Copyright (c) 2017 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
Mr. and Mrs. Lopez were out for the evening; as their son Kent had gone to make a movie with his friend Scotty, the Lopez residence on Garlow Street in Cloverdale was empty. Good thing it was. It was neighbors who felt the shaking just before midnight and instantly feared an earthquake. By the time they ran into the street, many in pajamas and nightgowns, they could tell it was no earthly upheaval, the tremors were too confined, but something was definitely happening to the Lopez residence. The sides of the Spanish stucco house were shaking and the cedar shingles on the roof were breaking apart and flying into the air. Someone called the fire department although there were no flames visible … yet. Just as Cloverdale’s pumper truck number one rounded the corner and roared down the street, with siren’s wailing to wake even the deepest sleepers, the windows of the house exploded outward.
Clair Andrews, who lived across the street, screamed. Her husband who was just climbing into his Ford pickup for the midnight shift at the Comanche County Lumber Mill, was suddenly swimming in a lake of insects. “Get em off!” Ben bellowed as he stumbled erratically across his lawn, slapping all parts of his body and apparently blinded by the ants swarming over his face. Before Clair could scream again she too was attacked. She made it halfway to her husband writhing on the lawn before she fell and was also covered.
Ed Fowler who was driving the fire truck thought the crowd of people running away from the house had all been horribly burned until chunks of the swarming black mass of insects covering their bodies fell away and he could see bloody and swollen skin underneath. Crew member Ted Evans reached for his door as soon as the truck stopped but the quick thinking fire chief avoided disaster by instantly locking all the doors with a switch on his armrest. “Hold on Ted! Let’s take a minute to figure out what we’re up against before we do a George Custer and find out we’re outnumbered by the Indians,” he gasped.
Lucille Morgan, a twenty-three year old third grade teacher who was due to be married in August, climbed on the bumper of the truck then sprawled across the hood as thousands of ants began to feast on her flesh. Her swollen and bloody face was pressed up against the windshield. She opened her mouth to scream and a stream of ants flowed from her mouth and out her nose. In an instant the soft creamy flesh beneath her pink nightgown was turned into what looked like raw strip steaks popping and sizzling on a hot grill.
The river of ants pouring outward in all directions from what used to be the Lopez residence didn’t appear to be slowing; in fact the flow of insects was increasing. Seconds later, all the glass windows of the truck were covered by the dark moving mass and Ted reached over in the dark and turned on the windshield wipers. The black blanket covering the truck’s windshield became two crimson smears of twitching legs and tiny severed heads. Still they came on. Ten insects replaced each one that turned into a bloody mess. The truck began to rock on all eight of its tires.
Ed thought to use his radio to call the sheriff’s office. “Mayday! Mayday!” he bawled into the mouthpiece. “This is pumper truck number one and we’re under attack!” Nanette Grover who manned the 911 lines for four hours after working a swing shift as a waitress at Spare-A-Dime laughed out loud. “Is that you Ed Fowler? I’m jealous! You been dancing with a flirtatious bottle of Black Velvet again?”
“I mean it Nanny! We’re in bad trouble here!”
“What kind of trouble?”
“Ants!” Ed screamed. “God Damn! Ants!”
Nanette laughed again. “For two grown men, you and Ted Evans are the biggest posies in town. Don’t be afraid of a few ants! Step on them! That’s what those work boots you’re wearing are for!” She listened for a reply and instead heard more screams and breaking glass … and then a buzzing sound as she lost the signal. Her smile evaporated and her hands shook as she dialed Sheriff Walker’s number.
Sheryl Bliss groaned when the power went out, not because she was afraid of the dark or of being alone; darkness had always given her a kind of electric comfort, but because Sara Rue vanished from the big screen TV just when she was about to have sex with the Amish hitchhiker in the rest area and Sheryl had really wanted to see the movie Gypsy 83. She and Johnny had fought over the video rental. He had wanted to watch Gladiator but the only thing Sheryl liked about Russell Crowe was his last name and she had insisted on the low-budget cult film. Johnny had called the “B” movie a piece of trash and had left early. Sheryl despised Johnny’s friends Kent Lopez and Scotty Target but sometimes she wished he had more of their independent focus. She found a candle and matches in the cupboard above the sink and wandered through the house turning off light switches so that the circuit breaker didn’t trip when the power returned in a sudden surge.
Sheryl thought she heard the back door creak open but laughed it off as nervous frustration. Johnny wanted her to go all the way and have sex with him but she wasn’t sure if he was the one. She went to the front window and peered outside just as the power went off all over town. At least it’s not just this house she whispered. For a moment there I thought I was in trouble.
A crash of lightning lit up the night sky above Black Rose Cemetery just as the lights of Cloverdale blinked off in the distance. Joanie and the other members of Cloverbone watched in awe as Ham pulled a dead rat from her mouth by a long stringy tail opened her mouth wide showing jagged and rotting teeth and then swallowed the rodent. The reigning Salt Lake City Doom Queen, at a lanky six foot six wearing a hood and flowing black robes, loomed over Joanie and her group as the other members of Abra Cadaver closed in. “Even Goth fights have rules,” Joanie objected. “We are short two members and the siege isn’t scheduled until midnight.”
Ham leaped up on the large slab of granite covering Black Rose’s grave making her appear even more formidable and imposing. “This is no siege,” she hissed as a skeletal digit supporting a three-inch black fingernail swept across all eleven members of Cloverbone. “Your pathetic excuse for a coven is not worth the effort.”
“Then why challenge us to a fight?” Marsha (Baby Bat) blurted. “I saw the rat hanging in Joanie’s locker and the note written with nail polish on the inside.”
“This is merely to be an execution,” Ham said. “Since your numbers are inadequate … the rules no longer apply. Now who wants to be first?” The silence in the cemetery was deafening; only the lustful breathing from the Salt Lake City invaders could be heard.
At least forty members of Abra Cadaver had now formed a circle around the terrified members of Cloverbone. Long fingers, painted white to look skeletal, opened dark robes and produced foot-long ice picks glistening under the constant flashes of lightning illuminating the sky. “Crucify them in the dirt!” Ham ordered as four of her followers grabbed a struggling Jason Lynx, dragged him onto the grass and prepared to pin him to the ground.
“Wait!” Joanie shouted. “We do have thirteen members!”
“Where?” Ham laughed. “I see only a group of children waiting to be run over by a bus.”
Joanie shoved away the Battle Bats holding Jason down and helped him to his feet. She grasped Baby Bat’s left hand and whispered for the others to do the same forming a circle around the huge flat stone that Ham perched on. “Hermie and Rose will be our new members,” Joanie declared.
“An oracle spirit … and a ghost?” Ham sneered her distain as she gazed at the Ouija board chalk-markings on the rock. “But they’re both dead!”
“We’ll blow our own Doom Cookie crumbs – thank you!” Joanie told her. “You should never lay siege to a rival coven without knowing the extent of their powers!” Joanie rubbed her crystal and wagged her own finger. “Now excuse me … but you are inside our power circle!”
With a tremendous crack and a blast of dark ethereal energy Ham was catapulted from the top of the stone, sprawling in a twisted heap in the withered weeds on the other side of Jim Coot’s grave. Abra Cadaver’s leader leaped to her feet fuming and furious. “The moon will watch each of you beg for mercy before this night is through,” she vowed. As if following her orders, the lunar orb in the sky peered from behind dark clouds and washed across the astonished faces of Cloverbone.
“I didn’t know you had such Mansonetic powers!” Baby Bat gushed her admiration.
Joanie felt the last bit of energy drain from the crystal she was holding. “Had might be the nonterminal word,” she whispered.
“You’ll all scream for ice-cream!” Ham promised as she produced her own ice-pick and her coven slowly closed in. Her dark crow-like eyes gazed hungrily at the young spoons and forks holding hands as if they were all bugs, “… after we punch your tickets to a very toasty Hell!”
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Baby Bat moaned as she clutched Joanie’s hand.
“I only pray the spirits I called can hear me,” Joanie gasped, “and that they will fight with us!”
All the members of Cloverbone turned and looked inside the circle as a screeching sound came from the surface of the flat gravestone. The triangular piece of wood Baby Bat had used as a Planchette was once again gliding across the chalked-in Ouija Board pattern. Joanie and Marsha both moaned as the pointer spun downward across the white printed numbers and rested on GOOD BYE.
The invading army of ants covered three blocks of splintered rubble by the time Sheriff Walker arrived. He immediately called in every off-duty officer on the force as well as the state police. “You’ve got to do something drastic,” Mayor Otter screamed at him, “or these insects going to destroy the entire city?” The mayor had dispatched her own PTA Ladies for Student Development group to supervise and chastise the firemen and police officers, armed with wet rugs and blankets, trying to beat the swarming ants into submission.
“I smell stove oil!” Sheriff Walker told one of his deputies. “Where is it coming from?”
The deputy pointed to a dozen leaking canisters the firemen were removing from the back of the overturned and ravaged fire truck. “Drip torches,” the deputy said. “They spray oil and ignite it at the same time. The county fire crew uses them to start a back-fire when they are trying to control a large range-burn.”
“Have your men each take a torch and form a circle around the ants,” Sheriff Walker ordered. “Burning may be the only way to stop these swarming demons.”
“You’re going to burn part of the city!” Mayor Otter was shocked when she heard the news.
“It looks like the only alternative,” the sheriff told her and then skillfully played to his boss’s sense of fiscal responsibility. “There isn’t enough money in the city budget to pay for all the sugar to keep an ant farm this size.”
With no power the silence in the dark house was deafening. Sheryl curled up on the couch and tried to read a book by candlelight. Something appeared to be tugging on her senses as she began reading chapter three of Julia Hughes’ Everybody Lies. Constable McKay was just pulling up to Lavender Hill Cottage when Sheryl heard the distinctive sound of a loose board squeaking. She had lived all sixteen years of her life in this same dwelling and knew every sound the old house made. Someone was in the house and creeping through the kitchen! The board squeaked again … two someones!
Sheryl dropped the novel on the floor and stood up, not sure if she should walk into the kitchen or wait for whoever was in her house to come to her. She listened carefully but could hear no other sound only the thumping of her own heart. Fear is like a dripping gasoline tank … let it leak long enough and there’s a chance that it will combust into adrenaline. Sheryl took a deep breath, picked up the candle, pulled an iron-poker from a stand next to the fireplace and marched toward the kitchen.
Shadows from the dining room chairs appeared to hide as she entered the room … slipping under the large formal table and ducking behind a china hutch. She held the candle above her head and turned slowly in a circle … there was no one there. The laundry room leading into the garage was empty as well. Sheryl laughed at herself and was just turning to go back into the living room when a horrible hooded face from a nightmare suddenly loomed before her. Large swollen lips that seemed to be made of rubber uttered a low “Boo!” just before breath from the same lips blew out the candle. Sheryl glimpsed a large butcher knife sweeping toward her in a vicious downward thrust and just beyond someone holding a video camera … she had just an instant before everything went dark.
Joanie watched as six members of Cloverbone had mud, made from grave dirt, smeared over their closed eyes before they were blindfolded. The six sat on the grass opposite a likewise blinded member of Abra Cadaver and the ceremony of týr began. Cloverbone had been challenged so they went first. Each Blowfish from Abra Cadaver placed his or her hand palm down on the grass and was forbidden to move it. The blindfolded Cloverbone Deathbats moved sharpened forks in the air above where the hands were placed waiting for a silent signal from Joanie who was clutching her crystal and sending out telepathic commands when to strike. Tony Crea missed his target by less than an inch. Jason Lynx impaled a wrist claiming victory, and so did two other Cloverbone.
Joanie and Babybat hissed their delight. Cloverbone had three new members and Ham slipped rings made from silver spoon handles that matched the spoon-bowls the Blowfish wore around their necks from her fingers and gave them to Joanie with a knowing smirk. “We picked up three,” Bitch whispered as Babybat led the three away to be Black lipped (sexually initiated) and to dip their tongues in tar (take coven vows.) “But Ham can afford to lose them … we can’t!”
Ham stood up and raised her arms in the air. Her voice hissed like a snake. “Abra Cadaver has repelled an assault and by the rules of engagement we call for Sudden Death!”
Baby Bat gasped. Joanie scowled as if she knew this was coming. Abra Cadaver had just called for all members of Cloverbone, except for the reigning Doom Queen, to submit to týr in an effort to bring the ceremony to an end quickly. There was no way she could refuse. Joanie watched as all the other members of Cloverbone including the three new ones captured from Ham placed their hands flat on the grass.
Ham leaped to the top of a headstone and swayed dangerously in all directions as the 1938 Adler Damenrad ladies’ bicycle circled soundlessly in the air high above her. Lusty, crow-eyes from Ham’s skull-like head surveyed all thirteen targets. The crystal she held in the air above her was magnificent glowing with a dark and sinister brilliance. Stolen from a grave in South America rumor said … as old as the Spanish Conquistadores. The blinded blowfish began to sweep the air above the hands with their forks. As was the custom of Abra Cadaver before a siege, Ham began to speak loudly in tongues … when she stopped … all of her Blowfish would strike as one.
“Ickoo bladaba … zit em ba.
Kooloo beezabub … to ing ka.
Gagawa zobo .. turn da noo.
Zig ba … zig ba … ba zig … Boo!”
With a flash like lightning, thirteen Cadaver forks, sharpened with needle-like points, pierced the exposed palms of all thirteen members of Cloverbone. Joanie hung her head among the shrieks and the agony of her former coven members. “Do I hear a challenge from your pathetic oracle demon or your impotent grave ghost?” Ham listened for a full minute to the wind whispering in the trees drawing out the graveyard drama, and then she laughed with great scorn. “No I think not! Since you are now a Doom Queen without a following … I with great reluctance, but with equal pleasure, sentence you to death!” the victorious Ham was suddenly furious. “Crucify her!”
Joanie Otter was hardly aware of the spoon rings being stripped from her fingers as a dozen Blowfish dragged her to an open spot between graves. “I’m sorry!” she called to Babybat as the joyful members of Abra Cadaver stretched out her arms and legs and prepared to nail her to the ground with wooden mallets and razor-sharpened railroad spikes. In the distance sirens sounded as if the entire western Montana world was under siege.
“Hermie! Rose! Where are you?” Marsha (Babybat) moaned as she was led away with the others to be tar tongued into the new coven.
Even with the back fires Sheriff Walker was losing the battle with the ants. People were frantic … running everywhere. “There are just too many!” Walker told one of his deputies as millions of ants continued to push through the flames using the burnt corpses of other ants as shields. “Get ready to evacuate the town!”
“It’s the middle of the night,” Mayor Otter protested. “How will we get everyone out of their homes?”
“Sound every police siren and the alarm for the fire truck,” Walker ordered. “Make sure every house is empty. Make sure we leave no one behind!”
Suddenly every police officer, firefighter and exhausted worker battling the ants gaped in wonder as millions of ants left the flames and began to follow a shrouded personage walking down the center of Townsend Avenue. A glowing object shining with the brilliance of a fallen star was held high above the dark figure’s head.
“What the hell … or who the hell is that?” Mayor Otter gasped.
Ten minutes later, a deputy reported that the ants were moving out of town down Vineyard Road toward Black Rose Cemetery still following the strange personage.
“What do we do?” The officers looked to the sheriff for guidance. The distraught mayor had just been informed that her daughter Joanie was missing and suddenly could care less about her civic responsibility.
“Let the ants and their leader go,” Sheriff Walker said. “This night belongs to them!”
TO BE CONTINUED …