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
Alison and Eleanor watched in horror as the hideously laughing aberration paddled from the center of the river toward them. The creepy marionette was almost beneath the animal control cage suspended over the river when John Blake backed up his truck, releasing the coiled cable under the front tire, and the terrified, shrieking pets plunged downward. The amulet in Alison’s hand glowed with recharged ethereal light from the full moon. Eleanor gasped when Alison directed her magic, not to stop the plummeting cage but, to blast a superheated fireball at the monster. “Sorry,” Alison told her, “but if we don’t stop this thing now … none of us will ever leave here alive.”
The ball of fire flashed across the dark water with the speed of a lightning bolt, but Demilune was faster. The wooden puppet pulled on invisible strings and tremendous cold instantly froze the air and all the water in a large circle around it. The fire-bolt and the frost-ball collided and the more powerful cold drove the heat backward almost to the bank before both spells vanished in a huge vaporous explosion. The condemned animals struck the solid ice of the frozen river and the door on their metal cage burst open. Eleanor cheered as Tinkerbelle scampered toward her and dozens of dogs and cats scattered in all directions across the ice.
Demilune was trapped by his own magic. Only his wooden head and two clawed hands protruded from the frozen water. The super-cold air above the river was magically still and as quiet as death. When the two girls approached, their feet made cracking sounds on the frigid ice and Tinkerbelle jumped into Eleanor’s arms.
The puppet’s voice sounded like a hand saw slowly cutting through a tree trunk. Almost human-looking eyes rolled in its wooden head. “I will … eat you … damn you … blood and … bone all … damn you … this I … prom ise!” Chunks of sawdust and blood began to stream from a wide crack between the creature’s painted lips as exposed rows of jagged teeth ground back and forth. Something soft, pink and fleshy tumbled out of the mouth and fell onto the ice. Alison picked it up. She screamed a moment later and flung it down. It was a severed tongue.
“What do we do now?” Eleanor smiled in spite of the horror and turned away as her tiny precious dog began to lick her face.
“The only way I know to slow down a monster like Demilune is to possibly cut off his head and burn it in a very hot fire,” Alison said. “Do you know where we can get a saw?”
Eleanor fumbled in her purse, while holding her dog, but all she could come up with was a nail file. “It’s the only thing I have and it will take forever,” she gasped. The breeze turned warm and already the ice was beginning to soften. Demilune was able to move his frozen arm enough to make one clawed hand lung for her leg. Eleanor jumped back just in time, but the creature’s claws left a long gash in one of her ankles. The puppet howled laughter and licked the blood on his fingers as Eleanor wailed.
“Shut up!” Alison screamed as she kicked the wooden puppet in the head. Tinkerbelle struggled in Eleanor’s arms determined to attack the monster.
Alison was reaching for the pointed metal file when angry cursing sounded from behind her. John Blake raced across the ice brandishing a large tire-iron obviously taken from his truck. “Damn you meddlers,” he yelled. “I’ve spent good money feeding these unwanted pests for a month … and now I don’t even get the pleasure of seeing them die?” Blake swung the heavy steel but Alison ducked, he lost his balance and the metal bar struck the ice. The spell of frozen silence appeared to have been broken and a large crack appeared in the ice. A chilling breeze appeared out of nowhere. The fracture spread from where Blake lay sprawled on the frozen river until it circled the cursing puppet and then turned back again. Alison, Eleanor and Tinkerbelle all skated toward the shore. With a roar of breaking ice, Demilune and the animal control officer both plunged into the frigid water.
The two girls watched as a dripping Blake crawled from the river onto the patch of ice holding the cage and as it began to sink to the top of the steel trap he had used to destroy so many living creatures. “I’ll recapture them all and then I’ll twist the neck of that yapping rat you’re holding,” he said as he climbed the cable and pointed a frozen finger at Tinkerbelle.
Demilune bobbed up in the center of the river and his saw-like voice, directed at Alison carried across the dark moving water. A brisk breeze blew over the river. “That old witch back in Cloverdale is dying!” His voice now roared like a sawmill. “When you are gone, the world will be mine to feast on!” Alison and Eleanor watched him vanish on the far side of the water. “My strings fall on many places … the taste of your blood is in the air … I will find you!” His laughter blew away with the wind.
“He’s wrong isn’t he … you can destroy him … right?” A hopeful Eleanor ran alongside Alison.
“Melania told me that Demilune has been around since he was carved for a minstrel show called Cats in Hats during the Dark Ages … from the same enchanted cedar tree as a recipe box she has that’s called Ombré … it is her source of magic and her greatest treasure. The monster has been killing and murdering his way across Europe and now America for centuries. He’s been destroyed hundreds of times but he always comes back,” Alison said.
“That’s horrible,’ Eleanor gasped as Tinkerbelle barked once more and then snuggled into the crook of her arm.
“Good and bad are both eternal energies,’ Eleanor explained as they walked toward the campus. “It creates balance in the universe. While the brilliant good in people lives forever, the evil that by the laws of nature must be always lurking in a dark shadow nearby and will re-spawn each time it is abolished.”
“That’s awful,” Eleanor cried.
“It’s just life,” Alison told her.
Rhonda Johnson stayed in her bedroom during the coming week and was never seen by Alison or by Eleanor. She left for classes after they did and usually came in late while they were sleeping. They could sometimes hear her speaking to others on her cell phone behind her locked door but she always kept her voice low as if she was conspiring with someone to get even for Alison’s presence. Eleanor made arrangements for Tinkerbelle to live just off campus with an old lady who hated cats. It made it so Eleanor could see her every day, bring her treats and with no more hiding.
Alison proved to be as popular and as outgoing as Eleanor was shy and reserved. Eleanor found herself enjoying her new roommates company and enjoyed the countless parties both girls were invited to. They were in the library one soggy afternoon studying for a History of Western Civilization exam while a cold rain tried unsuccessfully to distract them by tapping against the building glass. Eleanor shrieked when she turned a page in a large illustrated textbook. Alison stood up and ran to her roommate’s side sure the girl must be having heart seizures. “It’s Demilune!” Eleanor gasped. She pointed to a printed woodcut engraving by Peter Bruegal the Elder showing a carnival scene with dancing peasants and colorful painted wagons. A marionette with dangling strings, lay propped in a sitting position at the top of an open trunk overflowing with what looked like embroidered stage curtains. Inset round wooden eyes stared at them through the centuries with the same ages-old hatred they had seen the week before. “It’s him isn’t it?”
Alison studied the artwork for a minute before she said. “Yes, I’m sure of it!” She pointed to a small dark container sitting on a stack of crates behind a grinning clown playing a flute while standing on one leg. The word Ombré protruded from the front of the carved box.
“I don’t know if I can handle this!” Eleanor moaned as she slammed the book closed.
‘Trouble will always be nearby,” Alison told her, “speaking of which …”
Eleanor looked up as Johnny Lang rose from a table where he’d been sitting with a group of boys and walked smiling toward them. “Do something!” Eleanor pleaded in a whisper. “My hair looks like a hay stack after a hurricane and my eyes look like they were painted in the rain.”
“Whatever magic is going on here is beyond my humble ability to alter in any way.” Alison smirked just before she stood up and walked away leaving them alone.
“I’ve been trying to talk to you again for over two weeks in French class,” The coolest guy she had ever met said as he sat down. Eleanor had forgotten how breathtakingly handsome Johnny was and how he made her heart jump each time he smiled. “Every time I get near you run away.” He glanced at Alison who was standing next to a bookcase pretending to read a book that was upside down, and then gave her a teasing smile. “Vous deux ne sont pas avoir une liaison êtes-vous?” (You two are not having an affair are you?)
Johnny was obviously much better at the new language than she was. “Wwwwwwe live together …” Eleanor was horrified by what she just said. Her mind was a whirlwind. Sitting next to Johnny was like absorbing a drug. Euphoric waves of pleasure poured over her like a hot shower. She knew she had just made the love of her life think she was a lesbian and she hated herself, but still she couldn’t turn her eyes away. “I didn’t mean …”
“I know what you meant,” Johnny laughed, “but why run like a gazelle every time a hungry, but entirely harmless, cat like me approaches?”
“Vvvvvv …. icky Conner!” Eleanor stammered trying hard to explain. “She’s always …”
Johnny put a finger to her lips to quiet her. “That future NBA women’s star can dunk a basketball with one knee on the floor from half-court and she can obviously chew a whole case of Wriggly’s Spearmint gum without touching the top of her mouth or even scenting her category-four hurricane breath … She’s always there to lift a wrecked car off from my body if I’m ever in an accident but I need more from a relationship,” Johnny said. He reached over and took her hand. Eleanor felt electrical sparks of enchanted bliss slowly enter her fingers and leave dancing from her toes. “There is a party in the Student Union Building this Friday night … a band called Bathtub Ring is playing … will you go with me?”
Eleanor managed a stunned “Yes”, before somewhere a bell rang and Johnny stood up. “I’ll pick you up at eight,” he told her with a smile.
“Wow! You’ve got it bad!” Alison giggled as she walked over. “You’ve caught the worst disease you can get on this campus … thousands suffer each year and there is absolutely no cure.”
“What’s that?” Eleanor’s dreamy eyes looked miles away.
“You’ve been bitten by an extremely aggressive and hopefully contagious bug,” Alison sighed gazing wistfully at a dark, handsome boy reading a Playboy hidden behind the cover of the New York Times, “…the love bug.”
Alison and Eleanor decided to walk downtown and window-shop for dresses before they returned to the dorm. By the time they had left the library, Alison also had a date for the same dance. “You didn’t use any voodoo on him did you?” Eleanor giggled as they looked in a shop window at a ridiculously ghastly and expensive underwear creation meant to copy Miley Cyrus from the video Wrecking Ball.
“Honey, when you’ve got my looks … you don’t need magic.” Alison told her in her best Marion Cotillard impersonation. After a moment she laughed. “Of course I did!”
The two finally settled on inexpensive Saree knockoff blouses over ragged jeans and high-lift boots. “It’s gonna be a wild night with a rock band and to-die-for moves,” Alison said. “If six-inch heels won’t make you roll … nothing will!”
Rhonda Johnson sat at the kitchen table smiling when Eleanor and Alison walked through the door to their dorm apartment on Friday afternoon. Both girls’ arms were loaded with clothes for the dance. A terrified Tinkerbelle struggled in Rhonda’s arms as she brushed her fur the wrong direction. “We’ve been waiting for you,” she said glancing at a girl with bleached-blonde hair and a scar that ran across her forehead sitting across the table from her and then at Alison. “This is our new fourth roommate Marsha Hicks,” she said. “I believe you and her are from the same stupid little town in Montana. In fact she says you are responsible for the beauty mark that she wears like a hat.”
“We’ve met before,” Alison said, her voice burning with venom. “And I think Marsha and you would both be much happier living somewhere else.”
Eleanor finally caught her breath. “What are you doing with my dog!” she wailed.
“Oh, I hope you don’t mind,” Rhonda sneered. “Marsha brought along her own pet … so I told Mrs. Danks that you decided to keep Tinkerbelle at home. After all, it’s only fair.” She gestured to an empty sixty-gallon aquarium now holding the largest coiled Boa Constrictor Eleanor had ever seen, with a mouth large enough to swallow the tiny dog in one bite. “Looks like we’re going to be just one big happy family here.”
“Get out of here, both of you!” Alison demanded placing her hand on the amulet hanging around her neck. The golden talisman started to glow … and then began to flicker.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Marsha said. “That bitch Melania is not around to help you now. The month I spent recovering in the hospital was worth my time. I discovered who the old woman’s enemies were and what it is she is afraid of. I know all about that worthless piece of junk you wear around your neck … and how to draw away its power.”
“Did I forget to mention that Marsha is a Dramatic Arts Major here at Illuminare University and also an accomplished Sutradhara?” Rhonda beamed.
“What is a Sutradhara?” Eleanor asked, reaching for her dog, but Rhonda pulled the whimpering pet back. The snake uncoiled in its glass cage and began to hiss. At the same time the light went out in Alison’s amulet and she was rubbing it vigorously.
“Our new roommate and my new best friend is a string puller … a clever entertainer of delightful skill, someone who can manipulate things from a distance!” Rhonda laughed as she dangled a terrified Tinkerbelle above the snake in the open terrarium. “Imagine her pleasure when she found this priceless antique lying on the road just as she was driving into town today.”
From the top of the refrigerator came an eerie sawing-sound that sent chills down both Alison and Eleanor’s spines. A ragged puppet danced in the air above the appliance. Invisible strings made the arms and legs move. “Your blood … taste is … every where … I said … I would … find you … and now!” Demilune’s sadistic laughter blew chunks of sawdust and blood onto the floor. “You die!”
To be continued …