Saturday, January 30, 2016
ONE FOR THE BOOKS: PART FIVE
ONE FOR THE BOOKS (A Jacob Slade Story)
By Daniel Skye
PART FIVE: END OF DAYS
Friday, October 9, 2015.
Jeffrey Gross had yet to make his move. He sat in a booth by himself, refusing to drink or play cards with the others. Jacob Slade sat on the edge of his bar stool, watching Jeffrey’s every move, staring at his symmetrical fingers.
Lenore had warned him that this was a sign of lycanthropy. Jeffrey was a Howler, a beast more savage, more vicious than you could imagine. This was a werewolf on steroids. And unlike a werewolf, Jeffrey didn’t need to wait for the next full moon. He could transform at will and tear them all to shreds if he so desired.
But they had two advantages. They were still packing silver bullets they acquired from the pawnshop. And they were still armed with their squirt guns. Squirt guns may not sound very dangerous or menacing, unless they’re filled with whiskey. Rye is like acid to the flesh of a Howler.
“You guys came at the right time,” Horace, the proprietor of Portside Pub joked, “Drinks are only half price.”
“I left my wallet back in the cruiser,” Booth said, patting himself down to indicate he had nothing.
“I was just kidding,” Horace said. “Drinks are on the house, of course. It’s the end of world. We might as well go out with a buzz.”
Slade took his eyes off Jeffrey only for a few moments, and when he turned back, he was face to snout. Jeffrey, or the beast formally known as Jeffrey, howled with delight.
“Oh, shit!” Horace shouted. He reached under the bar for his shotgun, but when he came back up, the beast was perched atop the bar. It snatched the shotgun with its mighty paws and bent the barrel, twisting it around like a pretzel. Then it went in for the kill. It took no more than two bites to sever Horace’s head at the neck.
There were people screaming, running for cover, hiding in the bathroom or storage closet. But Jacob, Karl, Drake, and Lenore stood their ground. Drake and Lenore pumped their squirt guns and shot whiskey straight across the bar. But the beast took cover behind the bar.
Drake approached with caution. He couldn’t hear a sound behind the bar. He leaned over and the beast leapt up, clawing at his chest. Drake staggered back, his shirt ripped open, blood gushing from multiple wounds.
Karl, service revolver in hand, opened fire. But the beast sought cover again behind the bar, and all Booth accomplished was shattering a couple of top shelf tequila bottles.
“Let me handle this,” Lenore Foster said.
“Are you crazy?” Booth said, almost staring at her cross eyed.
“Trust me on this one,” she said. “It’s time I let you all in on a little secret.”
She approached the bar and dared it to show its snout.
The Howler, foaming at the mouth, jumped over the bar and came at Lenore. Its prodigious claws raked across her chest, but produced not a scratch. The beast howled in pain and looked down to see that its chest was oozing blood.
“That’s right, tough guy,” Lenore said with confidence. “Try it again.”
The beast clawed at her face, drawing blood from its own snout in the process.
“Lenore, what the fuck?” Jacob was in disbelief.
“I’m just like you Jacob,” she said. “I’m different. I’m a human voodoo doll. Any pain inflicted upon me, is inflicted right back on him.”
As Lenore held the beast at bay, Jacob checked on Drake. He was badly wounded, but he’d survive. “Take this,” Drake said, motioning towards the squirt gun. “Get that bastard for me.”
Jacob pumped the squirt gun and blasted the Howler right in the face. Its bloody snout sizzled and began to melt away. It released one final cry before its snout dissolved, the whiskey melting through its fur as Jacob continued to soak the beast in rye.
Karl, finishing the job, fired one silver bullet into its dissipating chest cavity. The beast–or what was left of it–collapsed to the floor with a sickening wet thud. Those that had retreated came out of hiding and breathed long sighs of relief.
There was clapping and whistling. Everyone was cheering, hooting, and hollering. Then a dim silence fell across the bar as they realized Horace was no longer among them.
“Rest in peace,” Jacob said and sighed.
* * *
Horace had a first aid kit behind the bar, which came in handy for bandaging Drake’s wounds, after the cuts were sterilized with whiskey.
Jacob made sure to check up on his buddy and see how he was holding up. Drake wanted a drink more than anything else, but because of the blood loss, he decided against it.
“Tomorrow is another day,” Drake said and laughed. “Hey, what was that Duncan said to you before he died? Something about a kid?”
“He said to look for the boy with copper hair.”
“Like that one over there,” Drake said, nodding with his head towards Adam Ridley. The boy had reddish brown hair, the color of copper. A sketchbook was tucked under one arm and Jacob gave Drake a bemused look. “Eerie,” he said.
Jacob approached the boy casually and with the benevolence of a politician before Election Day. “That was quite a scare, wasn’t it, kiddo? How are you holding up?”
“I’m fine,” Adam said. “And yeah, I guess it was a little scary. But it was kind of cool too. I mean, I feel bad about Mr. Weaver, but I don’t know. I’m weird.”
“Join the club,” Jacob chuckled.
“This stuff doesn’t really scare me. It’s strange. I love horror movies. But my parents don’t really let me watch them. That’s all this is to me. One big horror movie.”
“That’s one way of looking at it,” Jacob said. Kid logic, he thought and laughed silently. “Mind if I see what you’re working on?”
“It’s a comic book. But it’s not finished yet. My parents can’t see it until it’s done. But I guess you can see it. Just don’t tell anyone, okay?”
“I promise,” Jacob said and crossed pinkies with Adam. The boy relinquished the sketchbook and Jacob flipped through it. He was impressed with the boy’s artwork. Then his fascination turned to horror. It was a story Jacob already knew by heart.
The dead came back to life to feed on the living. Bodies went missing from the cemetery, from the morgue. Zombies wreaked havoc inside a stadium. People went mad and turned into monsters. There were vampires and werewolves aplenty. It was too eerie to be a coincidence. Jacob sensed something about Adam Ridley. Something ominous and unsettling.
Page after page of madness and violence and blood and gore. And the story all started right here in Dorchester.
Jacob was turning pale. “Adam,” he said, his voice quivering. “I want you to try something for me. It might sound strange, but I want you to draw something for me. I want you to draw this bar.”
“Okay,” Adam said, amused. He took a seat and spent a few minutes sketching the scenery.
“Nice work,” Jacob commended him. “Now I want you to add a zombie coming out of the storage closet.”
“What?” Adam chuckled.
“Just do it, please,” Jacob said.
“Well, alright,” Adam said. He spent another few minutes working on the perfect zombie. This one was rotten to the core. It only had one eye, and its skin was black with decay.
“Hey, what’s that?” Artie Clay asked. He was the first to hear the noise emanating from the storage closet.
“Is someone still hiding in there?” Booth asked.
“Let’s see,” Artie said.
“I wouldn’t open that door if I was you,” Jacob warned him a second too late. His hand was already turning the knob, and the zombie inside the storage closet did the rest, forcing its way out. Artie stumbled back and gasped.
The overwhelming stench of decay hit them all like a kick in the teeth. It only had one eye. The other socket was hollow but swollen with pus. And its skin was blacker than tar. Its bone creaked with every awkward step it took.
Jacob used his last two rounds to put it down, splattering zombie brains all over the storage closet door.
“We have to destroy this sketchbook,” Jacob declared.
* * *
Despite Adam’s protests, the book was burned and the survivors rejoiced. They stepped outside and let the sunlight embrace their skin. The zombies were curling up in the streets and dying. There were no Howlers or vampires in sight. The nightmare was over.
Karl Booth was elated. It was the first time Jacob had ever seen him smile. Booth’s gaunt, weathered face told the tale of a man who’d been to hell and back, and shared no regrets. He brushed his hand through his thinning grey hair.
“So when are you going to admit defeat and finally shave your head?” Jacob asked, busting his chops.
“As soon as you shave off that greasy mop top you call a hairdo.”
“So in other words, never,” Jacob laughed.
“Nice work,” Booth said, congratulating Jacob on a job well done. He extended his hand, even with Deputy Brackett watching, and Jacob was happy to accept it. They shook hands and that was when Jacob spotted an irregularity. Booth’s index and middle fingers were exactly the same length.
“You knew my mother personally, didn’t you?” Jacob asked. “That’s why you adopted me, right?”
“Yes, I knew your mom. Charlotte was a great woman. It’s awful what happened to her. I still miss her. Think about her all the time.”
“I think I know who killed her now,” Jacob said.
“I’ve heard your werewolf theory before.”
“I don’t think it was just any werewolf that killed her. I think the Howler who killed her is standing right next to me.”
“What are you saying?” Booth asked, feigning shock and confusion.
“Lenore told me something interesting about the fingers of a werewolf. They’re middle and index fingers are the exact same length.”
Booth looked down and regarded his symmetrical fingers. Guilt washed over his face. His lips parted, but no words escaped. He let the silence be his confession.
As the survivors dispersed, Adam overheard someone say, “I can’t wait to get home and marathon with Game of Thrones.” Adam’s eyes lit up. His father loved the show and he’d heard so much about it, but was forbidden to watch. But he’d heard enough about the show to know he’d enjoy it someday. Kings and queens and battles and…dragons.
The clouds turned from white to an ominous grey. A terrible roar echoed through the sky and fire rained down on Dorchester.
“No,” Adam said, shaking his head defiantly. “I didn’t draw it. I just thought it.” But that was all it took. Adam had powers beyond his wildest imagination. He could manifest evil with the will of his mind. It wasn’t the drawings. It was Adam himself.
Jacob turned his accusing eyes away from Karl Booth, and gazed skyward. Beyond the smoke and fire, he saw the vast wings of the dragon.
“Oh, now what?” Slade sighed, exasperated.