Copyright (c) 2015 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
A swirling mass of bluish hair, claws and vapors yanked Herbert O’Malley into a non-sleeping nightmare. Madeline’s screams, and his incapacitating fear, were the only two human things in the room. The hideous beast seized him by the neck with razor claws and pulled him toward the balcony. “I want you to see,” the demon hissed. “I want you to watch as I ravage your daughter!” A foul, fetid tongue thrashed from the creature’s spiny mouth as a rank slime joined the warm blood streaming from Herbert’s neck and face. Herbert sagged with disgust and self-loathing. George Weatherbee had said the demon sought the weakest person in the community. Herbert had built an automotive empire worth many billions but he had not yet learned to heed the apocalyptic warnings of those of great faith. “I’m sorry,” Herbert cried as the fleshy-tailed monster hurtled the oak beam he’d used to bar the door through a wall and then dragged him over the balcony railing. “I’m so sorry Madeline … I love you.”
Herbert plopped onto the frozen ground like a lump of clay. Clouds raced across the sky in fear. Lingering snowflakes became black ash as they fell around burning flesh and bones piled in the street. Margene struggled, lashed to a pole in the center of the grisly human remains. A white cotton dress fluttered around her timorous legs like a rotted shroud, torn and ravaged by scorching winds from Hell. “Help me daddy!” she screamed.
The monster flounced toward the inferno. Herbert was without tendon or muscle and could only stare in horror. The naked beast climbed the body-mound of its conquests. “I’ll burn you first from the inside before the flames can scorch your delicate virtue,” the demon taunted Margene as it approached. A dripping bovine penis flailed the air like a whip as the creature strutted and danced.
Madeline stood transfixed beside Herbert. The streets swarmed with approaching citizens. Herbert thought there was a good chance they would slay the creature or drive it away, before the flames reached Margene.
But instead, the people of New River sat around the inferno, held hands and prayed. Herbert’s cries of despair and the shrieks of his daughter were not enough to drown-out three-hundred voices reciting the Twenty-Third Psalm of the Bible. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. The beast was at the top of the corpse pile. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. It tore Margene’s dress away from her legs and chest. He leadeth me beside the still waters. Herbert yelled at the top of his lungs for the people to do something … to save his daughter, who screamed her agony and terror. He restoreth my soul. Herbert watched as Madeline knelt on the ground and joined her hands with the others. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. “No! For God’s sake Madeline! That’s our daughter being burned!” Herbert bawled.
Madeline looked at her husband. The fear she’d displayed a moment before, now replaced by timeless love. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Her eyes sought the love and understanding from him they had nurtured together for a quarter century. For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. “Remember the Amish who lost their children,” she whispered. “Evil can only exist when it sends out and receives hate. Love and forgiveness is the only power that can defeat the darkness. Please!” she pleaded. “Please listen … and believe!”
The beast mounted his naked daughter, penetrated her and was gestating against her struggling form. Herbert closed his eyes and tried to listen to the praying voices and not his daughter’s screams. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. He forced himself to think of love. Margene, with dark circles under her eyes, watching from a garden swing as he left for a meeting with European car dealers. Her laughter, as she chased George around the mansion exterior in a snowball fight. Madeline’s first attempt at a chocolate cake for his twenty-first birthday, sloppy and leaning to one side with the name hapy misspelled in white frosting. The love in his wife’s eyes when he forced her release from the mental hospital after Margene’s supposed death. He’d told her that if she were crazy … then he was too. Herbert joined in the prayer …thou anointest my head with oil…
The shriek of the demon was like a hammer breaking glass. Herbert opened his eyes. The monster marched toward him immersed in flames. “I planted a thousand seeds inside that bitch you call a daughter and when the legion of babies come, I’ll slice and eat them like pork!” Herbert closed his eyes and continued the prayer. My cup runneth over. The demon waved its fleshy tail in the air as rotting fumes billowed from its quaking anus like an awakening volcano. “You despairing, simian, Jack-o-blast! There is no God of Mercy! No prayer from these deserted, too-weak-to-fight monkeys will save your wretched skin!”
The monster advanced; new purpose burned in its eyes. “Perhaps you don’t love your daughter as much as you do your pregnant wife?” Herbert opened his eyes. “I’ll spin her and your son on my crotch-shaft like roasting turkeys …” The demon spit gobs of laughter. Herbert gained enough strength from fury to crawl. The monster’s fingers twitched as it reached toward his wife. Madeline sat smiling with her eyes closed. Herbert guided his thoughts away from hate and found renewed confidence from faith. If he had to die, if his world had to end, this is how he wanted to leave it … with a prayer. He closed his eyes and held hands with the others. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
A horrible, high-pitched howl caused the citizens of New River to pause mid-chant. Herbert opened his eyes. The thrashing monster rose upward into a vortex of fiery blood, ash and bone. A hundred feet in the air, the demon exploded, dissipating into a blackened sky and giving birth to glowing embers that became new stars. Foul cursing faded as an easterly wind swept away the mountain of flesh and bones, leaving behind a robust odor of cigar-tobacco and sulfur. A magnificent flock of snowbound crows, or perhaps a murder of ravens, followed across the blue-night sky … questioning the retreating darkness and causing the last leaves to fall from ice-covered branches. Herbert knew the eternal powers of Heaven that most men never learn in a thousand lifetimes. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Herbert looked to his left. Margene stood next to Madeline as George put a loving arm around her shoulder. She was pure and unblemished in form … untouched by any evil … and smiling. People were rising to their feet everywhere. The clouds returned. “You are now an official resident of our humble town,” George’s dad boomed as he slapped Herbert on the back. “Welcome to New River!”
Snow once again began to fall from an overcast sky. A respectful silence covered the town like a blanket as the citizens returned to their homes. Madeline held Herbert’s hand as they wished George and Margene goodnight and then climbed the stairs of the unfinished house. “How did you know that love would defeat the monster?” Herbert asked as he closed the bedroom door. “I spent the afternoon with Margene,” Madeline laughed. “We don’t spend all of our time shopping … we also talked!”
“She likes being here doesn’t she?” Herbert gazed out the window at Christmas lights.
“Why shouldn’t she,” Madeline said. “This place is Heaven.”
“People in New River are sure different than any other people on Earth,” Herbert mused. “Why is that?”
Madeline smiled as she re-started the DVD player and White Christmas resumed playing. It was starting to snow in Pine Tree Vermont. “You don’t listen,” she grinned. “I think we both know the answer to that.”
“I always wanted to live the rest of my life with you,” Herbert surrendered as he took his loving wife in his arms. “Now I want it to continue … even after.”
Herbert kissed Madeline as the final music from the movie began to play.
Herbert woke to the smell of sizzling bacon, eggs, pancakes and coffee. Madeline was just setting a breakfast tray on the bed. “I’ve been up for hours,” she teased, “while you’ve snored like a bear.”
“I’ve never slept this soundly in my life,” Herbert said stretching. He felt wonderful. “What time is it?”
“Almost nine,” Madeline told him. “George and Margene will be here in a half hour with a sleigh. You have just enough time to eat and then shower. We still have to cut a Christmas tree, drag it back here and decorate it”
“If I eat really fast,” Herbert said gobbling his food like a wolf. “We might have time for more than that.” Madeline laughed as he pulled her onto the bed.
Herbert had to rush to button his shirt over his still damp skin and pull on a sweater as Margene and George arrived. Neighbors were already shoveling almost six inches of fresh powder that had fallen the night before from their walkways. Rosy faces and smiles glistened everywhere. They called joyous greetings as Herbert and Madeline climbed into the sleigh with their daughter and her fiancé. Clomping hooves made bells jingle as the runners glided over the snow.
“We’ve decided to be married tonight,” Margene told her stunned parents. “The house will be finished by the time we return and you can be our first guests.”
“But what about the wedding arrangements?” a flustered Madeline gasped. “What about guests … a hall and decorations?”
“We’ll be married in that meadow …” Margene pointed to a clearing protected from deep snow by frost covered trees glistening next to a frozen pond. “On ice skates,” she laughed. “Who says a wedding can’t be fun?”
Madeline looked as the sleigh crossed a wooden bridge. The meadow was more beautiful than any chapel or reception hall she’d ever attended a wedding in. “Okay,” she said. “But I get to help pick out a dress and make a three layer cake.” She tried to make her face appear unyielding. “A wedding belongs to a mother as much as a bride.”
“What about guests?” Herbert wondered vaguely if the Dessault x7 could make any last minute flights. They were gliding along the river bank. A group of men were fishing through holes in the ice. Herbert recognized a coat just like the one his father used to wear.
“I’m afraid those coming to this connubial event are only those who are already here,” George said with a laugh. “We don’t want the ice on the pond to break.”
Madeline wore a white gown of shimmering satin with soft blue Chantilly lace sewn onto the neck and sleeves. George looked like a penguin struggling to get out of its skin. Herbert and Madeline were astounded when the guests began to arrive: Great Uncle John and his wife Margaret driving a meticulously clean coal-sledge that Herbert remembered as a boy before the mine collapse. Madeline’s mother Clare, who contracted a fatal type of Whooping Cough (Pertussis) when Madeline was just seventeen. Herbert best friend Victor Lemont, who was among the first allied forces to fall on the treacherous beaches of Normandy during World War Two.
Madeline and a group of village women released forty-seven tiny white pigeons that looked like doves, one for each year of the happy couples conjoined lives, from silver cages as George and Margene held hands and exchanged vows: “Do you, George Weatherbee, take me as your wife, to honor and cherish recurrently and forever, from morning unto evening and throughout every night under the stars, beyond all my fostered pain, tribulation and exaltation, onward and upward until the moon tumbles from the sky and the light of the sun is extinguished and the angels themselves lay down their exhausted trumpets and declare it to be the end of all time?”
“I vow to love you to this end … and thru to all that come next,” George announced. Margene placed a simple gold wedding ring on his finger with the word forever etched inside the band.
“Do you, Margene O’Malley, promise to love me with an insane, unfaltering passion even at those precarious times when no one in this world could be less deserving, to keep watch at my side as I stumble in the face of adversity and linger in hopeless doubt and ineptitude, through darkness, cold and famine until all the flowers are plucked from the Earth by rampaging beasts and the very air we breathe is bursting with salt-flies and hornets?”
Margene grinned, but for only an instant. “I was hoping for a brighter future,” she whispered. “But be my life with you twice that grim, I would still agree many times over!”
The crowd burst into laughter and applause as George slipped a matching ring on her finger and the newlyweds kissed.
The guests sang Silent Night as Mr. and Mrs. George Weatherbee climbed into a glass-ball pumpkin carriage on sleigh-runners and glided into the night as soft bells chimed in the distance.
The residents of New River gathered around the ancient town tree at first light on Christmas morning. George and Margene arrived late … looking flustered but very happy. Herbert looked on with satisfaction as the village residents retrieved their Secret Santa Gifts from under the tree. Madeline received a tiny gilded mirror she could keep in her purse to forever remind her of how beautiful she had become. Herbert received a pair of wood-cutting gloves that protected the fingers from blisters without overheating the hands. “Though these are of the finest quality I’ve ever seen,” he boasted, “I shall need a new pair in less than a month!”
Margene received a hand-carved baby crib with a tiny bell made from a melted silver tea-spoon that tinkled when the cradle was rocked. The crowd laughed when George opened his Secret Santa Gift: A pair of hand knitted ear muffs with ear-plugs sewn inside.
Herbert watched with great anticipation as Jack Freeman opened his present and held up a set of car-keys and a note. “Someone has repaired the heater on my Plymouth wagon!” he shouted, and instantly ran to the battered automobile parked on the other side of the crumbling bridge.
“With your connections I thought perhaps he would receive something a little newer,” Madeline whispered to her radiant, automobile empire husband.
“Jack seems very happy,” Herbert said. “Although I think he is too young to be here … I hope I made the right choice.”
Jack Freeman started the engine on the rusty Plymouth station wagon and turned on the heater before he noticed the manila envelope lying on the passenger seat. The interior of the old car was toasty warm before he was halfway through reading the short letter and the pages of legal information inside. He looked up as a Dessault Falcon 7X flew overhead toward the Haley airport. He took one last look at the quiet town nestled in the snow covered valley and then he put the car in gear.
Private investigator Harrison James, the man Herbert had hired to find New River Idaho, stood as a witness in the packed board room of O’Malley Motor Company for the reading of Herbert and Madeline O’Malley’s will. The couple had vanished while visiting Idaho the year before. A commotion ensued and a few distant relatives expressed outrage when a freckle-faced kid accompanied by a team of New York Lawyers entered the room. The estate executor silenced the throng and then read the Last Will and Testimony, which had been painstaking reviewed by three law firms and two Supreme Court Justices. “I, Herbert O’Malley being of sound mind and body leave my entire estate consisting of a home outside Detroit, a ranch in Colorado, various stocks and bonds and other holdings plus an automobile manufacturing empire worth in excess of sixty-five billion dollars to Jonathan (Jack) Freeman formerly of New River Idaho in the hopes that he will build a bright future for this amazing country and the world …”
The crowd burst into mayhem as Jack signed the required papers before leaving. “Let’s build some cars!” he told the dozens of automotive executives that surrounded him.
Harrison James placed the envelope containing his investigative report back inside his jacket pocket. He had a hunch that Jack Freeman already knew that the tiny town of New River did not exist, at least not on this Earthly plain. He suspected that Jack also knew the illusive Dessault Falcon, owned by Joseph P. Callahan of Cloverdale, Montana had purportedly crashed five years before in a blinding snowstorm over the rugged Idaho wilderness supposedly killing all aboard, although the wreckage or the victims had never been found.
Hundreds of sightings over the last half-decade of the infamous phantom airplane by commercial airliners and military aircraft with the name Kharon scrawled on the nose and the number NF7X-419 on its tail had elevated the expensive aircraft into a twenty-first century aeronautical legend rivaling the infamous Flying Dutchman ghost ship or the Mary Celeste of the nineteenth.
Harrison James believed that all the people assembled in the room, if they lived good and decent lives or if they didn’t, would eventually learn of New River first-hand perhaps by a ghostly night-flight during a blinding snow-storm … for better or worse … sooner or later.