Keep the head down, take in a breath Arms tight across the chest, hold hold legs are rooted to the floor, hold hold Relase stone shoulders, and Collapse and sprawl, release Exhale Exhale Exhale Walking through a crowd Stop to find a calling path Others push past, not perceived Invisible to all that mill about Need to scream gets cancelled out Deep breath in, and hold Sit at home, so few reach out The initiator receives no replies Excuses made feel like lies While gatherings swirl about Not a second thought, or third Deep breath in, and hold Shutting down becomes the norm Someone checks in, clouds start to fray Disconnect. Nothing changed anyway Find happiness, find joy Can't take in, they bounce away Hold breath deep, then exhale Look forward, but it's a blur Calls for help aren't heard Windows beckon to so much more Stillness seeps inside Distress and fear halts the way Deep breath in, hold, exhale What is superficial? What is true? So confused as what to do Disconnect and hide Completely numb inside Breath, hold, exhale Deep breath in Hold Hold Exhale Deep breath in Hold Hold Hold hold
I don’t care if Monday’s Blue or Black or it makes me hold my head or even if it all falls apart…We’re in the last week of the AtoZ Blog Challange with the letter W.
MUSICIANS, or people who know musicians, hear my call I would love to find someone to collaborate with. Not every one of the 26 Lyrical Poems are winners, I know that. Many will need some tweaking if I take this further. I would just love to hear some, or all of these, put to music. Anyone knows, please email me.
My theme for this year’s AtoZ Blog Challenge is: Nightmares from an Unbleached Soul. 26 lyrical poems during the month of April (no Sundays). It started on April 1st and ends this Thursday on April 30th. After that, a week or two later you’ll be able to find Reflections on the experience. I hope you found new blogs to like and follow. If you still wish to, go to The Master List.
I’ve asked a few questions along the way: what genre of music you think suits the lyrics best? Who or what style of music was in my head when I wrote these? My last one for the week:
Comments are always welcome.
Uh oh. Monsters! Creeping out from under the bed Don't turn around; about to eat your head Running won't save you. Nothing can Hi Cthulhu. I'm a really big fan. Distorted landscapes leading nowhere Something clawed tangled in your hair Figures all around but they're only rust Hell, there is no one you can really trust! Now you see some faces known to you No reaching them; feet are stuck in glue Made from the families up & down the hall It's coming right at ya, a spikey ball. Blood is on you, dripping from your hands No way to wipe it off, wrists are rubberbands It's infinite dark and it will stay that way Here come more monsters, comin' out to play The lights are off, this ain't the norm Frozen in place, sweating up a storm A dessicated finger running down your cheek Vocal cords are locked up, not even squeek A vibrant E decends into your place Glowing green & red, vanishes no trace The door is wide open, leading to more gloom Only thing driving you is get outta the room A crowd is pushing, you have no control Cars zoom around you eating an eggroll Then a figure jumps over a truck A clown with a knife, you are out of luck Running doesn't help, she is right behind Wraps those arms around you, the circus bells grind You rip off the mask; You rip off the face A void with stars drags you in to its place Thrashing around, tie yourself in knots Breathing's getting hard, now seeing spots Heart beast is choking, it's time to fly Eyes fly open; there's a blue sky Shake it off, get yourself clean Time to leave, forgot to grind the beans Fling open the door, take a step beyond Then you realize: there is no sound. Uh oh. Monsters.
Six years of participation. Six years surviving. Six years.
This year kicked my ass.
I’m not someone who outlines these things. Titles, maybe (i.e. the Road Signs year). I get the basic idea, like it enough, think I’ll get some mileage out of it, and go with it, peddle to the metal.
I originally planned to just do individual stories. The only through line connector would be the Narrator (the Present Day voice). My take on The Twilight Zone.But then…
Commenters got invested in the mystery. The clicking sounds. Then the Thunderbird. Finally, Patricia, Debra, and Tim. What started out as a Horror/Mystery series of lightly connecting pieces began to form a larger story. So, commenters, you may take credit for leading me in this direction.
I also began to care and think about the family.
Zeno the mutated frog was planned before I started. This is a real African frog known as the Clawed Foot. It does not have a tongue and makes a clicking sound instead of croaking. It can’t make the usual frog noise. AND: it was (is being?) used in many Biochemical labs as a test subject for a variety of reasons. I had my X post planned out, and the Z post.
Which changed drastically by the time I reached Z.
The Narrator was originally going to remain a mysterious “voice” in the woods, with Z being a more philosophical/paranormal pondering. Once I introduced Eddie, it felt right for him to take on that role. By the very end, and the reason why Monday the 29th’s post was delayed, I was having an intense inner struggle: let Eddie live to fulfill the role I was planning, or let him die and have someone else become the narrator.
Tim was a bit fragile, with all the trauma he went through. Patricia needed, I felt, a happier life. That left Debra, the smart mouthed, arm punching, take no shit Sister.
Eddie vs. Debra. A full day was spent with inner debates, and then a well thought out feedback email came along. Thanks, Melanie. If you are not familiar with Atherton’s Magic Vapour, you really should check it out.
I didn’t want to be predictable, but in the end I guess I was, based on the few comments I had at the end.
The posts were much longer than I should have written. The story took me where the story took me. Blog hoppers don’t always want to invest in long posts. Pop in. Hit the like button. Leave a comment here and there. Not this puppy. The lowest word count of the main story was 887 words (I on April 10th). The longest was the Y post, with 2,936 words. In case you’re wondering, I wrote the Z post’s 1,491 words the same day I wrote Y.
4,427 words. One day. I think I used up all the words in my head. The night was for vegging out.
The Saturday posts were hint drops for things as yet unexplained. Some were straight forward, most needed your thinking cap on to make the connections. I felt I didn’t have to hit the readers on the head with explaining every last detail. Sometimes solving things, or allowing your own mind to wonder, can be a great experience.
As for TB, there are clues scattered here and there about the T-bird. Red Thunderbird-4 was described by one reader as just gobbledygook. It’s the least straight forward of the Saturday posts, but read between the lines and look at the graphic inserts. Add that to the last week of stories and TB’s role.
I want to thank every single person who read, liked, and commented on the day-to-day posts. This is what stirred me on, made me think, and really boosted a confidence that needed a lot of boosting. Congrats to everyone who completed, or attempted, this years Blog Challenge.
Big thanks to all the hosts of 2019’s AtoZ Blog Challenge:
Is this story done? Are there questions you still have, threads you feel I didn’t tie together? Why did I choose the titles for each piece? Thoughts, comments, Agents who you think should read this? I’d love to hear from you.
There’s a car in the woods.
And to finish this out, the following are
10 Reasons Why I Hate You
10 Questions To Answer:
That’s All Folks. Comments are always appreciated. Did you like my April output? Are there things I left open that still leave you puzzled? Who wrote the book of love? Just want to say “Hi Stu!”?
A Car In The Woods: Chapter Twenty-One and an Epilogue
New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods
TB raced down the corridor when we hit bottom. She raced to what I called the Star Trek Med Bay. Just no Bones there to help. Dad directed us to medical beds, which buttons to press, he clicked a few different patterns, and we stood back and watched as the Med Bay took over. Dad made sure Tim’s “pod” was secure before he let his own close and do its own mojo. I still call it Med Bay.
Schatzi had her own chamber. We stopped there before moving on. Dad clicked whatever command he had to give. Schatzi came over for hugs and scratches, and when the door swooshed behind her-Star Trek, again-TB continued.
Just before he went under, Dad told me to look for his journal, giving me explicit directions and making me repeat them back to him and the secondary code I’d need. I don’t click, so that code was important for me. Plan ahead. Another training lesson he drilled into us.
Mom and Will were comforting each other until got the wanderlust. Mom gave him a kiss and asked him just to check back every half hour or so, in case either of them came out of their shiny chrysalis crypts. I called them that before I left to find Dad’s journal. She gave me The Look. I was out of the room pronto.
It was exactly where he told me it would be, and the code worked. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. I laughed at this Britism that I picked up the previous summer I spent in London. I brought the Journal and all the loose papers it sat on back to Med Bay. Mom was crying, and after a big hug I let her be and sat down on the floor just beside the swoosh door.
I read. I double checked what I had read. The papers were a mish-mosh of memos, letters, orders, and notes all with REDACTED stamps over names, dates, and exact locations. Very frustrating, but I got the picture. Took a bit, but I got it.
Wish I had never read the damn thing.
All the horrible things that were done to their “specimens.” They were looking for that next best weapon, animals first, then dolphins and other sea life, then birds and reptiles. That’s where Zeno emerged from. Damn nuisance is still out there. All the 25 labs worked with different creatures, testing different drugs on them.
But control was an issue. That’s when they went electronic, morphing the surviving into monsters. Schatzi…
Then humans. Super Soldiers. Dad wrote that some of the lab workers called him and the others their Captain America project, but never in hearing distance of their superiors. No sense of humor, he said.
Drugs came first, and relentless. Next body modifications, all starting with what he called The Insert. It got implanted in their chests, a bypass channeled to an arterial vein, and perpetually run by the heart. The clicking sound originally was a sick joke by one of the techs who knew the noise from Zeno bugged the shit out of most of the heads of the lab. That it worked on other levels for the Taken was an added bonus for the BGE-WD. They insisted that all Inserts would be modified to include the feature.
A number of those who already had the implant didn’t make it. Dad never found conclusive numbers.
The revolt that was begun by the Aggressors and finished by Dad and other Taken survivors was brutal. No prisoners. Dad and another Taken tapped into communications with the other labs. Specific clicks were sent out, coded in a way that only other augmented could process them. BGE never had a full translation vocabulary. They thought they did and they died being wrong about that. About a lot of things.
Each Lab’s Taken first took down the lab rats, the scientists, and any military personnel they found. The next mission was to eliminate the Aggressor units. They were a danger to the people above and had been boasting, in each and every lab, what fun they would have topside.
Lab #4 ended up as a bloody mortuary. Both sides died trying to eliminate the other. Four of that labs’ Aggressor’s survived and made it out. TBG-that bastard Gary-thought he had killed my dad, but he didn’t do the job thoroughly. They all had a healing factor, but they could die. One of Dad’s paper packs talked about Nanoscience. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. Star Trek thingy again.
When he could, he made it to Medical, hoisted himself in, and, according to the machine’s records, five weeks later he was released. He rummaged all sections of the lab, finding files and more in different places. A lot was missing. He found a shit load of shredded paper in a room full of computers. Most of them were broken during the revolt. The few that worked didn’t offer enough information, and no two of them shared the same data.
Dad went on the hunt for the Aggressors. According to one of Dad’s journal entries, they were compelled to stay within a certain distance from the lab. They did. He got two of them early on, bringing their bodies back to the lab with the help of TB and Schatzi. Doris, the only surviving female Aggressor, took much longer to find. Schatzi took care of her.
TBG came looking for Dad. His mistake. End of his story.
Dad lasted another year. Tim and I got in all the time we could with him, taking turns for our alone time with him. His injuries were too many and too severe. He needed more help than the Med Beds could supply. Mom had visited with him throughout the year, but she always left crying on the lift with TB. TB recorded it, as she recorded everything she was involved in. I found them stored in a side room with thousands of tapes and cassettes. Dad told me where to look.
When he finally passed.
When he finally passed, we buried him in the middle of the lift tunnel. TB had her own codes we knew nothing about. The lift stopped, a couple of clicks, and a side in the wall opened: just the right amount of room for a body. It was coated in some sort of metal, and there was an airflow that Tim found. We all agreed this was best. No random finding. We’d know. That was enough.
I stayed home, almost finishing my degree at a state university. Tim comes down and plays with Schatzi and goes running around with her. They both chase Zeno. Schatzi almost caught that frog a couple of times. Tim swears it looked like they were just playing a game with each other.
He started seeing someone. He won’t tell me or Mom who, yet. We’ll get it out of him, the brat.
Mom and Will are happy together, which is important. She started a training program with Will. He loves it. I join in as much as possible.
At this point, I really don’t know why I’m in school. No subject is catching me. I’m not seeing anyone. I have a few of the old friends who stuck around, but…eh. I’ve reread Dad’s journal so many times I have most of it memorized. Tim and I found some more loose papers around the lab as we explored while Dad slept. I added them to the pile.
I don’t even know why I’m writing all this down in Dad’s journal. He wrote a lot, but it’s a big journal. I knew he wouldn’t mind my scribbling thoughts.
Future me, if you’re reading this someday, maybe you can find a way to let me know something.
What the hell am I supposed to do?
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Hadn’t read the journal in years. Didn’t think I needed to.
Guess I did.
Old me, things were only going to get worse. Still are doing that.
The other Taken? They got their Aggressors one and all.
I know. I checked.
This land is not anywhere near where we were in 1970.
Many of the Taken got angry. Angrier.
Some were caught and made “wards” of the military states.
Others still roam free. Lots of death and destruction.
Around the world.
Tim’s married with kids. Mom and Will are retired. All happy as can be today.
I hunt the Taken. I’ve killed a lot of them.
More need to go.
Almost all of them offered useful intel.
That’s what the hell you were meant to do, past me.
Me behind the wheel of TB, Schatzi hogging the back seat.
There are still cars in the woods.
A Car In The Woods: Chapter Fifteen
New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods
Eddie held the combat knife clutched to his chest. The thick trunk hid him well. Plenty of low hung branches. He was surrounded by enough bottomland trees, the upturned roots plentiful. Tripping was a minor problem. Stepping on dry leaves or breaking a twig underfoot would give away his position.
He wasn’t going to give away his position.
Slowing his breathing and heart rate was primary out here. He’d been working on it in the lab’s workout room. They had finally lessened the drugs, which gave him time to come back to himself and think. He needed a way to beat the clicking noises. They came from his chest, and it drove him over the top on too many occasions. He knew what they told him: it was a way for the group to keep tabs on each other while on an Op. No talking. No bird calls or any other type of signal. The clicking drove their targets to lose focus.
Eddie also found out it did more. The Insert monitored his heart rate; if he couldn’t control himself the clicking became unbearable. He knew they had a way to track him and the others: had to be the Insert. It was also able to bring them all to their knees if anyone got out of line. Or tried to make a break. The jolt blacked him out instantly. It was up that was far worse. It felt like chest had been torn open and everything inside had been used as a punching bag. Every Taken had it happen enough times to buckle down to the orders given.
It was a classic mind fuck, but with new toys.
The stab to his leg, the blow to his head, and Eddie faded out. Before he went unconscious, the last thing he thought of was Pat. Patricia. He was out too fast to think of the kids, but when he woke strapped to the table in the lab, he thought of all of them while he tried to free himself from the bonds. He couldn’t raise any part of himself except his chest as he breathed in and out. Even that was tight, causing pain if he breathed out too forcefully.
Time meant nothing. No windows. No clocks. None of the lab workers would talk to him. What he could see were the white jackets that were buttoned up to their necks, large white face masks, and white head caps covering the rest. Over that they wore thick goggles, the glass more yellow than clear. When they worked on him, which felt nonstop, Eddie was usually on his back, the overhead lights boring into his eyes. There was always a point where a needle took him out. He’d wake up lying on a thin mattress on the floor in another room. His cell.
They took blood often. In between, they injected different colored liquids into his arms. Sometimes his legs. Sometimes his stomach. One time into his heart. Most of them delivered a deep burning feeling throughout his body; some sent him into screaming jags that only quit when his vocal cords gave out. A few shots sent him elsewhere. Every time they injected this type of drug, Eddie’s mind shattered into tiny particles and then took him on a bizarre journey. Nothing seemed real. Everything seemed real. When he came back to himself, there was always sweat pooling under him.
The worst were the operations. These came after the first barrage of drugs they pumped through him. They were studying him, making furious notes while he tried to not scream. Eddie didn’t always succeed. The Insert was one of the first operations. That was a screamer. Other times he passed out, no matter how much they tried to keep him aware and awake. Too much was too much.
Back in the cell was always discovery time. Stitches ran up his right leg. Another time he woke up to find a duplicate row of stitches on the other leg. Then came the arms. He fought through the pain each time with the best he could. Eddie wasn’t always at his best.
The last major operation had him waking up to an A-Bomb of a headache. Eddie thought his skull would explode. He reached up and put pressure on either side of his head. The pain stayed. The pain grew. The pain was all. However long it took, the throbbing finally eased off. Still holding his head, Eddie realized that he was now bald. Reluctantly, he ran hands around his head, finding a full circle of stitches.
He jumped to his feet, which sent him leaping across the room and into the wall. He screamed and beat at the cell barrier. His face flamed, his arms and legs grew tense and tight, and his fingers clamped white-knuckled. This continued for a very long time. If his captors heard, or saw, any of this, it didn’t matter to Eddie. He was beyond caring. He saw red, and it was full and consuming.
More operations. More needles.
And then it all stopped. Eddie was placed into a barracks. The others were all there, watching. He looked around, taking in the pecking order of their stances and positions in their clumps of groupings.
One leaned against a wall, arms folded, one leg bent and foot planted on that wall. Glaring. Eddie found the Alpha.
“Maynard,” Eddie said. He had to stop his lips curling in disgust. His eyes said all he needed to say.
Eddie heard clicking from his left. Not too close, but judging by the “shit” that followed, not too far away. Root by root, he eased away from the tree as other clicks sounded out, then silence. It was Putdown Mode. Eddie knew it too well. He stopped against another tree, crouching on a thick root. A sound came from above. Eddie ducked and rolled. The huge rock sailed past his head and hit the tree he had just been in front of. It set up enough racket that the others came running.
Picking up the rock in his knife free hand, Eddie saw two figures racing towards him. They probably expected him to retreat, but Eddie knew that there were more behind him. He ran, but forward, turning as he did so counterclockwise. The two were too close: Eddie flung the rock, hitting the one on the right across his scalp. The rock spun off and hit the other in his face. Both were down. Eight more to go.
The years fall upon each other.
Time was a lie; man-made and changeable.
What was done to Eddie?
There was a car in the woods.
Author’s Note: Apologies to one and all. Monday got away from me. I know I’m posting the S post on the T day. I will have T up later, midday on Tuesday.
A Car In The Woods: Third Interlude
New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods
SUBJECT: 1957 FORD THUNDERBIRD CONVERTIBLE AMELIORATION
TO: ALL DEPARTMENT HEADS
LOCATION: LABS: 1-25
A Car In The Woods: Chapter Twelve
New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods
“Weeks. Just three weeks,” murmured Sheriff John Miner into his lunch, a greasy Bacon Cheeseburger with mustard, mayo, and ketchup. Just what he wanted. Just what the doctor told him, repeatedly, to stay away from. He lied to himself that not ordering fries evened things out.
“What’s that, John?” Patricia was behind the counter, back turned to him, preparing to make a fresh pot of coffee.
“Nothing, Pat. Nothing at all.” He bit into the burger, the juice dribbling across the long hairs of his mustache and into his need-to-be trimmed beard. He chewed twice and swallowed, watching Pat bending over to get a clean pot from underneath. “I might be old, but I have eyes,” he’d say every time one of his deputies, or his drinking cronies, caught him eyeing someone other than Mrs. John Miner.
When Eddie disappeared, he made an effort not to leer. It was only respectful, seeing how he did like Eddie, for the most part. He gave himself permission to enjoy himself again after about four months. Just happened that was about the same time that Pat came back to the luncheonette, picking up her shifts again.
Munching away, in between slurps of his cup of Joe, which Pat filled every time the cup was at the halfway point, he thought about his retirement. As far as he was concerned, it couldn’t come soon enough. Full pension, money saved up; he was leaving this godforsaken place and heading south to warmer climates. He was counting the days.
He grunted, the coffee burning his tongue on contact. “Yeah, outta here. Snow, ice, and all these damn eerie disappearances.” Sheriff John never really sussed out if he was more bothered by the missing or the fact it was putting a dent on his record. Not being very self-aware kept things, like a clean conscious, at bay.
Finished, he tried to pay, but Sam, the cook/owner, waved him away. As usual. They went through this every day. Patricia wanted to refuse the tip, but she needed the money. Sheriff John knew it and always left her a dollar anyways. Putting on his hat as he got outside, he huffed as he saw his deputy, Will Kane, outside waiting for him.
“Sheriff,” Will touching the brim of his hat.
“Will, what now?”
He knew what it was. The Sheriff was trying to push it away, but it kept coming up. He was afraid this would bite him in the ass at least one more time before he was done. He looked Will in the eye, once again assessing the deputy. Did he make the right choice in grooming the kid to take over? It wasn’t the first time he thought that. Each time he did, the Sheriff calculated how much longer he had, and each time he had the same answer: it wouldn’t be his problem once he was gone.
“Complaints about the sounds from the woods, same as the last two weeks. We had to split up today because of the different areas reporting in.”
Will nodded. He didn’t want to add that he thought he had heard that disturbing clicking sound as well, just the other day. He drew his gun from his nightstand, threw on a coat, and checked the area. Nothing. Will didn’t know what to think anymore. The reports coming in were getting under his skin.
Plus, the fact, that over the last year there were five more “incidents.” It unnerved the whole area. Already some families had left. More might follow.
“OK, Will. You know the drill. Lord knows at this point how many times we’ve done this search-and-discover Jack, but we have to. Since last night was that bad, I’ll pull in some favors with the State boys. If I can.”
“Seven,” Will thought, slightly gritting his teeth. Seven half-assed attempts. He knew the Sheriff was both biding his time and putting on a show to appease. Less than a month, and he was already planning to run things differently.
Will had no way of knowing that Sheriff John had the exact same thoughts about his predecessor just before the old man retired.
Both men got into their respective Ford Fairlane cruisers and headed back to the Sheriff’s office to plan the night’s forays.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Three nights later, and they had nothing. The State Troopers gave up on the second night, returning to their speed traps and truck stops. The Sheriff had bolstered his staff with deputized volunteers who he insisted must travel with one of the normal deputies only as a backup. They petered out until the only two volunteers left were the idiots who discovered the Thunderbird in the first place: Todd and Barry.
Todd rode with the Sheriff on the first night out; Barry on the second. The third night, he rode alone. The two talked, and talked, and talked throughout their rides. It was all one piece of BS after another, the stories no longer even coming close to their statements from ’59. He wound up dropping them both off on their respective ride-along at any tavern on their route. The buzzing in his head stayed with him well after he returned home and opened up his Scotch.
The Sheriff and Will went out separately on the fourth night. The calls had died down to next to nothing by then. Will thought one more night might catch the noisemakers or shake them enough to move on out of the area. Sheriff John didn’t care anymore. The days were counting down, and cruising in his car at night, alone, sounded just fine with him.
By 2:30 a.m., Will was calling it a night. The Sheriff agreed. His body sagged into the seat. Tilting his head back onto the headrest, he rolled down the window a touch, the cold air hitting his face. He began humming to himself, which morphed easily into singing “Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit” and then laughing. He loved that cartoon.
He was about to go into another piece he heard through Loony Tunes. Headlights approaching, coming up fast. He moved his cruiser to the right, skirting the ridge of the side rut. The car blew past him, honking once when they were level.
Swearing, Sheriff John hit the Cherries and Berries, U Turned, and sped after the car, sirens blaring. “Damit,” he yelled. “That damned Thunderbird. I’ve had enough,” reverberated through the cabin. The T Bird increased speed. The Fairlane did as well. The turns were sharp, the road dark, but Sheriff John white-knuckled it and floored the gas pedal. It wasn’t until the T Bird’s brake lights lit before it went off-road that the Sheriff took his right hand off the wheel, picked up the two-way and called in for backup.
He knew exactly where he was being led. He cursed at the car and whoever was inside it non-stop. Until the Fairlane stopped, right passenger tire going flat after hitting something sticking out of the dirt road.
Sheriff John left the headlights on, put the car in park, and got out. His right hand went to his sidearm, drawing it out slowly, clicking off the safety. Staying behind the open door, his gaze traveled along the empty grassy field in front of him. It took a second for that eyeballed information to reach his thinking process.
Empty. Tallgrass, dark outlines of trees off in the near distance, but nothing else. He started to call out but didn’t; movie logic never made much sense to him. If the headlights were throwing their vision off, why give them a voice to focus on? He waited. The lack of bird or animal noise caused his forehead to perspire. It wasn’t natural.
The Sheriff made his decision: he needed to find that damned car and whoever drove it. He reached in and turned off the engine, leaving the headlights on Brights. Forgetting his hat on the passenger side was unlike him, but he had closed his door already and didn’t want any more large movements that might take him down.
Three steps away from his Ford and the clicking sound started. This one loud and deep, not at all like the majority of the callers described it. This was thunderous. Four more steps away and the ground buckled under him sending him sprawling. His gun spiraled out of his control. Rolling over, he looked back at his Fairlane. Something huge was on top of the car, its right arm smashing through the front window while the left was digging deeply into the driver’s door.
The thing jumped up, landing on top and crushed the roof. The rest of the window glass shattered. The other tires burst as the car was jumped on again and again. The Sheriff began to inch away, a reverse crawling motion that was jerky at best.
His escape was inconvenienced by two factors: while he was looking at the shape destroy his car, a less volatile clicking nose what now behind him; and his head was stopped by a foot being placed on his head, pushing it into the cold soil.
Sheriff John peed himself while his arms and legs were similarly restrained. He started to address them, question them, abase himself, but the backhanded slap cracked his head around so he was eating grass. The foot holding his head down had been removed before the slap. It found its way back.
A figure crouched down, facing him. The Sheriff could taste the blood running out of his face; he tried to spit it in the other’s face, but it barely cleared his lips. A hand came around his cheeks and squeezed, the pressure strong. The two made eye contact, and the Sheriff could only let out a gasp.
“Hey, Sheriff John. Long time, eh?” The voice was grave. It had a vibration to it, changing the pitch and tone as he spoke. He, because the Sheriff knew who this was. Quick glances around and he caught some familiar faces. It wasn’t much of a leap of intelligence, even for the Sheriff, to realize he was being held down by some of the missing.
“Hey, hey. Look at me. Yeah, it’s me. Gary. Remember me? Remember all the hassles we received from you? HEY!” He slapped the Sheriff again; the clicking sounds made its rounds, only stopping when he focused on the young man.
He started choking on the blood that was pooling and spit that onto the ground. It hurt to talk, but he had to make sense of what was happening.
Gary growled. “Man, you too. Any idea how much I hated being called that? This much,” as a hard object hit the Sheriff between the eyes. When he was finally able to open his eyes, he saw that the little bastard was brandishing a pretty large knife in his hands, flipping it back and forth.
Gary stood as the others picked the Sheriff up and held him, their claws digging into his extremities.
“There are other things I hate, Sheriff. A lot of that hate is directed your way. Yeah, yeah, you were doing your job, we were delinquents and all of that. But, it all added up. It was other things. We thought we knew you, knew to stay out of your way. But, I got to watch you on some of your night excursions. Things. You know? Things.” He swept his arms around. “Not to all of us.”
One of the others hauled back and punched the Sheriff in the stomach. He noticed it was a woman once he could straighten up. A damn strong woman.
“One of your unasked questions I’ll give you a freebie to: me and the others were taken, but it was as recruits. Recruits. Tested. Poked. Punctured. Changed.
But not you. We were. Not you. Definitely not you.”
Gary gestured, and they all manhandled the Sheriff back towards his car. Well, what was left of it. The hulking mass was on top of the pile of pieces. Its head picked up, and the huge clicking noise it made was followed by the stench of its breath.
Before the Sheriff could say anything, beg, curse, or even draw in another breath, Gary thrust the heavy duty combat knife into the Sheriff’s back. He gave it a twist as he pulled it out. The woman who punched the Sheriff in the gut kicked and sent Sheriff John flying towards the car.
There were no screams as they faded back into the woods. Clicking sounds filled up the void.
Some had slight regrets for that evening’s outcome.
Mainly that Sheriff John Miner was already dead by the time Zeno got its meal.
The thrashing seemed to mellow Zeno’s clicking.
Not that night.
There was a car in the woods.
A Car In The Woods: Chapter Eleven
New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods
The Chevy Bel Air was not made for the back roads. David cursed under his breath every time they hit something, and the steering wheel shook in his hands. He barely regained control at one point after hitting a tree root that tore through the earth. He was also starting to lose control of himself: he didn’t tell David he was still dropping Bennies like candy, even though he swore that was over and done with.
His last hit was hours ago; David refused the urge to take one in front of his only friend. Just barely. He was coming down; the ragged route they were taking and Eddie’s urging him to slow down was not helping in the least.
Parking his car, finally, David got out and looked around at the massive trees as a whole. He instantly began to shudder. Nam memories, the training, the ambushes, the bullets flying, just too much. He closed his eyes, breathing hard, almost hyperventilating. Eddie came over and put his hand on David’s shoulder. It was grounding. It was enough.
David retrieved a flashlight from the trunk of the Chevy. They’d need it soon, Eddie told him, assuring David that they wouldn’t need it for long. They had to get back to chow down and alleviate the worry lines that Patricia was wearing when they left the house.
David was envious. He hadn’t had anyone in his life who cared about him since soon after he got back from his last tour. Driving them away was easier than facing the devils inside him. Three someones. Thinking of Eddie’s family set up made him want a Benny even more at the moment.
They trudged through the tall grass and proceeded through tough, dry bramble. A little blood was poked out as they made their way clear. The further into the woods they got, the more the trees were growing thicker. Again, Nam.
David had to stop. The urge to pop every single pill he had left was riding high. Eddie hadn’t realized he wasn’t right behind him until he turned to motion him to silence. There was just light enough for David to catch the worry he saw pass over Eddie’s face. David walked on and caught up.
Being on alert, the two went light-footed, passing through a dense grove of trees. They stopped; a clearing showing just beyond the ridge of the tree line.
Eddie pushed his left hand down fast and crouched. David followed ASAP. The left hand fisted up. They froze. David noticed Eddie point to him, then motioned him to follow. He gave him the thumbs up.
They went into stealth mode, taking in their surroundings, listening for things they did not see.
What they did see made them both smile, lips closed.
The very cherry Cherry-Red Thunderbird. Eddie hadn’t really believed it existed. David just fell in love.
Satisfied they were alone with the car, they approached, still heads and eyes on a swivel. Approaching the T-Bird, David wanted to whistle but suppressed that urge. It was beautiful. The red leather seats accented with the white piping and inlays. It was soft under his hand; he ran it over the seat back. Eddie was walking around the car’s perimeter, taking in the details he still could with the ever fading sunlight. David resisted getting behind the wheel for just a breath before he opened the door and climbed in.
A shattering noise came, off to the left. David’s car. It was in that general area. The screeching of metal tearing apart sent them both into high alert. Eddie dropped, going prone behind the T-Bird’s rear. David hadn’t closed the car door. He tucked and rolled out, going to deep knees by the rear tire. As he scanned to the left, then the right, David rolled up his pant leg and drew out the combat knife he had strapped and hidden.
Another thing he didn’t tell Eddie he was still hooked on.
A couple of heavy crunches more in that general area and then silence. Eddie crawled over, putting he left hand out and palm forward. They waited. Nothing. They waited a bit longer. Still nothing.
The sunlight was almost completely gone. The darkening sky was cloudless which worked both to and against their advantage. Light enough to see; light enough to be seen. They didn’t see anything. They didn’t hear anything. There was no choice. They had to move.
Clicking noises surrounded them the instant they stood. David moved his palm forward hand in front of him. Eddie didn’t know either. “Run,” Eddie said, low and angry. David instinctively took the rear, his knife clenched and ready.
The attack came from both sides, fast and furious. Eddie, in front, was bowled over, enough force used to send him tumbling up to the tree line, his back connecting to one hard scaly trunk. Dazed, Eddie almost missed what came next. Raising himself, first on his elbows, and then to his knees, he was too far away and weaponless to be of any help.
Two things were all over David. People. Things. He shook his head, needing it to clear. He saw David on the attack, his knife sadly only a momentary advantage. He was being circled. Thrusting out, he missed on the first two tries. One landed a glancing punch to David’s shoulder, sending him off balance. The other sent a bone breaking kick to David’s left knee. On his way down, his arm went up and down, the combat knife tasting flesh and blood.
Eddie was standing, leaning on the tree when he saw David lose the knife. The one who kicked him picked up the knife. The other one was on one knee, black looking blood leaking down its leg, both hands in claws ripping along David’s back. The knife slashed along David’s front. One long reach back and a swing, and David’s head came flying towards were Eddie stood.
Then the things turned their attention to Eddie and raced towards him.
Clicking noises sounded at Eddie’s back as he retreated, his survival instincts clicked into high gear.
As he entered the woods, he knew he needed a weapon.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
After climbing up the tree, jumping to the next one, and then using that tree’s abundance of leaves as camouflage, Eddie worked on an overhead branch, solid enough to be used as a club. Not too entrenched that there’d be no use expending energy on it. This one tested true to his needs.
As he pulled and pushed, he ran through what had occurred. It was no use thinking about any reasoning behind the two who were after him. The facts were: they were fast and strong; they killed David; most likely they were still in possession of David’s knife; and judging by the intermittent clicking noise, they were still coming for him.
In the distance, a quickly receding series of ground thumping sounds came at the right moment. The tree branch came off, the cracking partially covered up whatever it was that most likely destroyed David’s car. He swung it, feeling for its balance. It wasn’t a perfect weapon. He’d have to make it one.
The canopy of leaves surrounding him started shaking. “Damnit,” he thought, as he hurled himself off of his perch, the makeshift club firmly placed into his right armpit. Landing on the tree limb just below, he heard two separate light landings above and to either side. He swung upwards, connecting with a hand or a foot. He wasn’t sure, but a plummeting body was good enough.
No cry on the way down. Above, the clicking got intense and angry sounding. Eddie was winding up to take another swing, but the club went flying as his face was backhanded. Eddie landed, his back again meeting painful force as he fell onto the hard limb. He kicked out, caught the figure in the gut, giving him the room to move.
Eddie jumped, tumbling down, the whipping branches slowing him enough so that when he hit the ground Eddie was winded, but nothing was broken. He quickly glanced around as he stood. The club had landed near enough. Grabbing it, he took off again. He needed another advantage point.
He wasn’t going to get one.
The Click was on him. Eddie got one good hit with his club, but that was all he got. David’s knife bit into his right thigh, missing the arterial but sending pain ripping up his leg. Tried as he could, he couldn’t avoid the punch in the side of the head that took him down.
As he was being pummeled into unconsciousness, his last thought was of Pat.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Patricia waited up all night. Debra and Timothy tried to stay awake with her in the living room, worried sick about their Dad and Uncle David. Tim folded first. Debra soon after.
Debra woke up to daylight and the sound of her mother speaking on the phone. She started to tear up as she listened from the couch.
“Hi, Sheriff. It’s Patricia Kelly. No. Nothing is all right, I think.” She took a deep breath in and slowly let it out.
“Eddie didn’t come home last night. He and his army friend. Neither came home last night. Please, John. Help.”
Sheriff John Miner was called to the site by his deputy, Will Kane. As his Ford Fairlane pulled alongside Will’s, the tightness in his chest was finally expelled. Getting out of the cruiser, Sheriff John put his hat on and walked over to the remains of a Chevy Bel Air.
“Again,” he said. A statement, not a question.
“Yes, Sheriff. It’s as Mrs. Kelly said, same two-tone colors. The rest, well, there it is.”
“Eddie and his friend?”
Will shook his head. “No trace of either of them. The boys and I followed the paths they must have made: bent, broken grass; couple of pieces of material caught on bramble spikes. Trail goes dead after a bit. Came back and got you on the horn.”
The Sheriff took off his hat and slapped it against his leg and let out a drawn out “Shit!”
He wasn’t looking forward to an ongoing search. Again.
Putting his hat back on, he realized he really wasn’t looking forward to telling Patricia and her kids the news.
Training and natural skills.
Evade. Gain advantage.
Capture or kill.
There was a car in the woods.
A Car In The Woods: Chapter Nine
Mouth agape, Samantha was stunned by what Lisa told her. Tied hands and feet, ass planted on the ground, her back thrust against the cooling VW Microbus, she had no options but to listen. Most everything she thought she knew about Lisa was a lie. She tried to run through memories of their sessions. Nothing stood out that sounded false, and there were the state and hospital records to back things up. She couldn’t understand how wrong she had been. Was still. Samantha’s confidence, already shaky at this point, crumbled even further.
Lisa went back into silence mode after she dropped the bomb. Testing? A glass-walled cell? Samantha was beyond puzzled. She hurt from the beating, the way the ride to this grove battered her along, and the fear she felt about her parents, then herself. It was all just too much.
Mocking laughter brought her attention back to the present. The slap that followed burned on her cheek, her head conking on the body of the VW. Anger welled up as she turned her head back to face Lisa.
“You went away for a bit, Dr. Sam. Isn’t that against your training as a psycho?” She grinned widely.
“Therapist. Psychotherapist,” Samantha spat out, immediately regretting that she let the other woman goad her like this.
“Yeah, yeah. Doesn’t really matter now, does it? So, where was I?” Lisa looked around the site, up to the sky, and turned back to Samantha. She cocked her head to the side. Waiting.
Dropping her gaze, Samantha reluctantly said: “Something about testing.”
“Oh, yeah.” She patted the ground around her, fidgeting a bit.
“Did you know I killed my first guy in this spot? Yes, this very spot. That never came up when we chatted. I think it was six or seven years ago. Yeah. Wasn’t like I meant to, really. Things just got a little out of hand. I wasn’t thinking very straight at that point. Dumped his body here. Blood was everywhere. Everywhere.”
Lisa’s voice faded, her eyes taking a glassy turn. Samantha waited. Moments passed before the narrative picked back up.
“I got back into my brand new car. The very first car I owned outright. Stupid but, again, wasn’t thinking very straight. My driving was just as crooked. Went too fast, hit a tree, and didn’t get much further after they got me.”
“They?” Samantha couldn’t help herself from asking.
Lisa shook her head. The wrong looking smile returned to her face.
“Heh. I lied before, just a wee bit. There was no jail cell then. I was spirited away, but the jail? Nah. The glass cell, the rest? That’s what happened after I killed that guy, wrecked my car, and they snatched me up. Yeah, yeah. They. The guys. D Line. They were still controlled, then. Shame. We eventually had some wicked times together. Until it became my job to terminate D Line.”
Samantha bit back saying anything. Lisa went on.
“Boom. Bye Bye. That happened a few years ago. It’s funny in a way. I was their victim at first; in the end, they were my puppies. Rabid puppies, but still.”
Lisa stood up, looking around again.
“What the hell is keeping them?”
Samantha continued staring at her.
“Yeah, I don’t know either,” she sighed, sitting again in the same spot. “After some time in the glass being gawked at the rounds of drugs began. Then the operations. More drugs. Physical work. Drugs. Sex. No Rock ‘n Roll. Heh. Things changed. Others got terminated. Weird shit went on in other labs, we heard.”
“My first task when I was deemed ready enough? They let me choose. Guess who I chose, Dr. Sam. Guess.”
“What are you talking about, Lisa. This doesn’t make sense.” Silence. “Lisa!”
This slap was harder than the first one.
“Stop calling me that. Stop. It’s not mine.” A long pause. “Hey. You didn’t guess.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. NO! Please, no more hitting. I’ll…I’ll try a guess.”
Samantha raced through all the things she knew-thought she knew-about her assailant. One person stood out as a possibility. It was better to play this insipid game then more pain.
“Bingo. Right on the nose. Oh, nose. Yours, not so good right now.” Lisa reached over with both hands, wrapping them around Samantha’s swollen snout, and quickly jerked it. Samantha screamed.
“There. Never going to be as pretty as it was. Better than the smooshed thing I left you with. So, yeah. Dad. Two years later, he was still a bastard. Had a new plaything, too. I snuck onto the estate, waited until they were done, and drove my knife a few times through and through. The plaything I took with me. She was next in line.”
“Yeah. He was filthy and rich. I know. I know. You thought I was trailer trash. Wrong. You got so many things wrong. You couldn’t see straight.”
“I don’t know what to think anymore. Lisa, please…”
“I said don’t call me that. Lisa. Not my real name. The plaything. She was Lisa. Right now, I have no idea what she calls herself. Last time I heard my name was from Daddy’s dying lips.” She laughed. “I bet you’re dying to know what it is, aren’t you?”
Samantha just nodded.
“He blubbered ‘You. Doris, you bitch. You bitch. You’ and then he bled out. It was worth it, in the end.” A noise came from the ground behind her, close to the grouping of the trees. “Ah, finally, damn took their time.”
A fog-like dust storm began to fill the area. It grew dense, and a strong wind circled around, adding debris from the ground to the swirling. Doris/Lisa stood up and brought Samantha up with her. It was hard for her to stand. She was held up by the others hand pressing into her chest and wedged against the Microbus side.
A continuous barking sound began, coming from the middle of the twister. The wind died away and everything blown about landed on the ground. In the center was a car. Red, shiny. Doris/Lisa was humming; a Beach Boys song, but Samantha couldn’t concentrate enough to remember the title. What she saw in the car frightened her even more then she had been a second ago.
It was a dog. Huge. Barking like mad. Samantha was shaking. She had never seen such a malformed creature. Lisa/Doris began laughing.
“Girl! Girl! Oh, this is just the icing.” She walked towards the car and beast. There was nothing to keep Samantha upright. She fell face forward, the pain knocking her out for a few moments.
She came to quicker this time. Something had changed. Her legs. They were all pins and needles, but they weren’t tied anymore. As she tried to wake them up, the barking stopped and became a horrible growl. Then there was a scream. One long shattering scream.
Her arms were being lifted.
A soft voice spoke into her ear: “Shhh, sweetie. Relax, relax. You’ll be safe now.” Samantha was crying; the man who spoke was rubbing her hands and forearms, helping the circulation move along.
The wailing scream began to die down and went silent. The barking started up again, turning into a piercing howl.
He spoke again: “Sweetie, listen. The keys to the VW are on the driver’s seat. Give yourself a few minutes. Your feet and hands will thank you. Leave here. Don’t look back.”
Her tears stopped flowing. Testing, she slowly began to rise. It hurt, but she could do it. Leaning against the van, Samantha looked around. No man, no dog, no car. No Lisa. She hobbled over the grove, searching in vain. Nothing was there.
The hobble turned to mild limping to walking by the time she reached the VW Microbus. Getting inside was a bit of a problem, but Samantha did it. She closed the door, started the engine, and drove away.
The hospital was her first destination. Once inside the ER, the fussing over her began: her nose was reset, a cut on her head was stitched up, and the hospital staff swaddled her in bandages. They finally put Samantha in the same room as her mother. She’d have a scar on her head after smashing it on the side window, but she’d live. Her father had one broken leg as well as his left arm. Scar too. He’d live as well.
Someone had called the Sheriff. He arrived as they were all together, tears mingling from the three enough to create a tiny river of their own. He was shooed away by all three. He’d get his full statement in the morning. Samantha assured him it really was all over. Details would follow. He nodded, smiled, and left.
Everyone was released over the next two days. Recuperating at home didn’t sit well with any of them; they wound up at their clinic helping others while the staff buzzed around the three of them. Samantha finally relaxed. Her parents would be ok. They’d live.
She booked a flight for the next day after a very long cry fest with Vanessa. She hadn’t known what was going on and was worried sick. Diving into the work in the Haight kept her as sane as she could be.
Vanessa met Samantha at the gate. They fell into each other’s arms and didn’t let go until the next morning. Samantha was dragged around, moving in and out between the throngs of hippies, avoiding the police and the protestors. Vanessa showed her the best places, in her opinion, to eat, drink, and make merry. Sammy shared those opinions.
A day at the street clinic rejuvenated Samantha. She kept catching Vanessa looking at her, smiling. She smiled back, and then it was the next patient to be taken care of.
That night, they went to the park and grooved with everyone else listening to some freeform rock. Vanessa even got Samantha to drop a half tab of acid with her. They flew together, sailing under the stars, letting the music fill them as they danced, danced, danced. This was magic. Everything else blew away.
Samantha didn’t notice that a 1958 red Thunderbird had crept through the crowded street just beyond the park’s border. The horn honked once. Then it was gone.
Some would say “Poor Doris.”
She overstepped one time too many.
Her master’s voice took on a different meaning after that.
There was a car in the woods.