In The Region Where Madness Dwells

Warning: This is the start of a long story I’m working on. It is probably R rated due to language, nudity, violence and other mischief. It’s a horror story. This is a Draft. What do you want? It start like this:

The Night Crawlers – chapter 1
“We were hungry before we were born. Uncover your head and feed your soul”      —–Fever Ray

 The Long Walk Home

This is how it started.  I think it’s really how all stories start.  The stories we live and the stories we tell each other.  They are important.  With out sharing this part of ourselves surely that which makes us human would fade away.  My story seems long and complicated but the beginning is so small and simple.  Like the epics of old, events had been put into motion out of the control of the few people who would ultimately be involved.  Those poor shits had no idea what was coming.  Especially me.  I’m Robin Randle.  Waitress extraordinaire at a dump on Mill Street called Mell’s All Night Diner.

It was the 1st of October and tonight my shift ended at midnight.  I was glad because I got to avoid the inevitable drunks who started coming in around 2AM.  I never could understand how these men got up at 7AM and made it to work.  Four hours just doesn’t sound like enough time to sleep it off.  But every night the same drunks wandered in.  The small town familiarity plus alcohol made these men take liberties they shouldn’t.  Especially with waitresses.  To these men we were just toys to play with.  If you didn’t take all their obscene shitty remarks along with endless bitching, the job would come to an end.  At that time in my life I really didn’t feel like I deserved any better.

Now when I say familiarity it’s because Mason isn’t a big city.  It was a punk town of about two thousand people nestled away in the Texas hill country.  For anyone who stopped for gas as they were passing through or maybe visiting relations, they were sure to learn that it was the home of Fred Gibson.  Mason’s little claim to fame.  For those who aren’t literary types, he’s the guy that wrote, “Old Yeller” which I can proudly say I’ve never read.  In-fact reading wasn’t high on my to do list anymore.

Tonight did have an odd moment.  A woman came in by herself and sat at one of my tables.  Her name was Macy Beas.  I remember because she gave me a card with her name and phone number.  Said I could call if I needed to talk.  What was funny about the card was a line of text near the bottom.  It said, “Don’t you dare give this card to anyone and don’t give out my phone number.”  I talked with her for a few minutes.  There was something about her.  She told me that I  glow.  That was just strange buy no one extends a hand to me so I was surprised by her caring.  I stuffed the card away. I felt I would need it one day.

Now the disadvantage to heading out at midnight was I walked home alone.  Carrie and I weren’t friends but we did live in the same wreck of a boarding house. The Hartford Arms.  I don’t know, walking with her just felt better.  It felt right.  Now and I mean right this very minute everything felt wrong.  The balance of the world had tilted today but no one had noticed except me.

I went to my locker in the kitchen.  Stopping and looking at the rusty scrawl of names from over they years I wondered the fate of these women.  Were they even alive?  My name was gouged into the rusty door too.  Opening the door (nothing was ever lock.) I retrieved my backpack and turning away from the kitchen headed out the back door.  Tonight defiantly felt different.  The slamming of the door behind me sounded more like the closing of some part of my life.  I became light headed so I slumped down against the dirty brick wall and just sat on the ground amongst the empty beer cans and cigarette butts.  Looking up the blind ally the wall was covered in graffiti art and I could see dirty needles scattered across the ground.  Evidence that even in Mason there was a drug problem.  No one else was in the ally.  Just me and the dumpster.  It smelled of sweet and rotting food as putrid as the men inside Mell’s.  It made me feel sick.

I lit a cigarette and let the smoke envelop my head bringing a gray haze to the dim ally. I started coughing and felt pain in my chest. At least I couldn’t smell the dumpster any more.

Dim alleys and a gray haze.  This was my life.  A vampire that would be asleep before sunrise and wake after sunset so the world wouldn’t notice I existed.  This is what I’d come to.  A life wasted by violence and confusion with no guide to show me the way out.

I took a final drag on my smoke and flicked it against the dumpster.  It broke into pieces hot ash scattering the ally. Looking down at my tattered jeans I noticed cigaret ashes had dropped onto my old white baggy sweatshirt.  I brushed them off and stood, grabbed my pack.  Fishing my Nano out I put on my ear buds and started listening to Mogwai’s I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead and started out to the street.  Done.  I decided that smoking was done.  I was a fool to even try it.  Just one more desperate attempt to run from myself and seek my happiness in another substance.  I use to drink, a lot.  Drugs too but only Hash and Marijuana.  No more.  There wasn’t anything in the world that would lift me from the darkness I’d sunk into.

I came out onto the street.  A northern wind was blowing through Mason brining a chill to the air.  I could feel the coming frost, the breath of the Snow Queen blowing a call to death as her dried leaves blew down the street circling in crazy little tornados and blasting off into the alleys to carry on their antics in private.  October is a fickle month but I still like it best.  The imagination conjured witches and monsters all nothing more than an extension of our own personal turmoil and evil.  The loss of leaves from the trees allowed more moonlight to filter to the ground making it easier to navigate the night.  In the past home was the last place I wanted to be.  That was before my Mell’s days.  I was still in high school and thinking maybe I’d survive my dad.  I liked going out with Jim and Lucy downing a fifth of Southern Comfort or smoking Hash or Weed sometimes both.  All this made it so I could come home late.  By then my dad would be passed out and mom would have had her nightly beating.  I tried to miss the being beaten part.  I was scared.  I just knew dad was going to hit me too hard, just once.  I felt that’s all it would take.  I’m not a big girl, just five four and barley a hundred pounds nude and he was a very big man, and did I say mean?  His meanness seethed out of his body like snakes out of flood waters.

Oh, October was also the month all this started  It would be the month of endings too, but I can’t jump ahead.

As I wandered the empty streets heading toward my boarding house on Long Street, I could feel the wind trying to hold me back. I stopped and standing very still let the wind engulf me.  I could feel the air blow softly around my face like a gentle piece of silk.  I breathed in the smells of fall.  The last vestiges of burnt leaves and dust.  Then there was something else.  Something buried inside the wind using the wind to carry its evil intent.  Another wind, subtle and cold.  I got this crazy chill.  Monsters.  It was the wind that would bring the monsters.  Not the monsters of Halloween that play and run from house to house collecting a treasure trove of candy.   No, my monsters.  Monsters hidden from the waking world only revealed to the few who’d crossed the line of life and death then returned.  This hidden part of the wind cut through me not gently but like a dull knife slicing slowly just to make the pain last longer.  I pulled my ear buds off.  I needed to hear.  I knew something was wrong.

I started walking with urgency.  I have an unnatural fear of the dark.  Darkness was something  I use to love.  I’d wander the streets at all hours of the night and down to Ft. Mason City Park.  At the park I’d take one of the paths into the deeper darkness of the woods.  Alone and with no flashlight I would use the light of the moon to guide me.  I never caught on a root or fell tripping over stones buried deep into the ground.  Sometimes Jim would come along and Lucy too.  We’d go deep into the woods near the Union Pacific  mainline.  Hiding off in the woods, trains would fly by like banshees in the night unaware of our presence.  We’d put pennies on the tracks and if we could find them after a trains passage we’d considered them mystical objects.  Back then the night was soft, friendly and concealing.  The forest helped me step out of my wretched life. At least for a little while.

How times have changed.  Now, darkness holds an evil power over me.  A power that creeps like a tapeworm moving its way toward my gut.  Slowly and methodically it makes its way deep into my body with out me feeling it.  That scares me; leaves me crippled.  Being alone in the darkness is so frightening now my anxiety would build to a point where I could barely breath.  Last fall I’d spent what would become that “fateful day” walking far out into the country so when I’d made it back into town it was late.  Night had stolen over Mason and preparing to take me with it.  I decided to cut through the park walking in the woods that eventually formed a wall in my back yard.  I could see just beyond the break in the trees toward the back of my house when the peace I had claimed suddenly fled.  Something garbed me from behind pulling me back into the darkness.  I twisted and strained to see who it was thinking Jim was playing a joke.  I’d let him have it.  But what I saw couldn’t be real.  It wasn’t a person even though it walked on two legs.  Shit, I know a person when I see one and this was absolutely no person.  It was something blacker than the shadows surrounding it and it smelled very old.  Its touch on my skin was cold as death.  A monster, I could think of no other expression.  It was breathing heavily as it pulled at my arm.  I screamed and screamed and no sound came from my mouth.  I pulled my arm with all my strength and it slipped from the monster’s grip.  It retreated into the darkness but I couldn’t tell how far.  How could such a thing be?  I should have stayed to find out what it was.  I mean, where could such a thing come from?  It was then that I felt it.  Going home was going to be a horrible mistake.  The night was suddenly hostile.  I was scared and where are you supposed to go at 15 to be safe?  Home; just not my home.  Not on this night.  I barley remember what happened to me.  It seemed to all happen so fast and yet I always saw it in slow motion.  A thing I’d never seen except in the movies.  That night I was beaten by my father.  I can’t remember much of it.  I do remember what came before my beating.  An inhuman and brutal trauma.  I do remember waking up briefly in what must have been the ER at Hill Country Memorial Hospital.  Everything was blurred and the words people were saying didn’t make sense.  Light then dark I was fading.  I was scared I was dying and struggled to come back from the black place I was fading to.  I couldn’t stop slipping into what felt like nothing.  Was death the end?  Just black?  I couldn’t hold back the tide.  I faded away.

I stayed faded away for seven months.  During that time I traveled.  I went into blackness then woke in The Region.  I had to make a journey to a place where there were all these balls of light.  I had to find my ball because only it could dispel this darkness.  I had to shatter it on the ground.  Most of this time was missing from my memory.  There were things that tried to stop me.  Dark things with snapping teeth and claws.  Sometimes they’d keep to the shadows and other times meet me in the open.  Fragments of terror ripped through my mind.  I remember a girl.  She helped me.  She fought with these monsters like a warrior and told me she could fly, but only sometimes. I just didn’t remember her look or voice not even her name.  When I think of her now I feel a sadness like you have when you think of old toys and comic books from your childhood.  Those things that grounded us in childhood now gone and only its shadow remaining.

Day never came to The Region.  Always a full moon up in the sky to illuminate the way.  The darkness I now loved so well.

After what seemed a lifetime of hiding from those things that seemed bent on my final death, trying my best to fight with my weak arms and small frame.  I know I lost friends .  Their names hidden in the darkness of The Region never to be remember by me again.  Then it happened.  I found my ball.  My warrior friend was dying.  She’d just taken to many blows for me.  The monsters were right on top of us and she fought them as I took my glowing ball and broke it on the ground.  Light flooded around me I looked in her eyes and saw a century of sadness.  Then I died.

In this world I woke up.  I could see I was in a hospital room with tubes running riot all over my body.  I tried to lift my hand to look at my arm but I couldn’t.  I felt weighed down.  Like something was pressing against me.  Restraining me to the bed.  I could move my head and turned toward the window.  All I could see was dark clouds throwing sheets of rain at the window.

I couldn’t believe I’d woken up from my coma.  It took awhile to realize all that I’d been experiencing the monsters and wars, my special friend, was all a dream.  It had seemed so real.  I ached for my friend with a longing you can only have with real lose.  Not a dream.  Maybe in the emptiness of a coma is another world, no dreams at all.  One thing’s for certain, I’ve never told anyone about this world.

I’m seventeen now and I’m on my own.  That sounds funny.  Really I’d been on my own for years.  You see, the first monster I ever met was my father.  He killed my mom.  That was just before he almost killed me.  He shot her dead right in the living room.  The bullets went right through her spraying blood all over the living room wall.  He did this right in front of me but I was lucky in a sadistic sort of way.  He used up all the bullets making sure mom was dead so when he turned to shoot me his gun just clicked.  That made him furious.  I turned and tried to run but he was a big man.  He lunged for me and took me to ground.  Then I felt pain as he broke my jaw.  An explosion of light and that’s all I remember until I woke up in the dark world.  The Region.

I found out later the cops busted the door down and shot him dead as he was beating me.  Like everything else in that sick fucks’ life, he couldn’t even kill his family right.  All he did well was drink then get angry and beat my mom and me.  That’s if I was around.  I’ll never understand why mom didn’t leave him.  Maybe even take me with her.  She seemed resolved to stick it out.  Until death do us part.  She sure did that.  No thought for me.  I suppose neither of them cared much about wether I was alive or dead.  Now it doesn’t matter.

I crossed 4th street at the edge of Macmillan Park.  There I saw a dark slithering worm trapped on the concert sidewalk unable to burrow back into the moist darkness of the earth.  I stopped and looked down at it.  There was a time I had grandparents.  The memories are dim but I do remember my grandfather calling them Night Crawlers because they mostly came out of the ground at night.  He raised them, if that’s a thing you can do, in stacked boxes in the basement of his house.  We’d go dig out a bunch and take them for bait on fishing expeditions.  I remembered the pungent oder of those crates.  A sweet mix of rotting vegetables and dirt along with the mold growing on the old stone walls.  I leaned down and picked up the worm.  It twisted in my hand wanting to escape the horror of a giant who had the power to rip him apart.  I dropped him back out on the grass.  Best I could do.  Then something moved out in the Park.  It was much bigger sounding than the worm I just rescued.  I moved on.  The sound of irregular footsteps kept pace with me.  When I’d stop there would be a scurrying sound like something shuffling a little deeper into the dark.  It wasn’t human.  People just don’t make a sound like that.  There was a smell too.  The stink of rotting flesh mixed with cinnamon and the smell of the ocean.  In one moment it intoxicated me and the next I wanted to throw up.

Adrenaline pumped sharpening my senses.  Standing still I yelled, “Hello?  Somebody there?”

Silence answered.  The street light above my head grew suddenly bright then died leaving me in the darkness I feared.  I stared into the park hoping to see something,  anything that would explain the sounds.  Turning my head I looked down the empty street to see just how much further I needed to go.  I felt stupid but at the edge of my field of vision something large moved in the darkness of the park.  It was moving toward me.  I snapped my head around to find it but it hid from me.  How was that possible?

I took in deep breaths to try to calm myself.  I knew there wasn’t anything out there except maybe a person walking in the night like I was.  I took a step and heard a loud scraping sound like a large metal pipe being dragged along the concrete walkway in the park.  I started back down the street then stopped.  The sound didn’t.  It just got louder.  Closer maybe.  As I listened the memory of my dream world, the one inside my coma shivered through my mind.  That’s when I started running.

I only had two blocks to the boarding house.  I felt stupid reacting this way but still wouldn’t look behind me.  What ever it was I could hear foot falls but not in pairs like a running person.  It was more like a crab.  Click click click and the dragging pipe.  I fished in the pocket of my jeans for the outside door key of the boarding house so I’d be ready to plunge right inside.  Crossing 5th I left the park behind.  I could see the light over the boarding house door.  Even with the park behind me now the sounds didn’t stop when I crossed 5th.  It seemed closer and more urgent.  I reached my door and rammed the key home.  Turning the knob I risked a look back down Long.  Nothing.  Just the leaves being blown around in emptiness.  I noticed the street light over the park entrance was working again.  Just as I heaved a big sigh the bulb in the light over the door where I stood flickered out.  Enough for tonight.  I stepped across the threshold and lock the door after me.  I ran up the stairs to the second floor and down to the end of the hall where my room was.  Unlocking the door I went inside and shut and bolted it.  I checked it again like I was expecting the door to be unlocked but it wasn’t.

I walked over to the kitchenette pulling off my dirty sweatshirt and dropping it on the floor.  I caught myself in the tattered mirror glued to the wall of my room.  I stopped and studied the girl on the other side of the mirror.  She was too skinny with small breasts and hardening nipples.  She had dark red hair that was long and tossed uncontrollably.  This girl had never worried about a bad hair day in her life.  Slim waist and wide hips supporting a full ass.  My Jeans were starting to wear through my butt.  Time to hit the Salvation Army Store.  A mess of a person but at least she was standing straight.  No slumped shoulders but confident ones daring the world to fuck with me.

I turned away and sat at the small table I had pushed up against the wall.  All I could do was put my head into my hands.  I know there is something that would explain all this.  I thought of the time I’d lived before the coma.  I was little then.  Shit, I still am but it did feel like another life all connected-up till I was almost beat to death.  My time in The Region seemed like another persons life.  A story told only in fragments.  I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths to help calm down.  I was having a hell of a life.  Time had stopped when I woke up.  I didn’t have anyone I could ask for help.  My old friends avoided me like I was a leaper.  I know I was the talk of the town.  Even though I didn’t do anything but survive there had to be something wrong with me.  Who has their dad try to kill his whole family?  Sure you hear about it on the news or a TV program but that’s someplace else.  Not Mason.  Maybe I could kill my whole family too but I couldn’t because I didn’t have a family anymore.  Just me now.  Maybe it had always been just me.  My eyes grew heavy and I nodded off; my memories mixed with my dreams.  It all felt like memory.  I Remembered Jim.  I really loved Jim and Lucy.  They stuck with me, through my hard times.  At least until the murder.  Then even they scorned me.  We’d had good times though.  I remember how we snuck down to old Reading’s Mill.  We’d been drinking Southern Comfort all night and we were drunk.  And I mean it.

Reading’s Mill was the town pool.  It was on the very edge of town and after dark no one goes out that way.  It was Lucy’s idea.  We climbed the chain link fence.  Straddling the top, Jim slipped and fell eight feet onto some lounge chairs.  Lucy and I started laughing so hard we both almost fell too.  Once inside we stripped for some skinny dipping.  There was one small thing we didn’t know.  The pool manager lived at the pool.

Howard Beam.  I’m not making this up.  During the school year when the pool is closed Howard is the custodian at Hocker’s Middle School.  Since Mason only has one middle school Howard knows all the kids in town.

We all broke the surface at the same time laughing then the lights came on.  Howard was sauntering over toward us.  “Well, if it isn’t little Jimmy, Lucy and Robin Randle.  You kids must be well along in high school by now.”

There was no place to run and we were all naked anyway, which was OK when the lights were off but now the fact posed a formidable problem.  Howard continued, “Let’s see.  Should I call your parents or should I call the cops?  Got to think this over a minute.”

Jim always the suave one was a guy with a cool exterior but he had the goods.  Jim spoke up, “Mr. Beam.  How yah doing?  Uh, listen, we learned our lesson Mr. Beam.  I mean, we’re here on a dare and who can resist.  We’ll just go on home and never do anything like this again.”

It kinda sounded weak to me.  Howard shook his head slowly.  “That’s a good story boy but the bait is weak and I’m not biting.  You kids naked?”

Embarrassed out of my sixteen year old mind even through the Southern Comfort haze I answered simply, “Yes.”  Always dreams about the past were hazy but tonight it seemed very clear.  Things shifted.  That tilt in the world I’d felt earlier left me suddenly like an observer sitting outside my life watching to see what damn fool thing I’d do next.  I didn’t know hell was about to pay us a visit.  The memory was all wrong.  We three started swimming toward the side where Mr. Beam was standing.  Lucy was brining up the rear as usual.

I made it to the edge of the pool first.  Just in time to hear Lucy scream.  It was an, “I’m gonna die kind of screams,” and to tell the truth, I’ve never heard that kind of scream until that night. Then she did.  Die that is.  Something in the water grabbed her arms and lifted her naked body out of the pool.  Huge brown worms started to wrap themselves around her body until she was completely covered.  They reminded me oddly of the Night Crawler I’d rescued earlier tonight but way to big to be real.  Then a little squeeze and pop.  Lucy was now all over the pool and us.  Jim turned to me and I said, “I’ll never forget this day.  It will ride with me.”

Looking into his eyes I said, “Ride with me too.”

Then Lucy’s screams died and now Jim and I stood shoulder to shoulder waist deep in the red tainted pool, ready for anything but what came next.  I heard the rhythm of someone pounding a drum.  The smell of ashes filled the air. I slipped away from that moment.  I’d shut the entire world off so when the pounding on my door came I jumped awake.

Someone was really pounding on my door.  I fell out of my chair hitting the floor.  Not moving I listened to what was in the hall.  Like I had super hearing or something.  Feet shuffled and again bang bang bang.  This time someone said, “Robin Randle.  Open the fucking door and let me in.”

I screwed up some courage and screamed, “Go away fucker!  I don’t know you.  I won’t open shit to a stranger.”

Quite again.  I could feel the man in the hall, I’m assuming a man, standing still, thinking. Then in a gentle voice now, “Robin, please let me in.  I have something important for you.  To help you with the things in the dark.”

My breathing quickened.  Maybe it was real.  Here is a man saying so.  My imagination wasn’t playing havoc with my shattered brain.  I was still to scared, “I have a gun and I know how to use it.”

I could hear the man sigh.  “That’s fine Robin.  You won’t need it against me and I’m not sure it will help against what’s coming.”  I didn’t own a gun.  I hated them.  I walked toward the door garbing my sweatshirt and pulling it back on.  Then I removed the chain, like the fool I am, and let the man in.

“Who are you,” I demanded.  The man was not bothered in the least.  Bending over he took a moment to smell some wild flowers I’d picked the day before.

I shifted my weight from one foot to the other.  He looked up at me for a moment.  Finally I yelled, “This is bullshit.  We need weapons, we need purging in our ranks.”

The man walked over to me, “Robin.  Not doing to well today it would seem.”

I was shocked into silence.  The man was real tall to my shrimpy 5 feet 4 inches.  I looked up into his face and saw a decided hooked nose and pointy chin all adorned by wrinkles.  It was hard to fix him but I could tell he was powerful.  A strong and deadly force from who knows where.  “Robin, first we need ranks to purge.”

I slumped down in a living room chair.  I don’t even know where that came from.  It’s like all of a sudden, today I’m living two lives.  The hopeless life of a 17 year old near homeless person who didn’t even finish fucking High School. Dizzy I felt vertigo.  There’ something else.  I knew it.  Something left over from my coma days.  Now it’s leaking into my real life as well as my dreams.  My sleep was a wreck anyway why not torture me with a half remember life lived now in sleep.   Deep inside I knew this would happen someday.  I just wouldn’t walk away clean.  Now I believed.  As impossible as it is, the journey I took while in my coma had to have been real.  It’s just after waking up I’d never give myself a chance to believe it.  I hoped from day to day it wouldn’t come back to find me but today it did.  “I’m new to all this. Maybe that’s good.  My eyes are fresh and may see something you miss.  I can teach you a new way of living and seeing while you teach me the old ways.  Together we can do it brother.  I reached out my hand.”  I felt a sudden kinship to this stranger and wanted, his friendship.  “Of course I have no idea what needs fixing.”

“Robin,” he reached out and took my hand.  His grip was firm and reassuring.  His eyes were scanning the room.  “My name is Sloan.  How much in this place is yours?”

The question puzzled me, “What difference does it make?”

“Because you need to pack and we’ve got to move.  Things are very unsafe here.  I shouldn’t have to tell you that after your walk home from Mell’s tonight.”

I felt creeped out.  This guy has been keeping close tabs on me.  What in the world do I matter to anyone?  I looked him in the eyes, “I have a pack of gear.  The rest was here when I got here.  If we need to go I can be ready in five minutes.

Sloan said,”Do it.”

I watched as Sloan picked through some junk in the living room.  He must have been at least six foot five and two hundred forty pounds.  He wore a long black coat made from the hide of some unknown being and of all things a flat rimmed cowboy hat.  He smelled of honey and cinnamon which was pleasing, but he felt very strange.  Like he wasn’t really there.  I thought I really had no choice in this.  After my trip home tonight and my try at fixing things in that other world I was left with no doubt in my mind I was in trouble and I had to find out why.  Really it felt like somehow we were all in trouble.

Sloan asked, “Get the tattoo yet?”

I stopped packing.  How’d he know I was thinking about a tattoo?  I haven’t talked to anyone about it.

Sloan said, “It’s very important to get the tattoo.  It won’t be the last but you need the star on your right shoulder.  The Star of David I mean.  Time to reclaim what was taken from you.  “I know a good place we can go.”

Was choice something that I had any more?  I felt like the proverbial puppet on a string. The puppet master pulled and I jerked and moved where he wanted me to go.  It was all happening too fast.  I said, “Great.”  I had this overwhelming sorrow about the girl I’d known in The Region.  She had stuck with me till the end.  I’m sure she payed the ultimate price and for me.  Just what everyone needs, a dead girl trying to learn to fly and me just getting ready to fight the good fight.  In the dim shadows I started to remember the afternoon of the day of my mom’s murder.  I’d been walking and I met someone.  I think she said she was a witch.  She told me to go home.  That turned out to be the worst advice of my life.

Copyright ©2011 by Wood Dickinson – all rights reserved