking with rage so that she missed each time. Elias froze so as to not draw her fire. When the hammer started clicking on empty chambers he moved, quickly removing the gun from her hands. She fought him like a wildcat for a minute or two, kicking and biting. Then she went limp. He started to set her down, but she resumed fighting. It was like one of those cartoons he had watched as a child, the cat buzzing and hissing around the dog like a mini tornado. He managed to get her pinned to the floor before she went limp again. He waited a few moments, expecting her to start up again at the first sign that he was letting his guard down. But when she began sobbing he knew the fight was over.

"I'm going to Hell now, I killed my father!" she wailed. Elias let her go for a moment. He turned the man over and checked his pulse. It was there, thin and weak but there. Elias could never bring himself to kill in cold blood. Self defence was one thing but to execute someone that was already down was completely different. Totally violated his Hippocratic oath. But he did not have a problem with letting his fate be decided by the elements. The last fourteen years had instilled him with a deep practical streak that would have been alien to him in previous years.

"Does that run?" he asked pointing to a big Yamaha electric ATV parked against the wall. It was one of the few things in the barn not covered with years of grime and dust. And it had a large cargo rack, presumably for carrying his kills home. In reality it was just as often used for carrying kills out into the woods. The girl nodded and he began loading the man onto the cargo rack. He was heavy, but at least his bowels and bladder had not cut loose yet. There had been a thick stand of trees across the highway that would do.

But first he had to go check on Penny and get her stabled.

The girl was still in the barn. She was silent and docile at the present. He led her into the house where she wordlessly sat on a couch in the living room. The house was well kept but dark. He asked her if there was a generator somewhere and she pointed back out to the barn. He lit some candles so he would not be leaving the girl in the dark.

After that was done he made a quick run out to the woods and tied the man to a tree a few yards in and quickly left. But not before he saw a couple of skeletal figures tied to their own trees. His conscience a little cleared, he hurried back to the farmhouse.

The generator was a well maintained Honda that started on the first try. The tank was full, so he had no idea why it was not running. He suspected that the girl had something to do with it. She was still a big question mark. He hoped that she would sleep tonight, but as exhausted as he was, he doubted that he would.

* * *

He woke suddenly, hurting all throughout his body. He tried to move his arms and found them bound. He was sitting on the ground tied to a thick maple tree. His feet were free, but he was too weak to try to push himself up. His chest hurt and his fingers were numb from the cold. The last thing he remembered was that traitorous little bitch shooting him. He looked down and saw the blood soaking the front of his coat.

It was a fight to keep his eyes open. Despite his best efforts he found himself drifting off.

Death was near and he would welcome it.

Pain flared in his side during one of these brief lapses. He rolled away from it and got to his knees painfully. He did not even notice that he had broken off a pinky doing so. A shadow moved nearby. It was a massive thing with sword like claws. He stood slowly to his feet to face the creature that would soon carry him to Hell.

© 2011 R. Keith McBride