Sunday, October 14, 2018

THE WIND part 10

Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
      

By R. Peterson


It was the October thirtieth, nineteen thirty-six … tomorrow would be Halloween. A cold wind sent dry, red and gold leaves tumbling down Galbraith Street and lodged them in the dormant Chinese Elm hedge surrounding Joseph Callahan’s mansion. Darkness descended on the town of Cloverdale with great stealth as if a malignant night had always lingered just beyond the horizon waiting for the day to expire.
The almost full moon shone through the open window and Melania noticed the rose buds covering the special made arch had started to bloom. Dorothy was sewing straps to the feet of the scarecrows so that when a woman slipped her feet into them she could dance with her straw-stuffed partner.
“These are the last two,” Melania said admiring Dorothy’s careful stitching. “Where’s Bolger?”
“Over by the piano,” Dorothy gestured. Melania looked at the scarecrow propped against the Steinway. The light blue buttons that Dorothy had used for eyes were almost the exact same shade of her Momett husband’s before he was blown to bits by a bomb placed in Melania’s truck at her mother’s farm. And of course, the red plaid shirt and faded bib-overalls were exact copies of the ones he always wore. A large ceramic jar lay on its side and rained a seemingly endless stream of glass balls onto the keyboard where a lively rendition of Boogie Woogie Stomp played without a pianist.
“Will it be alright?” Dorothy asked. What she meant was, will we be safe?
Melania noticed the Momett woman had cautiously kept her eyes away from the corner where the wooden marionette hung by taunt strings. She was understandably nervous.
“I believe it will be,” Melania said remembering the words of her mother. “But all magic is fraught with danger”
Just then Brian strutted into the room. Dorothy gasped but Melania smiled. Dorothy’s son had spent the last two days dying three large bags of chicken feathers black and attaching them to his costume. A large orange beak made from newspaper strips dipped in watery glue jutted just below tiny holes for his eyes. “Well! What do you think?”
Melania laughed. “I don’t think anyone on their porch handing out candy will believe there is a real live scarecrow inside a walking crow!”

-------2-------

            “How many is that?” Lavar Hicks demanded as Lemont Pool dragged another huge scarecrow to the end of the cornfield.
            “Eighty-two I think,” Lemont gasped. “We’ve uprooted most of your fence-posts to make crosses … we will probably be twenty short!”
            “There must be two hundred of these put up in the field by tomorrow night … or it’s going to go bad for all of us!” He gestured to where Butch Fowler was busy with a propane torch welding bars into the back of Tommy Lee’s milk truck. The Chinaman hovered over Butch occasionally raking his fingernails across Butch’s face to make him hurry.
            “What’s the cage for?” Lemont whispered.
            “All that candy I guess,” Hicks told him glancing toward a mountain of cardboard boxes filled with Chick-o-Sticks, Chocolate Babies and black and orange Malt Balls. “Mr. Lee says he wants enough for every child in Cloverdale.”
Lemont shook his head as Lavar helped him drag the scarecrow. “We all know that ain’t the Chink behind those wooden eyes don’t we?”
“All I know is we’ve got one night and a day to get two hundred scarecrows up,” Lavar replied. “After you get this one planted, drive my truck to the next farm over … and start pulling up posts.”
            “Clive Olsen ain’t gonna like nobody tearing down his fence,” Lemont looked scared. “And that bull-headed Swede has been known to pack a shotgun into church meetings!”
            “I’ve already planned for that and I’ll make sure Clive and Mary Olsen don’t cause us any problems,” Lavar said as he walked toward the house. He turned and grinned from the doorway. “I’d stay at the end of the field a bit longer this time if I were you!”
When Lemont saw Lavar pulling on the rope in the kitchen that lifted the trap door in the floor of the barn he almost ran with the load he was dragging. He could hear the snorting monster reacting to the sudden light coming into the pit it was imprisoned in. “God help us all!” he moaned.

-------3-------

            “The sheriff has always been kind to me,” Dorothy told Melania over breakfast. “Don’t you think we should tell him about poor Mr. Lee and the horrible thing that escaped from the box in the attic?”
            “I’ve tried,” Melania sighed as she poured them both coffee. “John Walker and two of his deputies have been in Butte the last two days testifying in a criminal trial. They are due back tonight and I don’t trust any of the other deputies he left in charge with this kind of unique problem!”
            “Well at least we’re ready,” Dorothy said. “She walked to the Bolger scarecrow and slipped her feet into the straps attached to the bottom of his feet. “It will be so good to be a whole family again!”
Melania smiled as her Momett friend began to dance, whirling about the floor with the scarecrow in her arms. Melania couldn’t resist taking the Ombré box down from the cabinet above the sink and removing The Lovers Tarot card which she carefully lay face down on the glass table. “I know this is dangerous,” she whispered as if speaking to her dead mother. “But there is also great magic in love!” The piano in the parlor instantly began to play Melody From The Sky.
            Brian was all smiles as he entered the room and saw his mother dancing with a replica of his father. “I’ve never seen her this happy since … father was taken from us,” he stammered.
            “Let’s pray that this happiness becomes permanent,” Melania told him.

-------4-------

            There was no cloud in the night sky and the full moon shining down made outside almost as light as day. Lavar and Lemont lay on the ground exhausted. They had worked without sleep the last two days but all two-hundred scarecrows had been erected on poles at the end of the cornfield. They had worked mostly without the help of Butch Fowler. The Chinaman had kept him busy stealing a long list of items from nearby farms namely hundreds of chickens and hand pumps that attached to the gasoline cans. They somehow managed to stand and move out of the way when the Chink charged out of Lavar’s farmhouse. He was wearing Fowler’s steel-mesh welding gloves and demanded the Tarot card in Lavar’s pocket. Hicks handed over the Wind card and then stepped back after being handed a cow bell.  Glowing embers of fire rose from the card as the Chinaman held it high over his head. The demon’s voice rumbled like thunder and the flash of his teeth became lightning bolts as he read from the back of the card. “Dio del vento ascolta le mie parole!” the monster growled. “Abbiamo bisogno di vostra grazia alla vita nuova forma. Favore attende tutto bene mentre doom deve cogliere il male. Portare avanti il tuo respiro ora!”
The Chinaman dropped the card and screamed in delight as Hicks rang the bell.
            Clang! The ground shook and a wired-corral filled with chickens began to squawk.
            Clang! The rows of corn began to tremble.
            Clang! The pine-slab roof above Hick’s house caught fire and began to burn.
With a tremendous roar the corn field came to life. Ten foot tall monsters hurtled past Pool and Fowler, both of whom held gasoline cans with pumps attached. The monsters ran toward the corral and bloody feathers erupted like a volcano.
Don’t just stand there!” The Chinaman hissed. “Burn them!” It pointed towards the corn field; it seemed not all the straw men were monsters with an insane craving for blood. Those that remained waited patiently for orders, wanting only to please and be of service.
Pool and Fowler started down the rows spraying gasoline on those recently come to life who stared timidly at the new world with unknowing calm and a sad kind of acceptance.
“Burn them all … burn them before we leave,” the demon hissed.

-------5-------

            Melania was expecting more than quiet acceptance when she showed Sheriff Walker the talking marionette hanging in the parlor of her house. But once again, the big man surprised her. “I was with Joseph when he trapped Demilune and secured him in the seaman’s chest,” John said. “I always thought that was a bit of hell on Earth that we were done with … but as I’ve been told evil returns like a cold wind … in its own time.
            “Who told you that?”
            “Someone I greatly respected,” the sheriff said. “Your dear mother, Jesska.”
            “What should we do?”
            “Enjoy the night,” John told them glancing at Brian in his costume. “I’ll take a few deputies out to Hicks’ farm and see what the old buzzard is up to.”
Just as John Walker was leaving the house the radio blasted from his police car. After a few minutes talking he returned to the porch … he was running. “I’m afraid your stolen card will have to wait … we have trouble on the other side of town!”
            “What kind of trouble?”
            “Sounds like a riot!”
The sheriff was speeding away when Brian tugged on his mother’s skirt. “Can I still go out trick or treating?”
Dorothy looked at Melania … the town’s society women would be arriving for the Dance of the Scarecrows in minutes.
            “Have fun but stay on this side of town,” Melania told him, “and be home early.”
And that was the last Melania and Dorothy ever saw of the tiny scarecrow who had recently become … almost a real boy.

-------6-------

            Sheriff Walker and his deputies had to fight their way through the angry mob surrounding the firemen. Several houses lay in ashes while others still burned. “They came down Vineyard Road,” one frantic man sobbed.
            “Who did?” John Walker grabbed him and tried to make him speak clearly.
            “An army of monsters,” the man said. “Big as barn doors with sacks over their heads!”
            “And they started the fires?”
            “No! We did!” The man was hysterical. “It was the only way we could drive them away!”
            “What did they want?”
            “Human flesh,” the man stammered, pointing to bloody bone and pools of blood littering the street. “That’s all that’s left of Joe Morgan, his wife Emma and their six kids.”
            “Where are these monsters now?”
            “Everywhere and anywhere,” a woman spoke up. “As soon as I find my husband we’re lighting out for California. You don’t have this kind of trouble picking lettuce in that place where the sun always shines!”

-------7-------

            Dorothy waited until the rest of the women in the room unfastened themselves from their scarecrows, piled them in a corner and walked outside to cool off. The men in the orchestra followed. Dorothy danced through the rose covered arch when Melania moved the punch bowl. She felt Bolger come to life almost instantly. She held her breath until they were out back in the garden. “Is it really you?”
            “Of course,” Bolger looked at her tilting his head to one side. “Who else would I be?”
            “I’ve missed you,” Dorothy put her head on his shoulder and began to cry.
            “I was going to back-up Melania’s truck,” Bolger said. “But I don’t remember … I didn’t hurt anyone … did I?”
            “No, you were fine,” Dorothy whispered.
            “Where is Brian?” Bolger asked. Fear showed in his voice for the first time.
            “Out with his friends collecting Halloween treats,” Dorothy said. “When he gets home we will be a family again!”
            “Again?”
But Bolger could ask no more questions … Dorothy was kissing him.

-------8-------

            Brian, dressed as a crow, had made several trips up and down three streets along with a dozen children. The empty flour sack he carried was starting to get heavy when the group spied the familiar milk truck parked next to the curb on Swenson Avenue. Music was playing from a radio. Brian recognized the milkman standing by the open side-door even with the costume he was wearing. “You’re no longer a puppet hanging on strings,” he laughed.
“No, and I am human again just in time for the most wonderful night of the year!” Mr. Lee told him. Brian thought the milkman’s voice sounded a little rough but he thought it was from the clown makeup he was wearing. Red paint made his mouth look too large and large round trick-glasses made his eyes appear huge, wooden and wolf-like.
            “I knew Melania could fix you with her magic,” Brian said.
            “She sure did,” Mr. Lee agreed. He dropped several pieces of candy into each child’s open bag and then looked up and down the street. “Not many little ghosts and goblins out tonight,” he said. “Why not climb on up in the back and fill-up your treat bags,” he told them.
            “Are you sure you have enough?”
            “Boxes and boxes of every size and flavor,” the clown said. He licked his lips.
The children all laughed as they climbed into the back of the truck. There was the sound of a heavy metal door with steel bars closing and faint screams just before the milk truck started and drove away…

TO BE CONTINUED …

           



           


Sunday, October 7, 2018

THE WIND part 9

Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



       
By R. Peterson


                   Lavar Hicks felt bewildered, and to be truthful more than a little scared, when Tommy Lee parked the milk truck and got out. The smiling Chink should have dropped him off and scurried home to his own shack glad that the demands on him were at an end. Instead, Lavar now felt like he was the prisoner. What was he afraid of? The braid of hair that had seemed so important to the Chinaman had been tossed out the truck window as if it were garbage.
Lavar could feel the witch-woman’s Tarot card strangely cold in his pocket and it made him move faster. He was almost running. The card had been a source of infinite power that he longed for and craved.  Now it was a lead anchor pulling him to the bottom in an ocean of trouble. Lavar shook his head violently as if to dislodge reality.  It was time to put the subordinates, especially these Chinks from Asia, back in their place and take a stand. He stopped and whirled. “Damn you! Get out of here … and leave me the hell alone!” Hicks raised his fist as if to strike the tiny (man?) bouncing three steps behind.
Suddenly Hicks was slammed into the ground so hard all the air was knocked from his lungs. His arm lay at awkward angles at his side. Bone and blood protruded from a torn shirt sleeve. The grinning thing stood over him lifting first one leg then the other as if the simple act of walking were something new that he delighted in. For the first time, Lavar noticed the Chinks eyes were not normal. They appeared to be made of wood and rolled about in his head like ball bearings floating in water. The eyes found his face and stopped moving. There were too many teeth in the mouth that opened in a wide smile. “Look ma … No strings!” The Chinaman … or whatever it was … laughed and laughed.

-------2-------

When Melania and Dorothy arrived home from church services Brian was descending from the rooms above. With strings attached to a wooden cross held horizontally, he carefully made a marionette walk down the stairs. “Where did you get that?” Dorothy asked.
Melania didn’t have to ask. When she saw the human eyes in the puppet’s wooden head she knew it must have come from the locked chest in the attic.
“When I was eating my cereal I heard a banging noise coming from the attic,” Brian said. “I found this. I think it must be alive … it spoke to me!”
“Take it back to the attic,” Dorothy ordered. “You don’t play with things in this house without Melania’s permission.”
“It’s alright,” Melania told her. “Brian, did you open the locked chest in the attic?”
“No,” Brian told her. “The chest was open … and I found this hanging from the rafters!”
“Was there anyone else in the house?”
“I open box,” the marionette spoke and Dorothy jumped, her eyes looked as wide as dinner plates.  “I not want do. Dimoni make hands find key … turn lock.”
Melania thought the Oriental accent sounded familiar. After a moment she gasped and then asked. “Is that you, Tang Lei?” She gestured for Brian to turn the head so she could see the puppet’s face. It was their milkman! Melania recognized the bright brown eyes. Usually, they brimmed with great curiosity … but this morning they seemed filled with great sadness. The puppet strained against the strings to tilt its head downward. “I bring great shame to family,” the puppet moaned. “Not worthy of honorable ancestors!”
            “I don’t know how you turned into a marionette,” Melania said. “But I’m sure it wasn’t your fault!”
The puppet shook his head with such force that it caused Brian’s hands to shake. “Bad man cut off hair … wait in truck. Tang make deal to steal card. Bad man give thief back queue.”
Dorothy, Brian and the marionette followed Melania into the kitchen and she pulled the Ombré from the kitchen cabinet. “Did you take a Tarot card from this box?”
            “No,” Tang’s voice said. “Dimoni make climb stairs … open chest.”
            “The Ombré was on the table when I came up for breakfast,” Brian said. “I thought someone had left the recipe box out … and I put it back.”
Melania carefully spread the ancient cards out on the glass table. She counted the Major Arcana cards first … no WIND card.
            “Who waited in the truck?” Melania asked the puppet.
            “Bad man live junk house, animals no feed,” Tang’s voice said. “No pay for milk!”
            “Lavar Hicks!” Melania gasped. “Lavar Hicks has the WIND card!”
            “What will we do?” Dorothy said. “This coming Saturday night is Halloween and also the full moon!” She started to sob. “We have to bring Bolger back to life!”
Melania noticed the two extremely-rare coins in the box with the Tarot were still there. She picked one up. They depicted the goddess Roma on one side and on the other the mythical twins Castor and Pollux, but now instead of being made of rusted iron, they glistened with pure gold. Melania jerked and the coin slipped from her fingers bouncing off the table … making a jagged crack in the glass.
            “What’s wrong?” Dorothy gasped.
            “These coins were placed over the dead eyes of Jesus of Nazareth … and others,” she said.
Melania had spent hours in Joseph’s library learning all she could about the one-of-a-legion thing supposedly safely locked inside the chest in the attic. “It’s alive,” she whispered her voice shaking. “Demilune is alive!”

-------3-------

            Lavar Hicks struggled to stand as the Chinaman kicked him several times. His right arm was throbbing where jagged bones protruded from his sleeve. “What do you want?” Hicks moaned.
The Chinaman was looking toward the barn. “You’ve got something very dangerous trapped in there don’t you?”
            “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hicks groaned.
            “Don’t lie unless you can do it well!” The Chinaman raked his fingers across Lavar’s face, bloodying his nose.
            “I didn’t make it!” Lavar screamed. “It was that witch woman! I trapped it in the woods and brought it here.”
            “But you can make more …” The Chinaman was staring at Hick’s coat pocket as if he could see the card inside. “You know how to create an army!”
Hicks reached inside his coat and pulled out the WIND card. It felt even colder than before. He held it toward the Chinaman. “Here! It’s yours! Just leave me alone!”
The Chinaman took two steps backward as if burned by frost. “Put that away,” he glared. “I’ll tell you when to use it!”
Hicks slowly put the card back in his pocket.
The Chinaman grabbed a handful of loose skin at the bottom of Hick’s neck and pinched hard dragging him toward the barn. “You don’t always feed what lives on your farm do you?”
            “I do my best,” Hicks moaned. “Sometimes the feed prices are too high!”
The Chinaman noticed a trash can overflowing with empty whiskey bottles as they walked past the house and smiled. “If the price of live chickens gets too high, we might have to find another source of meat for our … precious soldat!” He pinched Lavar’s neck harder and Hicks screamed.
“Go bring some squawkers,” he demanded, shoving Lavar toward the chicken house, “big fat ones! I want to see our first-of-legions … eat!”
Lavar staggered toward the coop … the pain in his broken arm dulled by fear.

-------4-------

            Melania considered driving out to the run-down Hicks farm and trying to retrieve the stolen Tarot Card but it was too risky. Not only was Lavar Hicks a violent sociopath without shame or regret but now there was a dangerous demon loose in Comanche County. And the monster could be lurking anywhere. The full-moon on Halloween was quickly approaching and she didn’t need the WIND card to bring Bolger back to life.
                Dorothy put all her energies into stuffing straw into old bib-overalls and sewing bits of colored cloth for eyes, nose and mouth onto empty flour sacks. Melania decided they needed thirteen partners for a Danza degli spaventapasseri and invited twelve of Cloverdale’s most prominent matrons to attend along with Dorothy. The women were thrilled. They seldom got to do anything without their husbands and a Halloween Dance of the Scarecrows with live Big Band music and Melania’s special brewed-cider sounded like the year’s most anticipated social event. A few of the special engraved invitations were put on secret auction and sold for more than one-hundred dollars … a fortune in depression-era America.
            “The dance sounds like fun,” Dorothy moaned. It was Wednesday night. “But I don’t understand how Bolger is going to come back to life in just three days!” Tang was hanging in a coat closet and they could hear him crying and speaking to ghosts in Chinese.
            “I’m sorry, Tang, but your condition will have to wait.”
Melania was threading dormant rose vines through a special copper, gold and iron garden trellis that she’d paid several local craftsmen to create. She was careful not to prick her finger on the dry thorns as she worked in the mansion’s parlor. “I’ll move the punch-bowl from under this trellis just before midnight,” she said. “And you will dance through with Bolger! Slip outside into the garden and no one will notice under the moonlight that your scarecrow has really come to life.”
            “I don’t understand how this magic works,” Dorothy said. “Don’t you have to read from a Tarot card or scatter Bolger’s ashes on special water?”
            “The magic to make things come to life is in the special design of the metal arch and in the rays of direct moonlight,” Melania said stepping back to look at her unfinished creation. She walked to a window and spread wide the curtains. The moon in the darkened sky above the trees shone inside and was in the last stages of Waxing Gibbous. Dorothy gasped as tiny white flower buds suddenly came to life on the thorny vines covering the trellis … and began to grow.
            “To bring an almost-human to life requires more exacting conditions,” Melania said. “And if you want your Bolger … you’ll need a tiny bit of his blood.”
            “But how?” Dorothy gasped. “He was blown to bits by that bomb!”
Melania turned just as Brian came into the house with another armload of rose vines. “There are ways,” she answered.

-------5-------

            The Chinaman kept Lavar Hicks and two of his friends working around the clock without sleep. They were exhausted but too terrified to complain. Butch Fowler and Lemont Pool stole a large industrial sewing machine from Callahan’s textile mill and Lemont was busy sewing dirty canvas dams into ragged pants and shirts. “Larger!” the Chinaman shouted. “They must be larger!”
Lavar looked at the scarecrow he’d already began to stuff with moly straw and bits of thorn-filled hay. When finished the thing would be over eight feet tall. “How much bigger?” he moaned.
            “Big enough to look into an attic peek-hole,” the Chinaman hissed. “I don’t want anyone hiding under their bed or in some crate … when we go searching.
Butch Fowler was backing-up Lemont’s truck filled with more stolen dams. “How much more canvas we going to need?” he yelled from the open window.
            “Enough to bring to life two-hundred,” the Chinaman hissed. “Half of them will be without blood-craving … and will be destroyed by fire. “He dragged Butch from the truck and shoved him toward a stack of empty gas-cans. “Make sure you fill them all … before you bring back the next load.”
The Chinaman stared at the nearly-round orb moving slowly across the night-sky as the three terrified men worked furiously around him. The coming of the full moon on Halloween night promised murder, mayhem, blood and bedlam. The demon Demilune threw back his head and screamed … with unhindered joy.

TO BE CONTINUED …

           

Sunday, September 30, 2018

THE WIND part 8

Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.

       

By R. Peterson


The milk-truck chugged to a stop in front of the mansion on the corner of Main and Galbraith Streets. It was a little after seven AM and still dim on the tree-lined streets of Cloverdale. The garage door had been left open and Joseph Callahan’s 1934 Buick Victoria was gone; they were at church. “It’ll be best if you go in alone,” Lavar Hicks looked in all four directions as he spoke from the passenger seat. He grinned at Tommy Lee and dangled the length of braided hair that he had cut from the Chinaman’s head from his hand. “What you’re looking for, looks like an old carved recipe-box, so it’s probably somewhere in the kitchen. Inside the box you’ll find a bunch of very old Tarot cards with pictures on one side. Bring me the card with the picture of the tornado and the words THE WIND printed on the front … leave the rest. Put everything else back just the way it was. Maybe that witch won’t even notice the card is missing.”
“I do as you tell. You give back queue … and no more ask for steal?” Tommy Lee hung his head–too ashamed to look up when he spoke.
“Sure I will,” Hicks laughed. “I may be a lot of things … but I ain’t no welcher!”
Tommy Lee opened his door slowly. Hicks handed him the wire basket that held a gallon of milk, two jars of crème and a pound of wrapped butter. “Don’t forget their order! And remember no funny business. You try to call the cops or anyone else and this hair rope goes up in flames.” Hicks flicked open a butane lighter enjoying the stricken look on Lee’s face as he dangled the hair piece over the flame … and then lit a cigar instead. “Now get in there and bring me back that card … we ain’t got all day!”
With his head still downcast, Tommy Lee carried the crème and butter toward the house.

-------2-------

            The Reverend John White smiled as he looked over the congregation. Almost every seat in the pews was filled. Some were standing at the back … unusual for an early morning service. Numerous people were turning to gape toward the back row where Melania Descombey sat with the strange Momett woman.
Melania thought the whispers and rustle of hymn books opening sounded like leaves falling from trees. The seasons were changing. Mrs. Dern played the piano while everyone sang the opening song Bringing in the Sheaves. Dorothy’s voice was not loud but Melania noticed she had perfect pitch.
John White tried to appear non-judgmental as he sorted through his sermon papers but it was hard when a person of another religion visited his church wearing a cloth bag over her head … the woman sitting beside Melania looked like a scarecrow! “Good morning,” he spoke as he walked to the podium adjusting his glasses. “Today I would like to talk to you about keeping parts of ourselves hidden.” The Reverend stared directly at Melania and Dorothy before he went on. “Jesus said Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven …”

-------3-------

                Tommy Lee opened the side door to Joseph Callahan’s with his key the same way he had dozens of times before. Why did this time feel like he was a thief? Probably because if he took something that didn’t belong to him … then he was.  The woman who lived here now trusted him the same way the man had before her. Tommy’s own honor no longer mattered to him. He had given his word to a bad man and was thus shamed by his actions.  All he could do now was restore the respect for his ancestors by retrieving and wearing his sacred queue. Tommy decided to take the dairy products to the basement first and then look for the special card upstairs.
            The underground part of the mansion was vast, with almost as many dim chambers as the lighted upper levels. Floor to ceiling shelves held carefully labeled containers filled with rare and often poisonous herbs, fungi, exotic extracts, spiders and other even darker things. Wooden casks held liquids in various stages of aging and fermentation. The strange mixture of uncontainable vapors and seeping mists were almost always fragrant. Today he was drowning. It was best to do your business and get out quickly … today the getting out was very slow.
He was hiking a narrow and dangerous path through the clouds atop Qomolangma although he’d only been to the famous Mount Everest in his dreams. A Panda bear peeked between two crates of Mangosteen as he splashed through a rice paddy. A smiling Xiu was busy scrubbing clothes by a river but when he looked again his mother was gone … only the barrel of hot water and the steam remained along with her whispered words. “A crisis is opportunity … riding a dangerous wind!” Both his parents had been dead for over thirty years.
            Tommy placed the milk cream and butter on a shelf in the ice room. The temperature felt like January just before dawn as he closed the heavy metal door behind him. A female lion lay at the foot of the stairs he must climb to reach the kitchen licking her lips. Tommy stepped over the creature without fear … he was already dead … an empty shell looking to save the face of his ancestors.
His head cleared slightly when he closed the basement door behind him. The kitchen was clean and in good order. The first rays of morning light were seeping between half-open yellow curtains. A Felix the Cat Clock mounted on the wall kept musical time with its eyes and tail as he staggered past a round glass table and his shadow danced to the silent music. The bad man Hicks had told him to look for a small wooden box with Ombré carved on the front. Tommy didn’t see anything on the shelf above the sink and was turning to leave with what felt like welcome relief when a cabinet door behind him slowly creaked open. A box of Arm &Hammer baking soda and a bag of Redpath sugar moved to the side seemingly by their own power and the carved box appeared glowing like a dark flame behind them.
Tommy placed the box on the table and taking a deep breath prepared to open it. His mother’s hand suddenly was on his. She was sitting in a chair across from him so close he could see a tiny bit of tea leaf stuck to her teeth. “Run good husband third child! Fast !” she screamed. Tommy turned and bolted toward the door but his next breath found him climbing a staircase instead. He willed himself to stop but his legs no longer obeyed him. At the end of a long hall he found another stair … this time narrow and dusty leading to the attic. The sound of his mother’s voice came to him again … this time from above. “There is no air in this box. Ajudi'm fill meu!  The attic was filled with boxes crates and other things but Tommy was drawn like a magnet to the back. Dust rose from a large banded chest as something inside bumped the sides this time with force. “Ajudi'm fill meu!”  Something was wrong. He was never her son always good husband third son. Whatever was locked in the box … was not his mother.
The iron clasp was closed with a large heavy lock. Tommy didn’t have to look for the key. It was there nestled between stacks of maroon velvet curtains when his head was twisted violently in that direction. He was scared … more scared than the night wolves had killed and eaten his parents in the mountains of Idaho. Tommy was no longer controlling what he did. Time stopped … and after an endless age started again. His mother’s voice came again … this time her own words … riding the wind … as he placed the key in the lock. “Labors without honor are at first annoying cobwebs … later they become chains.”

-------4-------

Melania was fascinated by Reverend White’s sermon. Most of the people inside the church professed a strong and unyielding believe in God … yet none of them believed in the powers of the mystic. Not a few in the congregation spent hours studying ancient texts but none tried to actually bring that special kind of magic to light. The words of Jesus were not unlike the directions on the back of her late mother’s Ombré cards. Each gave specific instructions to achieve the desired results. The man had been raving for more than an hour. When she closed her eyes it was easy to hear her mother’s voice replacing those of God’s self-proclaimed servant on Earth and giving Melania her own Sunday morning sermons.
“Belief, is the most powerful part of the universe. If your God is real … then this is where he dwells. Truth is the highway to belief. A lie or a bump in the road may knock you off your purpose for a bit … but the direction remains the same. We are all travelers in a made-up reality. To say you have no time … is to laugh in the face of eternity. What will be will be … even if it takes a million times forever. You did every wrong and every right … why blame others when we are one? Learn to see things with your hands … and your eyes will find them! Thoughts are like arrows … flying but never reaching targets. Wanting and wishing are candles lit only by imagination or luck. Work is joy … given a bad name. Every force has an opposite pulling in perfect balance … choose your side. Those who don’t knock wonder why the door did not open. Silence will wake you faster … than any clap of thunder …”
When Melania opened her eyes the room was quiet. Dorothy looked on the verge of panic. Most of the congregation was turned … staring. Reverend White cleared his throat as he shuffled his pages humbly averting his eyes. “Perhaps if some in the flock feel the pull of sleep interspersing and herding my words … I should try to bleat a little louder …”

-------5-------

Lavar Hicks grew tired of waiting; three cars and a truck had already driven past him. He looked up and down both streets before he banged into the kitchen. “Never trust a chink!” The carved recipe box lay on a glass table … unopened. Hicks grabbed it and dumped out the contents. The Tarot cards were very old; several corner pieces broke away while he ruffled through the pile. Several rusty coins rolled off the glass. “Not even worth copper!” He picked them up and dropped them back in the box. THE WIND lay at the very bottom of the cards as if hiding. “I’ll have what I want when I want it!” Hicks jammed the special card in his coat pocket and then crammed the rest back in the box. He was walking toward the door when Tommy Lee came bounding down the stairs. Lavar didn’t like it. The chink looked too happy. “What the hell have you been doing?” Lavar sounded like an angry bear woke too early from a winter’s long hibernation.
“Making plans.” Tommy Lee’s smile made Lavar trip on one of his own boots. It was too confident … menacing. “Making such marvelous plans!”
As the milk truck pulled away from the mansion Hicks was beginning to think that things would be a lot better when he was far away from the Chinaman. The truck was doing over ninety when they flew across the Townsend Street Bridge. Hicks took the braided length of hair from his coat pocket and offered it without being asked. He had planned to tease the chink for at least an hour and enjoy the begging. Now something had him scared. “Here, the deal is done,” he stammered.
Lavar gasped when the chink unrolled his window and tossed out the sacred rope. “The deal is done when I say!” Tommy Lee’s smile belonged on a crocodile and Lavar was in a swamp up to his neck. Jagged teeth gleamed from a too-wide mouth. All Hicks could do was nod his head … and the murky water was rising.

-------6-------

Brian put on slippers when he heard the milk truck drive away. He walked from his basement bedroom to the ice-room. His head still felt hot to the touch. Melania said it was a special fever – Momett growing pains - straw turning into living flesh. A cold glass of fresh milk would taste good with his cereal. He saw the Ombré on the table and wondered why it had been left out. He took a bowl from the cabinet and put the recipe box back where it belonged. He was pouring milk on his Wheaties when he heard a thumping noise coming from the attic.
It was annoying hearing the sound over and over. Must be the wind moving something … but in the attic? The entire house was strange stacked on strange including him. He left a tiny trail of straw dust as he climbed the two flights of stairs.
A puppet with strings attached to head, arms and legs swung from the rafters. Wooden eyes painted red followed Brian as he crossed the room. “Where did you come from?” Brian gasped. A hinged mouth opened and then closed slowly at first and then quicker as if speaking for the first time. The oriental accent sounded familiar. “No give back queue … that dimoni take hair … take milk truck!”

TO BE CONTINUEED …

           



Sunday, September 23, 2018

THE WIND part 7

Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



     
By R. Peterson



          Melania opened her eyes. The hands on the Haller German alarm clock next to her bed showed four-nineteen AM. She held her breath and listened … a minute later, the noise sounded again … a pounding … like impatient knocking on a door … coming from the attic?
Melania dressed quickly, throwing on a calico robe and slippers. She was careful to close her bedroom door gently so as not to wake Dorothy and Brian sleeping in the next room. She was almost to the top of the stairs when the sound came again … this time a scratching noise accompanied more thumping.
            The large dimly lit attic, filled with decades of boxes, crates and old furniture was in need of a good cleaning. Dust bunnies grew wings and took flight as she crossed the room. A fine layer of dust that her late mother called Sift floated in the air and under the single sputtering incandescent bulb the room appeared as if it was swathed in a London fog.
            She saw the large banded-trunk with the lock on it jerk just as the banging came again. Something was inside wanted out! Someone or something was speaking to her, a harsh, rusty-can voice coming from the bottom of a deep well … that only sounded inside her head.
“… release me and I promise that you will die … in the quick! Leave me here and I won’t forgive! There just under those rotted piles of tenda …”
Melania turned as if invisible fingers were twisting her head. A tiny, gold key gleamed just under the edge of folded and faded curtains. It called to her with an irresistible and animal-like visual temptation. She reached for the precious metal shrouded with maroon velvet … her mind no longer controlling her own hand. Her dead mother Jesska’s shrill voice echoed repeated warnings from somewhere far off in the great beyond. “No! My precious daughter! It is not gold you desire but a snake. You will not be the one to open what must forever remain closed!”
Melania closed her eyes and shook her head violently as if trying to dislodge some vile spider clinging to the walls of her mind. She finally felt it dislodge with a flood of her own tears … tearing folded brain matter and memories. With force of will Melania closed her fingers … before she could lift the key.
You bitchhhhhhh! the thing hissed like a snake. “I’ll get out without youuuuuu … and when I dooooo …”
Melania turned and fled down the stairs, slamming and locking the attic door behind her. The Tri-Punto that she Dorothy and Brian had created was already working the dark half of its magic. Her mother, Jesska, had warned her numerous times that even the tiniest bits of enchantment must be undertaken with great caution. “If not me … then who will open it Mother?” she whispered as she reached the bottom of the stairs … there was no answer.
            Melania set a pot to boil for tea on the stove and after piling split kindling onto hot coals in the fire-box crept into the library. Joseph Callahan had an extensive collection of diaries that he kept faithfully for many years. She took down a half-dozen leather-bound volumes and stacked them on a table next to an oil lamp. The banded-chest in the attic looked as if it hadn’t been moved in at least a decade. Somewhere inside Joseph’s writings there should be an account as to what was inside the mysterious locked trunk. The banging/scratching noise in the attic sounded again … this time there was also what sounded like hushed laughter.
            Melania opened a dusty volume labeled 1920 and began to read …
January 1, 1920
Woke this morning with a bit of the old lingering celebration sickness. My poor head! I’m afraid I imbibed of too much of the night’s assorted pleasures. If I only could have had my beloved Melania at my side! What a repulsive fool I was … and probably still am! The coming year, in fact the entire decade ahead, looks to be one of remarkable and continuing prosperity! And not just for Callahan Industries, but for the national economy as a whole. If only …

-------2-------



                Tang Lei struggled because the laughing men expected it. He knew he couldn’t win … but not because he was too old. It was because he had learned early that beating a white man at anything brought bad luck and revenge. His parents were immigrant railroad laborers and he was born in Utah Territory on May 6th. 1869 four days before the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads joined tracks at Promontory Summit. But Tommy Lee would always be a Chinaman with an English name … never an American. Butch Fowler pinned him to the floor of the upstairs bedroom while Lemont Pool stripped off his clothes then they tossed him onto the bed with the naked woman. “Hang on to him, Gladys!” Hicks yelled as Tommy tried to crawl off the bed and Butch took pictures with a bulky Graflex press camera.
Three flash-bulbs going off in ten seconds temporarily blinded Tommy.
            “Do you know what the sheriff does to Orientals that get caught raping white women?” Hicks asked before he took another drink from his bottle.
            “They don’t bother with no trial …. they hangs ‘em from the closest tree!” Lemont Pool stuck a thick finger in the Chinaman’s face as he answered Hicks’ question.
            “Twenty-three dollar … maybe I sell horse twenty-five,” Tommy was blinking his eyes as Gladys latched onto his ponytail and jerked him back onto the bed. He thought these men were after his money. “Grain price very low … nobody buy!”
“We don’t want your worthless chink money … although this young lady you’re fooling around with might.” Fowler laughed and tried to push them together.
            “We want to ride along with you on your Sunday morning milk deliveries and have you help retrieve something that belongs to us from that big house on the corner of Main and Galbraith Streets,” Hicks said.
            “You got a key to that Descombey woman’s digs don’t ya?” The camera flash went off again and Tommy looked like a child lost in the woods at night. He didn’t understand.
Suddenly Tommy knew what these bad men wanted. Every Sunday morning at seven he opened the back door to the Joseph Callahan mansion with a key and delivered milk and other dairy items to the basement ice room while the owners were at church. Things hadn’t changed since the witch woman had been living there. If anything the deliveries were more frequent. These Gwailou were not planned to rob him … they wanted him to steal from others! “No thief!” he shook his head. “Tommy Lee hang dead from tree … Tommy Lee no thief!” he told them.
            Hicks had half expected this kind of answer. He opened a drawer and pulled out a large knife with a ten-inch blade. The naked Chinaman didn’t flinch but stared at him with calm and determined eyes … death before dishonor. “Roll him on his belly and hold him,” Hicks ordered.
Tommy felt the rough man yank at his braided hair and then gasped as the man cut off his ponytail.
“You’ll get this chink hair-rope back after you do what you’re told,” Hicks said.
Tang Lei knew he must retrieve his sacred queue and somehow re-attach it no matter the consequences. The words of Confucius had been written into Chinese souls for generations. There was a thousand years of respect and obedience bound in that two foot length of braided hair. To lose it was to bring dishonor to all your ancestors. We are given our body, skin and hair from our parents; which we ought not to damage. This idea is the quintessence of filial duty.
            “You say I do!” Tommy hung his head. “You say … Tommy Lee do.”
            “Now that’s more like it!” Hicks opened another bottle of whiskey. “Gladys! Give this yellow chink dog his reward!”

-------3-------

An hour after she started reading Melania found what she was looking for. The hands showing four-nineteen on the clock when she had been awakened by the scratching, thumping sounds kept flashing in her mind like a lighthouse keeper’s beam during a particularly vicious storm. There was danger in the winds tonight and she was being guided to safety.
April 19, 1920
Winter lingers long past the beginning of spring in Cloverdale and most all of Western Montana. The temperature has not risen above freezing for more than seventy-two days. Ice on the roads can be as deadly as a gunshot … more so when a family is involved.
I was determined to stay at home next to a warm fire but was called away just before dark by problems at the factory that could not easily be put aside. A sedan going too fast crashed through the guard rail of the Townsend Street Bridge and sunk beneath the broken ice just before I stopped. Emma Brady and her three youngsters were trapped inside. Johnny Lang, the illegitimate son of legendary sheriff Thomas Lang and Elisabeth Walker, and a young man whom I liked very much, was the first to arrive on the horrible scene. Johnny dove repeatedly into the freezing water and pulled out the mother and all three children. The crowd gathered on the bridge all yelled for him to stop when he pulled out the last crash victim but Johnny took a deep breath and dove under the water one last time. He never resurfaced!
It was more than two hours later when a wrecking truck with a winch was able to pull the sedan out of the frozen river. Johnny Lang’s body was found wedged against the rear window frame next to some kind of stringed puppet. Obviously, Johnny had mistaken it in the underwater darkness for another trapped child.
The shock of losing a dear friend was enlarged beyond measure by the bizarre and ethereal circumstances surrounding the horrible accident. Emma Brady and all of her children swore they had never seen what I later learned was a very, very old marionette before. The wooden effigy lay in the snow. Its painted eyes seemed to move each time you looked away. Several times I thought I saw a flash of teeth although the head appeared to be solid wood … so that must have been impossible?
I felt great relief when Ted Burrap, who owns the local second-hand store, picked the wooden stage-monster out of the snow and drove away with the abomination in the back of his truck.
Some days are longer than others. Some nights go on forever. I’m hoping this night will not be that kind.

Melania read more than sixty pages of journal entries before the strange marionette was mentioned again.

July 18, 1920
The puppet from hell still hangs in the dusty front window of Ted’s Disount even though Ted Burrap had been dead for more than two weeks. So many deaths and tragedies in this town as of late … it’s unnatural! The wooden creature vexes me so that I’ve taken to driving a different route when I have to be about on business or errands. One late night I swore I saw the creature walking about inside the darkened store with some unseen power moving its ghastly strings. Something has been not right in this town ever since that frozen sedan with its commendable but dead hero inside was pulled from the Cottonmouth River. I’ve made up my mind to consult with the gypsy woman Jesska Descombey. Her son is the local doctor and she is reputed to be a vast storehouse of things spiritual and sub-natural. I’ve never met her lovely ravishing daughter Melanie? I believe. But at even a quick glance the daughter’s striking beauty steals away your breath and makes you want to jump about and perform dangerous Barnum Brothers Circus stunts like some love-crushed ninth-grade school lad. God help me! The villain, Cupid, hasn’t just stung me with a single arrow but has turned me into a virtual pin cushion of lust and desire.

Joseph Callahan appeared to be almost on the verge of a nervous breakdown by the time Melania read this entry about the puppet.

October 30, 1920
Having bought the Ted’s Discount store from Ted Burrap’s widow along with all its contents. I have secured the marionette which Madame Jesska Descombey calls “Demilune” inside a special black-oak seaman’s chest bound with stout iron bands and a special vocal prayer? Enchantment? read aloud in Latin by a former? Fallen? Catholic priest over the lock mechanism … per the old woman’s exacting instructions.
It appears to be working. I wear the silver key on a chain around my neck and hardly ever venture into the dusty attic where it … rests? is stored.  I do hope by year’s end to actually sleep through the night. When I close my eyes, I dream of the gypsy woman’s beautiful daughter. I had it wrong. Her name is “Melania”. What a lovely sound!

Melania closed the journal and went into the kitchen for another cup of tea … a little more cream this time. The wind outside had ceased and the house seemed strangely quiet. It was a little after five AM. Church services began at seven AM sharp. It had taken great patience to convince the Momett to accompany her to Sunday services. Even with their strange attire Melania wanted Dorothy and Brian to be accepted by the community. So far it seemed to be working.
What was in the chest in the attic was a problem and definitely a danger. Joseph Callahan had an extensive collection of books on the occult and there were her own mother’s volumes that she had saved from the fire. I’ll find out everything I can about this Demilune Melania told herself as she climbed the stairs until then I think I can possibly steal an hours-worth of sleep before I must rise.

-------4-------

Four minutes and nineteen seconds after Melania Descombey slipped into the first stages of sleep, a tiny breath rustled a handful of leaves in a single tree outside. It was minutes before the wind came again … this time stronger. Almost every leaf on the tree moved … vibrating to a magnetic calling of unknown origin. Something dark and sinister was coming …. before the dawn. A shadow seen only under moonlight - dissolved and diffused by starlight - lingered just beyond the streetlamp’s ruddy glow. An age old reflection of evil that never dies because it has long been dead danced across the withered lawn. The wind gasped as if it had been holding its breath … and trees began to tremble.
And somewhere miles away a milk truck started and began its rounds.


TO BE CONTINUED …