Thank you for reading ... it is for you that I live and write. For more background on Demilune in the 16th. century and the horrors of Spanish occupation in the Netherlands read "Puppets" one of 14 stories in "CRAYON MONSTERS" https://www.amazon.com/Cloverdale-CRAYON-MONSTERS-Randall-Peterson/dp/1517660068/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Sunday, July 10, 2016
THE GARDEN part 4
Copyright (c) 2016 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 as if the outrageously deformed Elephant Man of nineteenth century England had been cloned a half dozen times and brought back to life as a squad of misshapen behemoths terrorizing the caverns far below Comanche County. Alison Weatherbee staggered backward, aghast in horror. J.J. did the same even though she had seen the same horrific visage once before - when she pulled the hood from the strange man who’d created her exquisite garden. “This can’t be possible,” Alison moaned staring at the sheriff’s badge the first creature was wearing. “John Walker couldn’t have been transformed into a monster so quickly.”
“You’re right about that!” A man stepped from the shadows behind them; a large pistol already in hand and began firing. “People say I have the devil in me, but damn! I’m not that ugly! Am I?”
Lemont Hicks screamed in furious rage from the elevator as the Sheriff pulled J.J. and Alison behind a pile of fallen rocks and continued to blast away.
“Where did you come from? And why is that hideous thing wearing your badge?” Alison pointed to the mass of oncoming flesh just as the men with Hicks pulverized the rock wall behind them with automatic rifle fire.
“I’ve been to Idaho trying to find out who is behind this beauty pageant,” the sheriff said. “I always take off my credentials when I go out of state and leave them on the seat next to me. Most folks feel uneasy talking to a cop. These handsome devils yanked me out of my car as soon as I pulled into great grandmother’s place.”
John Walker stood up and fired twice more. The creature in front wearing the silver-star, shrieked, splayed both arms in the air, and then flopped on the ground. “A badge doesn’t make a man any tougher … or a monster either!” The sheriff grinned as he reloaded his gun.
The armed men with Hicks blasted the rocks in front of and behind the sheriff, J.J. and Alison with heavy fire as their boss ran to a control panel in the lab area. Moments later, all twelve steel doors embedded along one chamber-wall opened. A locus-like swarm of hideous experiments from one failed test after another crawled, slithered and lurched from each opening. The sheriff looked shocked, but recovered quickly. “My God!” John Walker gasped. “These new contestants make the ones we’ve been shooting at look like last year’s winners!”
“How did you get down here?” J.J. asked as he began to fire again.
“I saw the swarm of bats and followed the tracks … and your screams,” the sheriff grinned. “Sounds like you had quite a ride.”
“That’s the last time you’ll never get me in a mining cart again,” J.J. said. “It was like a rollercoaster from hell designed by some maniac to fly off the tracks.”
“Never say never!” The sheriff stood up and blasted at the men with rifles as he pulled J.J. and Alison back into the shadows. “That rollercoaster is our only way out of here.”
“We can’t go up!” Alison squealed. “That thing is too slow when it climbs.”
“Then we have to go down!” The sheriff pushed the cart back on the tracks and then moved a switching lever Alison and J.J. hadn’t noticed before.
“I thought this cavern was the bottom,” Alison gasped as the sheriff helped her into the cart.
“There’s one thing I’ve learned as a sheriff for Comanche County,” John said as he lifted J.J into the metal car. He pushed the cart to get it rolling before he jumped inside. “There is no bottom in life or bad-luck … you can always go lower.”
The creaking cart began to descend, picking up speed as it swept around a dark corner just as Hicks and his army of hideous monsters swarmed onto the tracks behind them.
This second ride wasn’t like the first … it was worse. Arachnid-like threads of some non-sticky material dropped from the ceiling at regular intervals as the cart hurtled down the twisting tracks. J.J. gulped back a scream as the faintly glowing green fibers brushed against her skin. They felt cold and snake-like, but also hideously crawling with evil intent and purpose. “Whatever the hell is at the bottom of these tracks must be the brains behind Hicks’ army of deformed mutants,” Sheriff Walker cursed as he reloaded his gun.
Alison gasped. “These aren’t webs … they’re more like strings.” She yanked and pulled as they tried to attach themselves to her arms and legs. Suddenly her eyes opened wide. “We have to get out of this cart before it reaches the bottom,” she insisted.
The mining car was not slowing down, but picking up speed as it plunged through the creepy darkness. Branch tunnels spread outward in all directions. “Are you crazy?” the Sheriff braced himself as the car made a wide turn and then another; the cast iron wheels shrieked like burning witches. “We must be going close to thirty miles an hour!”
“I think I know what’s waiting for us at the bottom,” Alison said. Her mouth hung open in unbelief, like she’d just woke up from a bad dream only to find herself in a horrible nightmare.
“Demilune,” Alison said. “I think Demilune waits for us below.”
The sheriff was so startled he dropped his gun in the bottom of the cart, but didn’t immediately try to retrieve it.”
“It can’t be!” he insisted.
J.J. was aware of the sudden barbs of fear in the sheriff’s voice and it sent icy chills down her spine. “I was just a boy the last time …” His voice trailed away. J.J. swept her iPhone light in his direction. John Walker’s face shone as pale as a three-day dead man.
“How long has it been sheriff? How many changes of the moon?” Alison was already starting to climb from the car.
Sheriff John Walker stared into the darkness for a moment and then looked thunderstruck. “It was January of 1984,” he said. “This is March of 2016!” He buried his face in his hands, and forcefully dug nails into his skin. Tiny drops of blood appeared between his fingers. “Thirteen cycles per year for thirty-two years makes four-hundred sixteen … plus another three … four-hundred nineteen!” He stood up in the cart just as it plunged down a very steep incline, now tangling in even thicker threads. It was getting lighter inside the tunnel. “Now!” he screamed yanking J.J from her seat. All three leaped from the flying car at the same time. A second later the cart flew from the tracks and crashed.
J.J. was aware of tumbling endlessly in a mass of twisting arms and legs. The strange fibers were slowing them down … like the grasping ends of spider limbs. The sheriff yanked a knife from a utility pouch on his belt and slashed at the strings the instant they stopped.
“Who, or what the hell is Demilune?” J.J. gasped as Alison pulled her to her feet and they all began to run down a glowing passage.
“The most wicked and evil thing there ever was,” Alison said stopping for a moment trying to catch her breath as Sheriff Walker retrieved his gun from the wreckage. “Perhaps the devil himself clawing upward to the surface of Comanche County just a little over every thirty-two years or more exactly every four-hundred and nineteen moon cycles.”
`”What is it?” J.J. shrieked pulling strands of the foul green fibers from her hair.
“In 1578, Demilune was a carved and painted marionette with a long green nose and rosy cheeks,” Alison said. “He supposedly traveled with a group of players called the Cats in Red Hats that entertained small villages and towns all across Europe. A small village named Carnival in the Spanish held Netherlands was the first recorded place that the puppet came to life. The wagon the creature was riding in caught fire after a strange and eerie performance. All the entertainers were horribly burned and died in agony. For nine weeks afterward, Spanish Lord Abba and his sadistic Captain Negras or Black Death as he was fearfully called by the populace, executed hundreds of peasants especially children and infants, by lashing them to wheat sheaves and then setting the bundles afire … slowly roasting them alive. Above the screams and cries of the tortured victims, soft singing could be heard from a low hill overlooking the farm lands. It was Demilune, hanging by his strings from a dry and twisted tree. Invisible hands brought the creature to life as it sang the same vile song it had performed countless times all across Europe dancing as the children burned.”
“My great-grandfather was sheriff of this county when Demilune first appeared in Cloverdale,” John Walker said. “On a cold December night in 1920 a car plunged off the Cottonmouth Bridge at 4:19 AM breaking through the ice and trapping a family of four under the freezing water. My great step-uncle, a man named Johnny Lang, happened along in a truck shortly after the accident happened.”
J.J. gasped when she heard the name mentioned … she knew of the infamous accident.
“Johnny dove under the ice repeatedly,” the sheriff continued, “pulling each family member out of the freezing water. He pulled the father out last, and everyone yelled for him to stop, but he went down again. He never surfaced alive.”
The sheriff shook his head. “It’s a horrible story, but this is where it gets even weirder. When a wrecker pulled the car from the water the next morning, they found Johnny Lang tangled in marionette strings in the back window. Some said the puppet had a grip on his neck. In the dim underwater light Johnny obviously thought it was another child he was trying to save. This is where the story gets really creepy,” the sheriff said. “For years the dried-out marionette hung in the dusty window of an old second-hand store on the south end of Main Street. No-one wanted to buy the freakish thing. The horrible influenza epidemic of 1918 was just reaching Montana two years late … hundreds of people died … most of them children. Folks said the puppet’s eyes had to be made of glass, but they looked real. They followed you when you went past on the sidewalk and some reputable citizens claimed to see the thing dance and hear a strange voice laughing and singing, a demonic tune that made parents run for home.”
“What was the song they heard?” J.J. couldn’t help herself.
As if on cue, the sound of a massive stone door opening boomed from one end of a dark passage. A torrent of feverish laughter echoed through the tunnels. A caterwauling voice, like bloody intestines dropping into a copper pan, boomed louder than sanity allowed.
“They vow their kinds (children) … are quick to smile
Their biters (teeth) … makes an easy rattle. (laughter)
When led from crib … to butcher shop. (kidnapping)
I cuts them up … like cattle.” (murder)
“That’s the song,” the sheriff gasped.
The wooden and cloth creature that had been small and doll-like, perhaps even delightful centuries before, now loomed almost as large as a man hanging by strings inside an infernal doorway. J.J. and Alison both screamed. Sheriff Walker stood frozen, his tongue thickened and unable to make a sound. Flames roared behind the dancing behemoth inside a furnace-like chamber. Hundreds of lost and missing Children and infants, some that the sheriff recognized from milk cartons and desperate heartbroken billboards, mostly all under the age of five, hung vertically from the ceiling by their legs. Some were burnt beyond movement or recognition, but a few still twisted in eternal agony, blistered mouths opening in silent screams for mercy.
Demilune began to dance toward them, invisible hands pulling the strings that made his wooden feet clomp on the stone floor. Like a nightmare where tangled blankets keep your feet from moving, J.J. found her legs ridiculously sluggish as she turned and tried to run. Sheriff Walker emptied his gun into the monster without effect. Bits of ancient cloth and rotted wood floated in the air and flowed between the green strings that were dropping everywhere from the ceiling. John was trying to reload as he sprinted alongside Alison and J.J.
“Entertainment is such tedious work,” Demilune called. “Perhaps you three would like to join my troupe … they say six is a magic number.”
“Sorry, but even with your demonic ego … we’d be short with only four,” J.J. yelled back, so terrified she was almost laughing. “I’ve always hated to perform the last night of a shipwrecked play where some abandoned parts are shouted offstage by a prop mover.”
Demilune laughed hideously again. J.J. thought the tiny bones inside her ear would burst. “I’m sure you’ve never seen a casting call quite as large as this one!”
Lemont Hicks and three armed men appeared at the opposite end of the passage flanked by hundreds of Hodmedod and other vile creatures. J.J. ,Alison and the sheriff were trapped.
The armed men took a step back when they saw Demilune. Two of Hicks’ henchmen turned to run and were quickly seized by the dropping strings. The automatic rifles they carried clattered to the floor as they were lifted into the air, a separate line quickly securing the head and each hand and two more for their feet. “Flesh is not nearly wood,” Demilune whispered as the men strangled. “But while it rots, the flies are a delightful addition to their makeup.”
Demilune was now close enough for J.J. to see his eyes, humanlike orbs running from pus yellow to a maddening gangrene. Sanity deficient pupils darted like sparrows inside a burning barn. “Not what you hoped for?” Demilune stared at J.J. “Ready for the next pair to audition?” The two men were instantly hung by their feet from the ceiling and began to burn.
Lemont Hicks stumbled forward, wild laughter in his eyes. “This is my master!” He dropped to his knees before the puppet and ground his face into the stone floor. “Those years in prison were nothing for the chance to serve a living God … no better than a God,” he blubbered as he rose. His lips were bleeding with bits of gravel stuck in his skin. “Real fire and brimstone, not just a bunch of fake damn stories from a preacher’s book.”
Demilune looked from Hicks to J.J. “Too much corn-field for your Hollywood tastes,” he grinned. Hicks began to float toward the ceiling, green strings dropping down to meet him. “How about something erotic … say a low-budget X-rated feature where you are raped by a pair of rotting scarecrows while your friends stand by helplessly watching?” Two of the largest Hodmedod lurched toward J.J. The smell of rotting meat made her eyes water as their boney hands reached for her.
Alison had been fumbling in her pockets and now she placed a lit candle on the ground and held one of Melania’s ancient Tarot cards in the air as she reached for J.J.’s hand with the other. J.J. had just enough time to see that it was the Hanged Man in an upright (upside down) position before Alison warned her and Sheriff Walker to close their eyes. They linked their hands together and sat on the floor with the candle burning between them. “Melania sent three cards along with me. I’m sure this is the correct time to use the second one. Don’t open your eyes no matter what you think happens … not until the end!”
J.J. had seen the strange writing on the back of the Ombre cards and she knew Alison was reading. She sensed and smelled the Hodmedod brush close enough to her to make the tiny hairs on her arms prickle, but they did not touch her. The horrific odor became stagnant and then vanished along with the air.
"Noi dichiariamo in questo momento di essere, ma energia morbida e rifiutiamo di permettere che diventi materia." (We declare this moment in time to be but soft energy and we refuse to allow it to become matter.)
Demilune was floating in the air above them. J.J. could feel his wooden feet almost touching her head as he danced. “Don’t want to look do you?” the creature laughed. “Five years old and sitting in the front row of the Werewolf movie and you close your eyes but you still hear the screams in the theatre and sometimes not looking is far worse than what you see.”
Sheriff Walker suddenly screamed. The sound reminded J.J. of a farm worker who had been caught in a running hay bailer when she was a child. She felt him rise from the ground and felt the heat as he burst into flames. The fingers she held in her own felt like melting plastic. “Help me! God O’ mighty help me!” he wailed. Alison’s voice came as a thought , then strangely was joined by Sheriff Walker’s a calm urging. The waters of darkness wants you to look … so that it can get inside and extinguish the candle. J.J. closed her eyelids tighter.
Alison’s reading voice continued.
"Le forze di azione e reazione non più valgono e tutte le cose diventano uno e quindi nessuno." (The forces of action and reaction no longer hold true and all things become one and then none.)
J.J. felt Alison and Sheriff Walker both begin to slip away to vanish and become nothing … she was alone in the void, but there was the voice of Alison, faint as a breeze but still discernable as if from a great distance.
"Niente diventa malleabile con forma e tessuto di nostra scelta." (Nothing becomes pliable with form and fabric of our own choosing.)
“Your friend is leaving, going home to her bed. You were the payment for her freedom. I have too much power,” Demilune sneered. “I’ve saved you for last!”
What felt like a huge snake, as large as an Anaconda, slithered across J.J’s lap, wound around her chest several times and then began to swallow her. She could feel the moist flickering tongue as large as a snake itself exploring her eyes, her nose and then going inside her mouth as her whole body was drawn inside the serpent. Still her eyes did not open.
Then all sound ceased … as well as all feeling. J.J. could not remember what it was like to be among the living. There was no love, no hate, no fear, no hot or no cold … this is what it was like to be dead, floating for eternity in a vast nothingness.
J.J. was aware of a sound as if from a great distance, perhaps many light years, growing in volume and clarity. A whisper became a murmur, a yell and then a wail. A howling scream erupted from all sides where she floated and made the hairs on her head and arms become as hard and stiff as wire. It became more than she could endure … and then finally there was only silence. She was waking from a dream and wanted to open her eyes … but not yet. Alison was suddenly beside her clutching her hand … so was Sheriff Walker.
“Che hanno distrutto l'eternità ora siamo i creatori di tutte le cose. Siamo come i venti del cielo e ci soffia sul futuro e fare polvere dove non c'è niente.” (We who have destroyed eternity are now the creators of all things. We are as the winds of heaven and we breathe upon the future and make dust where there is nothing.) There was an explosion. Rocks were falling.
J.J. opened her eyes in time to see the last flicker of the candle become a whiff of smoke.
Alison and Sheriff Walker pulled J.J. to her feet. The air was filled with dust and falling debris. The Hodmedod charged past going in all directions like buffalo stampeded by a lightning storm. Bolder sized rocks, some as big as automobiles crashed to the floor, causing the three running human’s feet to bounce in the air as if they were on a trampoline. It was hopeless; the light from all passages had been extinguished. The air was getting thick and hard to breathe. “Too bad Melania didn’t leave us with a way out of this mess,” the sheriff shouted. Several large rocks fell from the ceiling and landed just in front of them, knocking all three to the ground. “But she did!” Alison slapped herself in the head, “Sometimes, I’m so stupid.” J.J. swept the light from her iPhone across Alison’s trembling hand as she read the last card, The Magician. Bucketloads of dirt and rock were falling and J.J. felt like she was being buried alive.
“Casa è il perno tra cielo e inferno e il luogo dove deve sempre restituire la bilancia dell'equilibrio in tutte le cose. Se male essere andato per una generazione... così sono tutte le bontà per un periodo di tempo. Liberaci da ciò che sarebbe stato... in che cosa potrebbe essere.” (Home is the pivot between heaven and hell and the place where the scales of balance in all things must always return. If evil be gone for a generation … then so shall all goodness for a time. Deliver us from what would have been … into what might be.)
There was a new singular voice of one challenging the sky above with shattering chorus as they began to spin inside a dry torrent. “We are as the winds of heaven … and we breathe upon the future … and make dust where there is nothing.”
With a loud bang, Sheriff Walker, Alison and J.J. all appeared in a cloud of dust coughing on the floor of Melania’s cellar. A minute later a heavy door at the top of a flight of rickety stairs opened and the old woman peered down at them. A cat dancing between her feet yowled and hissed at the visitors. “Two I sent and three return … much less for want and wear,” she cackled.
“I’m sorry about your car!” Alison explained brushing dust from her clothes. “It must still be at the Blue Bonnet Mine.”
Melania laughed. “My Buick Roadmaster has been safely in the garage for hours. Even a cow without a rope and puller can find its way to the barn when a storm comes.”
Melania smiled at the sheriff. “I’m afraid your county police car is a total loss. Just as well. What was it a Chevrolet? … three years old? Don’t cry if they give you a Ford. They don’t build any of them to outlive their payment books anymore.”
“We’re lucky to be alive,” the sheriff stammered.
“Can the world go on now without Demilune?” J.J. asked Melania.
“You’re asking if good can exist without evil,” Melania said. “There is a balance in all things. It is the absolute magic of the universe.” She descended the stairs and took the three Tarot cards from Alison. “Demilune exists to balance the Ombre,” she said as she slipped the cards into a carved recipe box. “As long as I hold these cards, evil will always re-spawn and dwell nearby in Comanche County. The puppet, the box and the cards were all carved from the same tree many centuries ago. Like all things that come from dust, they will be together forever in life … and in death.”
It was hot but cloudy. J.J. drove the rental car down Vineyard Road and turned into Black Rose Cemetery. The graveyard sexton had sprinklers running and J.J. was dripping wet by the time she found the headstone. Johnny Lang beloved son of Elisabeth Walker born September 6th. 1893 D eparted from this world April 19th. 1920 the inscription read. J.J. swallowed hard. Seeing the grave made his death seem more real. She knew now that he was a spirit existing in the world of the living only for a short time. He was gone forever and only his memory remained. There was a feeling of being watched. J.J. looked around just in time to see a door closing on an old storage shed. There were no other cars in the cemetery.
J.J. happened to look back at the grave as she walked toward her car. Grief can be your best friend forever if you let it. Sunlight played on the grass around the grave and showed a square where sod had been cut and then replaced. J.J. walked back to make sure. The soil under the relatively new piece of grass was a different color than the original. She remembered the bags of grave dirt in the first chamber under the Blue Bonnet Mine. They all had name-tags from the graves where the soil was taken. Melania said that new life could be created using oil from cottonwood leaves and what remained of death. The horribly disfigured creatures that Demilune and Hicks created were made in just such a way but with defects. They were all gone now buried under miles of stone and earth. Well not all … one was still lurking in Hollywood. She remembered the horrible disfigured gardener who worked the flowering magic at her Brentwood estate. Hicks said he had escaped months before. What a coincidence that he ended up a thousand miles away in Los Angeles working in her garden. J.J. started to walk toward her car and then she broke into a run. That old beat-up car the gardener drove had reminded her of someone. The sun began to shine as she started the car and she smiled. If it was one thing she’d learned in life … there were no such things as coincidences.
THE END ?