Sunday, August 20, 2017

DAY OF THE MOON part 3

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.


DAY OF
THE MOON
Part 3
By R. Peterson

My throat was dry and I couldn’t swallow! A crowd of sround twenty-four would be murderers disguised in long black robes chanted under a huge wooden cross. Mayor Otter’s daughter, Joanie, slumped unconscious on the cross in an upright position. She had been fixed to it by nails. I knew I’d never free her without help … so I crouched low and ran back out of the cemetery. Once back in the rental car, I thundered towards the cemetary’s gates at eighty miles an hour. As I neared the open area near the back where the crucifixion was taking place, I hit the car’s high beams. Every white powdered face looked up when I plowed through a row of tombstones, blasted the horn and aimed the careening car’s headlights directly at them. Most of the dark figures jumped out of the way but at least a half-dozen wearing black-lace funeral-dresses arched their backs like cats and hissed as they surrounded a hunched hooded figure mounting an old bicycle. I figured if she was important enough to die for she must be the leader. So I cranked the wheel and steered the car toward her.
Large blocks of broken granite slow a car considerably and I was down to forty miles an hour when a small army dressed in black somehow flew onto the hood of the car and clung to the fenders and wipers. Furious white faces with snarling black lips covered the windshield and kept me from seeing the massive Cottonwood tree until it was too late. It wasn’t so much a crash as an explosion. Broken branches, leaves, torn black cloth, shattered glass and blood filled the air. Just before I lost consciousness I saw the hooded woman on the bicycle rise into the air and fly across the face of the moon chased by what looked like a large flock of shrieking black birds and then darkness took me.

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

“Are you okay mister?” I opened my eyes and then lunged backward at the black-hooded, white-face leaning in the window. Stream from a hissing radiator rose in the air and gave the scene a surreal quality. “Don’t worry … we’re the good guys,” he said. “Well … relatively speaking.” Through the broken windshield I could see a dozen other figures all in black lowering the huge wooden cross with Joanie still nailed on it, gently to the ground.
“What the Hell is going on here?”
“It’s a Black Wedding … a contest of Forks,” he said. I could see traces of teenage pimples under the white powder on the boy’s face. “Ham and the other members of Abra Cadaver had Cloverbone ravaged and enslaved before you showed up! If you hadn’t chased them away Joanie would have bleed-out and we would have been taken back to Salt Lake City in chains.”
“Tony!” One of the girls hovering over the wooden cross waved her hand. “Baby Bat needs a claw-hammer to pull the nails out of Joanie’s hands.
“Sorry,” the boy leaning in the window said. “JoAnne Wolf is my master and I have to do her bidding.” I noticed the ring on the waving girl’s finger looked like a twisted handle from a broken piece of silver-wear and Tony wore the corresponding spoon on a chain around his neck. I watched as the boy ran toward a black bag leaning against a tree.
I climbed out of the car, dazed and disoriented, and staggered to the wooden cross just as they were pulling out the nails. Joanie moaned as if in delirium. Two girls covered her nakedness with a blanket. “My radiator is leaking but I think it will last long enough to get Joanie to the hospital,” I said.
“Don’t be a doom-cookie,” the girl who had ordered Tony to get the hammer said. “The Queen of Cloverbone does need help but she’ll get it from Melania Descombey not some pill pusher who doesn’t know what the Hell he’s dealing with!” I watched as they loaded Joanie into the back seat of my crumpled car.
“We’ll ride with the Lone Ranger to visit the witch,” the girl called Baby Bat told the others as she climbed in the back with Joanie, “meet us there as fast as you can pedal!”
JoAnne flung open the door to my car and then slid across the seat to the passenger side. A moment later she leaned toward me and hissed. “You’re the only one who can drive, Tonto,” she said. “So I guess you’re coming along!”
I looked at the keys dangling from my trembling fingers, some habits die hard, and then I climbed into the rental-car and started the engine.

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

The large stone Victorian mansion on the south west corner of Main and Galbraith Streets was much the same as I remembered it as a kid. The turn of the century landscaping had fought a heroic hundred year war with Vine Mint and Morning Glory and had finally surrendered. When I was a ten-year old my friends and I used to throw lighted firecrackers on the lawn and then run like the Devil was after us … and we’d believed that he was.
I parked on a carriage-house driveway with heavy stone fitted together like a parquet floor and JoAnne and Babybat carried an unconscious Joanie up to the door. Babybat banged a heavy iron gargoyle knocker on the huge carved door several times before it was finally opened by a good looking woman who had to be just out of her teens. “Melania is resting,” she said, “but please come in.” She stared at me standing by the car. “All of you!” I had no choice; I followed the girls into the very house that had given me nightmares as a kid.
            “My name is Allison and I’m Melania’s helper and apprentice,” she said as we were led into an old fashioned sitting room. The walls were covered with paintings of cats; some looked to be hundreds of years old. One large yellow feline sat sulking on a gilded throne looking regally majestic and properly bored. “What seems to be wrong with your friend?”
            “She was crucified,” Baby Bat said, “about twenty-minutes ago in Black Rose Cemetery!”
            “Another crucifixion!” Allison gasped. “That makes three this week!” She laughed and then shook her head. “Sorry, I couldn’t help myself … you all looked so freaked-out coming in here!” She glanced at me. “Especially you!” Allison cleared off a cluttered table and told them to lay Joanie on it. “I’ll ask Melania what she wants to do.” We watched as she left the room through a large arched doorway and seconds later saw her scampering up a grand staircase to the second level. “Is Joanie going to be okay?” JoAnne gasped.
            “I hope not,” Baby Bat said. “I want her the same wreck as she was before.”
I was as startled as the others when an old upright piano began to play with no one sitting at the padded bench. A large jar of glass beads had toppled over on a shelf above and the shiny spheres rained down on the keyboard playing an excellent rendition of Tchaikovsky’s - Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major.
            Allison returned just as the song ended. “Melania has only the strength to entertain one visitor,” Allison said. She looked directly at me. “She will allow you to speak with her but you must only stay a minute or so. Time is precious to everyone … especially to Melania in her late times.”
            “Him!” Baby Bat sputtered. “What about Joanie?”
            “This concerns what’s best for your friend and everyone here,” Allison said. I followed her up the stairs.

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

            Melania lay propped up in a king-size canopy bed. The room was lit by black candles that strangely cast no shadows. Everything about her looked at least a hundred years old except her eyes. She stared at me with the intensity of a cobra when I walked into the room. I stammered not knowing what to say. “I know why you’re here,” she shook her head. “The ethereal salts you need to destroy the Lingerlings are the same substance that will restore Joanie Otter to health.
            “I don’t know you and I’ve never been here before,” I blurted. “How could you know what I was looking for?”
            “A person doesn’t live as long as I do without learning to perceive what isn’t said and to know what a person desires even before they do.” A black cat with eyes the color of a desert sky jumped onto the bed and Melania stroked its fur. “Hamilton Fisk, the witch Joanie and her friends call Ham, is very powerful and you must be careful.
            “That twisted old hag riding the bicycle in the cemetery!” Freezing shivers ran down my back from the memory. “What’s she got to do with any of this?”
            “Ham stole the ethereal salts that Joanie had been collecting for other purposes. If you can acquire them from her and her followers, you can stop the Lingerlings and help Joanie.”
            “You said this woman, this witch, is very powerful. I know nothing about magic. How can I even think about going up against her?” I had visions of seeing myself nailed to a giant wooden cross. Thinking about what was going to happen to Susan was the only thing keeping me from leaving Cloverdale forever.
            “All things have their weakness,” Melania whispered. “Ham radiates so much energy during the night she and the members of Abra Cadaver must sleep during the day to recharge their powers.”
            “Kind of like vampires?”
            “They don’t sleep in coffins,” Melania said, “but in very cold and dark places. You’ll find the ethereal salts in a sealed bottle made of ice. Ham keeps her fingers on the jar at all times to keep it from thawing …even when she’s sleeping. Take the bottle from her and bring it to me as soon as possible. The bottle will thaw very quickly. Then I’ll tell you how to help your friends.”
I tried to ask Melania where I should look, but Allison ushered me out of the room. “You’ve already gone past two minutes,” she said.
            Baby Bat was hysterical when I told her they we had to recover the ethereal salts from Ham before we could help Joanie. “That salty Goth Queen will never give up her plunder,” she said. “How will we keep Joanie alive until we return?”
            “I’ll have Egbert Callahan send over some of his haze-ice from On a Cloud Garden,” Allison said. “Breathing the frozen vapors should keep her living for a day or two.”
I remembered the frozen mist that stung my face and the delightful sensation of euphoria that resulted when I walked through the mortuary. “What exactly is haze-ice?”
            “For thousands of years explorers like Juan Ponce de León and others have searched for the fabled Fountain of Youth,” Allison said. “But they’ve always looked in the wrong place. The sacred spring lies just inside Motha Forest but it might as well be on the moon. Only the Momett are allowed inside the sanctuary and all living things within protect the impassable borders. Egbert and a few others trade with the Momett about once a year delivering special items like books and in return they receive a very small amount, less than an ounce, of the fabled water. Egbert has found a way to disperse the water into an extremely fine vapor which even when frozen hangs suspended in the air. The sensation you felt when you walked through the mortuary was actually fine points on your skin becoming new again.”
Allison walked to drapes covering a large window. I was amazed when she opened them and sunlight poured into the room. The night had passed much too quickly. “You must find Ham before tomorrow,” she said. “This day is half gone and another eclipse will not pass over Cloverdale for more than three hundred years!”

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

JoAnne stayed with Joanie. Baby Bat and I began to search for the hiding place of Ham and Abra Cadaver. “We know it has to be someplace very dark and very cold,” Baby Bat said. “My guess would be a freezer.
            “Ham must have at least thirty disciples,” I reasoned. “It would have to be a place large enough to hold them all while they slept without being disturbed.”
We drove around in my battered rental car, searching the town and could find no place where they might be hiding. It was almost twilight when we stopped at Spare a Dime to get a bite to eat. I put the eclipse glasses on long enough to see the two Chinese Negatives lingering outside the entrance to the restaurant. Susan happened to be working the booth that we sat in and her hands shook with subdued fury when she took our order. Baby Bat was at least ten years younger than me and she looked like she just crawled out of a grave. “I’ll have a burger and fries,” BB told Susan.
            “All of our fresh hamburger is gone,” Susan snapped, “because of the crowd in town to see the eclipse. I’ll have to thaw out some frozen and it’ll take at least a half hour.” I was thinking she was hoping that we would leave when suddenly it hit me.
            “Where do you get your frozen hamburger from?” I asked her.
            “We used to get it from the meat packing plant out on Canyon Road,” Susan said. “But that place closed down last year. Now all of our frozen stuff is trucked in from Missoula.”
I was out of the booth and dragging Baby Bat with me. “Next time bring your bad Chinese friends with you,” Susan called as we left.

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

The Comanche County Meat Packing Plant looked long abandoned. Grass and weeds grew up from cracks in the asphalt parking lot. A half-dozen sodium lamps were just beginning to flicker on so I knew the building had to have some power. Most of the exterior doors were locked or secured with heavy chain. Around the back Baby Bat spotted a window that looked like it had been recently broken. I boosted her up and a minute later she opened a side door.
The interior of the meat factory was dusty and covered with cobwebs. Light streaming in from a row of windows next to the ceiling was growing dimmer by the minute. We wasted about ten minutes of precious daylight before we found the huge iron door near the loading ramps. It was a giant walk in freezer and the cold took my breath away as we stepped inside. What looked like a pile of black bags lying on the icy floor turned out to be the members of Abra Cadaver. I had to move several of the bodies to uncover Ham. She lay with her bony fingers grasping a bottle that looked like it had been made with some kind of ice-cube tray. “Hurry!” Baby Bat whispered. “The sun is sinking fast.”
The bottle was too cold for me to touch with my bare fingers. I had to remove my shirt and cover my hand. Ham was gripping the bottle tightly and I was just prying loose her fingers … when the witch opened her eyes …

TO BE CONTINUED …


Sunday, August 13, 2017

DAY OF THE MOON part 2

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

I returned to Cloverdale after seven years abroad to view a total eclipse of the sun and stepped in some trouble … now I was rolling in it. The special tinted glasses I bought from Ted Burlap at his second hand store somehow were allowing me to see what I called Negatives … a nice name for ghosts. The lingering dead  seemed to be everywhere. Although invisible without the glasses, yet somehow they caused physical things to happen in our world. Two sinister looking weapon-wielding Negatives, who looked like they might have come from China or another Asian country before they died, had slipped into the backseat of Susan Demotte’s car. She and her seven-year old boy, who was probably my son, looked to be in grave danger. Susan was the reason I’d left. At the time, I didn’t even know she was pregnant.
It was two blocks to where I’d left the rental car. I ran all the way. I passed two cars and a truck on Townsend before I turned the Nissan Altima south on Wallace and flew over the river bridge in the direction I’d seen Susan go. This was the section of Cloverdale people called the Aluminum farm, five acres of dilapidated single-wide trailer houses, crammed together with fences made of used tires, broken stoves, refrigerators or any other bulky appliance left to rust in someone’s front yard. A chronically drunk Fred Hicks owned the former landfill and his only rule was your Pit Bull had better be tied-up when he came to collect the rent.

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

I finally spied the rusted maroon 1974 Chevy Malibu parked in front of a tiny trailer next to the river. There was one of those white foam balls you get from Jack-In-the-box attached to the radio antenna. There was no tire fence or broken appliance in the front yard and it looked like she’d been mowing the grass. A neighbor’s caged Shitsu dog was warning everyone about strangers. There were red and yellow tulips growing alongside tomatoes in a bed bordered with river rock next to the wooden steps. I couldn’t see a weed anywhere. The doorbell was hanging from a broken wire so I knocked … but not as loud as I could have. My heart was thumping in my chest. Was I hoping she wouldn’t be home? I saw the curtains move slightly as someone looked out. I could hear doors opening and slamming shut about every thirty seconds. I heard a crash followed by a female cursing.
Two minutes later Susan flung open the door. I could see a few loose strands on her shoulder where she’d brushed her hair and her face was still damp in places. She was wearing a low-cut white lacey sweater that showed off her green eyes and she was still tugging it down. My nose stung from the Versace Bright Crystal perfume, but she still took my breath away. She must have spilled some. “What do you want?” She was glaring and looked ready to punch me. I didn’t blame her; that man-enslaving mist is over ten dollars an ounce.
I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to say and I struggled to come up with some kind of an explanation. People always insist truth is the best option, but in this case they were wrong … they would think I was crazy. Hell! I thought I was crazy! I settled for a half-truth. “I saw two bad people following you … I thought you might be in danger!” I tried to look past her into her house and then realized I wasn’t wearing the eclipse glasses. I quickly put them on.
“Are you stoned?” her hands were on her hips and I could see a faint trace of a smile becoming a smirk on her lips as she stared. “It’s not that bright out and my house is actually pretty dark inside.” She put her foot out as if she expected me to dive for the couch and then leaned forward and sniffed probably to see if I’d been smoking anything. I’m sure I didn’t smell as good as she did.
“I’ve got something going on with my eyes,” I explained, trying to look over her shoulder. Holes in an old stuffed couch had been covered with a blanket. A round glass table held fresh-cut flowers in an empty Pepsi bottle.
“Bad people? Following me?” She looked up and down the street and then smiled. “It looks like you’re alone!”
The sarcasm wasn’t lost on me. I was trying to think of what to say when she turned and yelled. “Jackie come here. Someone wants to see you!” Her eyes looked like yellow stop- lights about to go red as she turned back to me. It was a warning without words. “Is this why you came?” A quiet boy with blonde hair and brown eyes the color of my own scampered up and stood partly behind her.
            “Hi,” I said as the kid stared at me. I felt suddenly uncomfortable and turned to Susan. “He looks like you!”
            “Hi,” the boy said and then tugged at his mother. “Can I play out back if I promise not to go by the water?’
            “Sure,” she told him. “But be careful …and no throwing rocks at Mrs. Brown’s cats!”
Her eyes followed him as he turned and ran. I heard another door open and slam and then she was looking at me again. “He also looks like you, but you’re not his father, Jack. At least not in the right way. It takes more than ten minutes in the back seat of a car to make a person a parent!”
            “I’m sorry Susan,” I said. “If I’d known … I’d never have left.”
            “It’s just as well.” Susan sighed. Her eyes were suddenly sad. “I left my dreams in my pants’ pocket and they went through the wash.”
I saw the look of determination come into her eyes that I remembered from years before. “Jackie is all I have,” she said. “I hope you haven’t come here to try to take him away from me!”
            “No I haven’t,” I stammered. “I didn’t know … I was just worried about you.”
She shrugged her shoulders as if she wanted to believe me. “What did these bad people look like?”
            “Orientals,” I told her. “They looked like they might have come from China!”
This time her smile was toothpaste commercial bright. “There’s a new Tai restaurant in town … perhaps they had the wrong take-out address.”
She slammed the door in my face. The neighbor’s Shitsu was still yapping. I saw at least a dozen cats race across the grass as I walked to my car. “I get the message!’ I said. “I’m going!”

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

            Susan didn’t believe me, but I knew she was in danger. Ted Burlap said he’d bought the glasses from Joseph Callahan’s estate sale. The old man was dead but his son Egbert ran the local mortuary. I hoped he could tell me what was going on. On A Cloud Garden occupies an entire block on the south east corner of Meghan Way and Garlow streets. The outside of the massive stucco building is spectacular, with exotic flora imported from all over the world. The interior is even more impressive.
There was no doorbell and the huge intricately carved black walnut door was unlocked so I went inside. On the far side of an elegant sitting room with walls, furniture and carpeting all a glistening white, round top mahogany doors opened into a two-acre indoor garden that took your breath away. A magnificent waterfall cascaded from a clear domed ceiling more than thirty feet high into a pool surrounded by a forest of rare Moth orchids. The fragrance was like synthesized euphoria. Dark rock expertly mixed with lush green foliage made you feel like you were walking in a high mountain meadow. A white mist rose everywhere from the ground and made you feel like you were walking on clouds. The vapors were strangely cold and seemed to stimulate the senses. I was suddenly alert and ravenously hungry as I crossed a fairytale bridge, spanning a gurgling stream filled with jumping Arowana fish, and saw a Japanese woman cutting black roses with a knife. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to intrude,” I said. “I’m looking for Mr. Callahan. Is he here today?” The kimono wearing gardener gestured toward an elevator door hidden behind a grove of  Yucca Rostrata palm trees, without looking at me, and then she pointed down. There were just two buttons on the inside of the elevator one with an arrow pointing up and one pointing down … I pushed down.
            I heard the tiny steam-whistle blast as soon as the elevator door opened. A miniature HO scale locomotive with the number 419 printed in white below the cab window and pulling a tinder car and several passenger cars roared out of a tunnel built into a wall that looked like the side of a mountain. The tiny train rumbled past miniature farm ground expertly detailed with tiny barns, trees and farm animals. I thought I recognized Porter’s Pig farm complete with a rusted ‘48 flatbed  Ford truck that had set in a patch of weeds for years and was bent over the table top layout studying the intricately detailed buildings behind it when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Egbert Callahan smiled. “Looks almost real doesn’t it?”
            “Yes,” I gasped. “I worked on the Porter farm one summer and that dented tin pail hanging on the rail fence is the same one I used to feed chickens with!”
            “There was a tiny hole in the bottom of the bucket and you used to leave a little trail of grain wherever you walked,” Egbert pointed.
            “Wow!” I had to put my nose almost on the fake ground but I could see tiny lines of spilled grain in the fake dust.”
            “When it comes to modeling detail is everything,” Egbert told me.
We watched as the tiny train rushed past several farms and then entered another tunnel hole in the wall. “Excuse me,” Egbert said. “But whenever the 419 is running I have to keep a close watch.” I followed him through a doorway down a long hallway and into a much larger room. A minute or so later the train roared through a miniature replica of Cloverdale so detailed I could see sheets hanging on the clothesline behind Mrs. Dern’s house.
            “This is incredible!” I gushed. “How long did it take you to build this?”
            “My father Joseph began the layout in 1919,” Egbert said.  “Almost every spot in Comanche County is shown in intricate detail. But the work is never done. Old building fall down or are burned … and new ones are built.” Egbert put his hands behind his back and turned his head to one side. “But enough about me and my pleasures. What can I help you with?”
I took the strange spectacles from my pocket and showed them to him. “I just got back in town,” I said, “and I bought these eclipse viewing glasses from Ted Burlap. He said they came from your father’s estate sale!” Egbert took the glasses from me and turned the lenses at angles to the light. “They look like they’ll block about 99% of the sun’s harmful rays … what’s your problem?”
            “When I put them on outside I can see what looks like dead people walking around making bad things happen to the living! I’ve been calling them negatives.”
            “Oh that,” Egbert said. “I seem to remember my father had a certain morbid fascination with the Lingerlings.”
            “Is that what you call these ghost like creatures I’ve been seeing?”
            “That was my father’s name for them but I like yours better … Negatives … that name
 seems more appropriate doesn’t it?”
            “What are they? And how can I stop them from harming people?”
            “Lingerlings … or Negatives are the remnants of the deceased that linger long after their souls should have departed for other worlds. They are powered by sunlight and can only operate outdoors during daytime. They often follow someone for weeks before they attack. My father had the glasses special made to locate a Negative who was especially troubling to him. One of my father’s enemies who continued to attack him, his friends, and his business ventures, even after death.”
            “Was your father successful … did he force the Negative to move on?”
            “I believe he did,” Egbert said. “But it wasn’t easy. The conditions have to be just right and you must use ethereal salts to dissolve the lingering spirit.”
            “I’ve never heard of ethereal salts. What are they?”
            “They are what remains when the life force the Chinese call Chi leaves a dead person or animal’s body. They are very difficult to gather and must be used correctly.”
            “Is there anyone in Cloverdale who could help me get some?”
            “You seem especially worried. Are you afraid that a Negative is planning to do you harm?’
            “Not me … an old girlfriend … actually the mother of my child. I saw two very sinister looking Negatives climb into the back seat of her car.”  
“That is troubling,” Egbert said. “But you must remember not all Negatives are bad … some actually are here to help the living.”
“I’m sure,” I told him. “One was carrying a butcher knife and the other an ice pick.”
“I believe Mayor Otter’s young daughter and her friends have acquired some ethereal salts from rotting corpses,” Egbert said, “although I don’t know exactly what they use it for.”
“I saw Joanie when I first got into town,” I told him. “Do you know where I can find her?”
Egbert turned and I followed him into another room. On the other side of a miniature four story building that had to be State Hospital North lay Black Rose Cemetery exhaustingly recreated to show every tree, bush and tombstone. A group of miniature teens all wearing black stood next to what looked like an open grave.  “Joanie and her Cloverbone Goth group are in Black Rose Cemetery until a little after midnight,” Egbert said. “If you hurry you might still catch them there!”
Suddenly the tiny train chugged to a stop at a tiny house just outside of town. Egbert and I watched as a wraithlike figure leaped from the train and ran toward the hose. Moments later we watched the dark figure drag an old woman toward the train. “Mrs. Evans!” Egbert gasped. “I knew when the train started up someone was about to die. I never dreamed it would be her. She’s only seventy-eight I believe. But I guess we all have to go sometime.” He pulled a small appointment book from his coat pocket and began to thumb through the pages. “We can probably have her funeral on Wednesday. I’d better notify the cemetery sexton.”
            I thought it was strange that Egbert said I should hurry until I looked at my watch. It was eleven thirty PM. I’d been in On A Cloud Garden for almost nine hours. “You said that in order for the ethereal salts to work conditions have to be just right!” I called to Egbert as I ran toward the elevator. “What are these conditions?”
            “Why a total eclipse of the sun,” Egbert said putting his appointment book back in his pocket. “It’s the only time Negatives are inactive long enough to salt them.”
Ten minutes later, I had the rental car flying down Vineyard Road. The eclipse was in two days … I had one chance to save Susan.

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

The moon was almost full and hovered like a huge red ball in the night sky. People in the know say it’s because of smoke in the air. A massive forest fire or two must be burning somewhere. The cast iron gates were open at Black Rose Cemetery, but I turned off my headlights and parked outside.  If Joanie and her friends were in there I didn’t want to scare them away. I walked past rows of tombstones glowing white under the light from the moon and the reddish tint made the night breeze blowing the withered grass look like they were floating in a sea of blood. I stopped several times and put on the eclipse glasses sure I would see hundreds of spirits crowding the cemetery. There was nothing. Then I remembered Egbert saying the Negatives were powered by the sun and only came out in daylight. I tried to laugh but it was hard. As a kid we had it all wrong. We were always afraid to walk through a cemetery at night … but it was daytime we should have been wary of.
I was nearing the back of the graveyard when I heard what sounded like low chanting. I fell to the ground and began to crawl … not sure if Cloverbone would welcome an intrusion.
Dooba Nanbean … go ra sin.
Open Hell and let us in.
We’ve been bad … you must agree.
Let us seek our destiny.

Dooba Gonwat … bla da guy.
Let the angels pass us by.
We wait for shadows … come at night.
Wait for pleasures … of your bite.

 Under the dim light I could just make out a group of dark clad figures crouching next to the ground. Several of the figures raised what looked like hammers high in the air. I heard a girl’s terrified scream that caused my blood to run cold quickly followed by three more. I watched horror-stricken as the dark figures raised a huge wooden-beam X from the ground and braced it with large rocks. The only sound was low moans of agony and the sound of something dripping into the grass.
A naked Joanie Otter hung upside down, high in the air, crucified with her bleeding arms and legs nailed to the center of the structure.

TO BE CONTINUED …






Sunday, August 6, 2017

DAY OF THE MOON

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.


DAY OF
THE MOON
By R. Peterson

I hadn’t been back to Cloverdale in seven years. It wasn’t that I had anything against the small town in western Montana; I get along with almost everyone. I left because I was falling in love with someone who deserved more than I could give. I’d been all over the world. I hitchhiked across Europe, got mugged in a London tube station and spent two weeks in jail in Bangkok for sleeping in a public park. Thailand police let me go because I had no money and refused to haul bags of rice on my back. I ended up working on a sheep ranch in New Zealand for four years because I liked the family I was living with and saved every dollar I made. There was nothing there that I wanted to buy and it seemed like I’d reached the edge of the world.
I spent my nights cleaning a rusted Purdey shotgun, listening for a pack of hungry dogs and studying the stars. One night when I was dragging a lamb to a birthing shed with a bawling mother tailing behind, Oliver Anderson showed me a newspaper map of America with the route of a solar eclipse drawn on it. Cloverdale was right smack in the middle of the path. The accompanying article said the eclipse only returns to a certain spot on Earth every three-hundred and seventy-five years. After thinking about it for several nights while I stared at the constellation Pyxis – (the Compass) I finally decided it had to be an omen of sorts … and it was time to go back.

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

            There is no public airport in Comanche County so when I landed in Missoula, at 6 AM, I rented a car. I took the Vineyard Road exit off from highway thirteen and then turned left on Townsend Avenue. The town looked pretty much as I remembered; some things never change. Three boys, being chased by a rabid looking dog, raced each other down the sidewalk on rusty bicycles. Two young men dressed in Goth attire followed four lost-looking teenage girls wearing black lipstick as they walked out of the alley behind the Royal Theatre. The boys followed exactly nine steps behind; Corpse Bride was displayed on the show-house marquee. A girl who looked like Joanie Otter, only older than I remember, pulled what looked like a severed hand attached to a string out of a black bag and gave it a spin. When a bony extended finger stopped pointing north toward Black Rose Cemetery the group set off in that direction.
An orange VACANCY flashed in the dirty window of the Jagger Hotel and I thought I’d probably have to book a room there later. The old four story building still gave me the creeps but as far as I knew it was still the only place to rent a room in town.
Even with a total eclipse of the sun due to happen in three days there wasn’t a lot of traffic. A graphic banner stretched across the street from the Comanche County Library to the Rifleman Barber Shop at Wallace Street read DAY OF THE MOON August 21st.  Someone had drawn the moon so that it looked like it was on fire … and I knew I was home.

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

The Spare-A-Time Café sits on the North West corner of Townsend Avenue and Main Street and if you want to know anything about the city or who is in town it’s the place to go. The place was packed, noisy and boisterous. Lucky for me four lumber mill workers just vacated a booth next to the window and I grabbed it. I slid the pile of quarters they left for a tip toward the edge of the table and had just turned my cup over waiting for coffee when I caught a glimpse of strawberry blonde trusses bouncing out of the kitchen. The face under the hair was hidden behind four steaming plates of hamburger and fries but I knew it had to be Susan Demotte. No other girl on Earth moves the way she does. I felt a sharp pain in the left side of my chest like I’d been kicked by a balking mule … or perhaps shot by a baby’s bow and arrow. Just before I left town she was engaged to marry Frank Olsen and was set live the rich life. What the hell was she doing working in a place like this, and why did I have to run into her my first day back in town? Lucky for me she was working another section of tables and I turned my head to look out at the street when she hurried past.
Mary Lee rushed over with a pot of coffee and almost dropped it when she went to pour my cup. “Jack Taylor!” she gasped. “I thought you were dead!”
“There were a few times when I thought so too,” I grinned. “But here I am.”
She sat the pot on the table and gave me a hug. “So many people will want to see you,” she said. “Perhaps I should move you to a larger table. Those two families in the center are just about to leave.” I looked around to see familiar faces smiling … some were gesturing for me to join them.
            “That’s okay,” I told her. “I just got back in town and I need some time to catch my breath.” She noticed me staring past her as Susan set the burgers in front of four truck drivers.
            “She’s not married now,” Mary whispered. “She was, but that Olsen boy liked to knock her around. You’d think someone with that much money would have better manners!”
Susan turned just as Mary walked away and for an instant her eyes were locked on mine. The shimmering green color reminded me of leisurely moonlight walks and illegal night fishing along the banks of the Cottonmouth River and the reflected ripples in the water as we made wishes on falling stars. A forgotten melody from an old rock song echoed back from the dusty corners of my mind. I don't hardly know her. But I think I could love her. The dark areas under her eyes reminded me of the places where the best memories hide and the secrets that made her so interesting. I thought I saw a tear roll down her cheek just before she turned away.
Someone slapped me on the back and then sat down across from me grinning. “I usually know when any ne’er-do-wells roll into town, but it looks like you’ve taken me by surprise!” My old pal Gary Manning looked almost the same, except that he was now wearing the uniform of a Comanche County Sheriff’s Deputy.
            “I didn’t know they allowed criminals to work off their fines posing as police officers!” I shot back.
            “I’ve cleaned up my act some since you ran out on us,” Gary said. “Sheriff Walker is getting too old to chase down cow thieves and drug smugglers and John Walker the fifth is still at the law enforcement academy.” Mary was suddenly at our booth and filled Gary’s cup.
            “I know police work often runs in families,” I mused. “But why does each one have to be named John?”
            “Tradition,” Gary said. “Besides this is Cloverdale … we make our own rules.” He noticed me watching Susan as she hurried into the kitchen. “She had a bad time after you left,” he said. “I don’t think she really wanted to marry Frank but I think she felt trapped.”
            “How so?”
Gary shook his head. “She was two month’s pregnant and just starting to show. That Baptist preacher father of hers would have disowned her for sure.”
            “Pregnant?” I gasped. “How could that be?”
            “All this time I thought you knew.” Gary rose from the table as excited shouts in Spanish erupted from the back of the café. A group of pipe moving, Mexicans had formed a circle and set two angry roosters on the floor and were exchanging money as they watched the bloody fight. “Dios maldito... no en aquí!” Gary thundered as he pushed his way through the crowd.
            I happened to glance toward the door just as Susan pushed her way out the door. A large group was waiting for tables. I watched as she ran across the street and tossed her apron into the back seat of a rusted 1974 Chevy Malibu and then rushed into a day care center. She came out a minute later dragging what looked like a seven year old boy. “Susan said she was sick and left on our busiest morning all year,” Mary said as she tried to refill my cup. I covered it with my hand. “I hope you didn’t bring some strange disease with you from your travels!” She winked.
            “So do I,” I told her as I got up from the booth.
The Chevy was just a distant puff of smoke when I got out on the sidewalk. Susan turned south on Wallace Street. Across the river bridge was the poor section of town, A hundred crummy trailer houses jammed together on five acres. I hoped that was not where she lived.

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

            “You here to watch the eclipse?” I turned. Digging Bear was leaning against the café like a grinning cigar-store Indian. I went to shake his hand but he hugged me instead and then we wrestled on the sidewalk in a mock fight. “I’m glad you’re back,” he said. “It’s been pretty dull around here!”
            “Cloverdale?” I laughed. “I find that hard to believe! Are you still breaking into the liquor store every Saturday night?”
            “No,” Digging Bear said. “That’s what I mean about dull … now I own the store!”
I guess he noticed my mouth hanging open. “The feds finally paid the tribe for what they did to us at Wounded Knee.” He smiled sheepishly. “I’ve also got a brand new Aztec gold Ford pickup painted with big white spots on the back fenders to look like an Appaloosa!”
            “You damn Injuns just ain’t no fun anymore!” I laughed and he joined me.
            “If you don’t have your glasses yet for viewing the eclipse you’d better get them now,” Digging Bear said. “They’re selling out all over town!”
Digging Bear was right, every store I went into was sold out of the special dark glasses. Suddenly I remembered the second hand store and I wondered if Ted Burlap still ran the place.

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

I shook my head at the yellowed porcelain marionette hanging in the dirty window of the junk store; it looked at least five hundred years old and something about the glass eyes embedded in the skull filled with hair-line cracks gave me the creeps. A tiny bell rang when I opened the door. Ted Burlap, not his real unpronounceable last name and the oldest Jewish citizen of Cloverdale, appeared from a back room an eager smile twisting his rat-like face. “Hello,” he said looking at my clothing. I knew he was trying to determine how much money I had. “What can I do you for?” I smiled inwardly at his words … he was trying to put himself on my level.
            “I just got into town,” I told him. “I need a pair of eclipse glasses, but they seem to be sold out everywhere.”
I could see the disappointment wash over him like a cold shower. Eclipse viewing glasses were notoriously cheap made of flimsy cardboard and only sold for a buck or two. There wasn’t going to be much profit in my request … unless. I could almost hear the gears rolling in his head like an old fashioned Vegas slot machine ready to dump a pound of nickels. Suddenly he snapped his fingers and a light went on in both his eyes. “I might have something for you,” he said. He turned and I followed him, “in the back.”
            He rummaged through a wooden box filled with old magazines and rabbit-ear TV antennas. Near the bottom under a pile of old radio tubes he pulled out a pair of what looked like the darkest sunglasses I’d ever seen. The frames were made of what appeared to be bent welding rod and the lenses appeared to be coated glass. “I got these from Joseph Callahan’s estate sale,” Ted explained. “I think the man had them made special for counting sun spots. If these will work I can let you have them for say … twenty bucks!”
            “I don’t know,” I said as he handed me the glasses. “They look kind of old, like something Heinrich Himmler would wear to an execution on the beach.”
Ted squirmed like a rabbit with his foot caught in a trap. “Eighteen bucks,” he said, “and I’ll even clean the lenses.”
I knew the man expected me to bargain with him … it was part of the ritual.”
            “Anything more than five dollars,” I said, “and I’ll walk out to that Conoco station by Highway 13. Someone said they had a whole rack full!”
            “Eight dollars and I’ll throw in a hat,” Ted said. He dug through a different box and pulled out something that looked like the kind of bucket-hat Henry Winkler wore in one of his movies. I almost laughed but then I figured with the hat and dark glasses I might be able to get close enough to Susan without having her running off.
            “I’ll take them if they work,” I told him. Ted followed me outside.

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

It was almost 10 AM and the sun was about a forty-five degree angle in the sky. When I put the glasses on I couldn’t see anything but when I turned east, the sun appeared like a fifteen-watt light-bulb glowing inside a frosted glass ball. Joseph Callahan obviously knew what he was doing. I could see distinct features on the sun with dark and light areas. I turned around and started to take them off when something caught my eye. It looked like a negative being projected from a high contrast black and white film. A sinister and very white human figure appeared to be moving away from me with both hands stretched in front … perhaps reaching for something. I pulled the glasses off to see what it was. Two women were walking down the sidewalk. One of them held a wrapped baby that was crying. “I hope Doctor Descombey can find out what’s wrong with Bobbie,” the first woman gasped. “It’s like he keeps getting weaker and weaker!”
            “Amazing aren’t they?” Ted gestured toward the glasses, took my money and walked back inside his shop.
I put the glasses back on. The negative man appeared to be choking something! I pulled the glasses off again and this time both gals were bent over the infant. They gasped and began to run down the sidewalk. I chased after the women to see what would happen but I lost them when they went inside the doctor’s office. I wandered around town seeing lots of things I wish I hadn’t.
            I stopped on the corner of Townsend and Main Street and put the eclipse glasses back on. The street was filled with negative men, women and even animals from all time periods. I watched a team of negative horses go galloping past pulling a wagon being driven by a terrified negative man. A negative Indian warrior wearing a war bonnet thundered behind on a horse and appeared to shoot something with a bow. When I took the glasses off, I saw an elderly man crumple on the sidewalk clutching his chest … no one was around him. A crowd gathered. Someone said he was having a heart attack.
It was as if when I put the glasses on I was looking at another world which is around us all the time but that you can’t see. A world filled with the dead where they can make things happen to the living. I was amazed … and also more than a little terrified.
I was thinking about going back to Ted’s junk store to tell him that I’ve changed my mind and get my money back, and probably get the hell out of town, when I saw Susan Demotte coming out a Spare-A-Dime with her child in tow. She must have forgotten something. I instinctively put the eclipse lasses back on and pulled down the Henry Winkler hat so she wouldn’t recognize me. I quickly pulled the glasses off trying to catch my breath.
Two negative Chinese with pointed coolie-hats were following Susan and her son. Both her pursuers looked skeletal and walked with jerky lurching movements. A long butcher knife gleamed from a boney man’s hand. A woman held an ice pick. I watched as Susan took forever to strap my son into the passenger seat and then move around to the driver’s side.
            I had to find out what the negative people were doing. When I put the glasses back on at first I couldn’t see them, then I caught a glimpse of them moving quickly away. I took the eclipse glasses off and stared. They were both flashing oriental grins from the back-seat of Susan’s battered car!

TO BE CONTINUED …