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I once got paid to spend the summer telling lies to little kids. I ran a mountain man program at a district Boy Scout camp. I told my guests I was born in my log cabin and I traded for everything I had. Late evenings I shot muzzleloader rifles with campers and then told ghost stories around the fire. Oh, how I wish that would pay enough to be my career instead of just a one-time summer job.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Midnight visitor

The following was inspired by a post on YSaC. A user of craigslist was looking for a volunteer willing to dress as Satan to scare a kid into behaving better.




    The impatient hand finally released the doorbell button when sound started emanating from the darkened house. The shadow on the doorstep, shrouded in a foul-smelling mist, took a bit of a step back. The door swung open and harsh light spilled out into the inky blackness. The man standing inside the doorway tried to focus through the haze of alcohol clouding his brain, the stench of used crack pipe coming from behind, and the acrid reek of sulfur that hit him in the face as it spilled in from outside. His anger at the 3 AM disturbance at first perverted his face, and then perverted his language. “Exactly what the fuck do you want -” realization dawned on the man’s face when he saw a scarlet-cloaked figure surrounded by a sinus-choking mist – “oh, it’s you. Great costume.” The homeowner’s eyes narrowed because of the brightness of the light he’d turned on. That, combined with the chemicals muffling his brain, prevented him from seeing finer details of the scene. He overlooked the nearly skeletal visage of his midnight guest and a horde of glowing eyes cowering just outside the halo of light cast by the bare bulb in the hallway. “What the fuck are you doing here at – “the man’s eyes changed from sleepily narrowed to a focused squint as he looked at the cell phone he pulled from his pocket – “three in the morning? Johnny’s not even here. Spending the night with his friend what’s-his-name. I wish he wouldn’t hang out with that guy, ’cause some day Johnny’s gonna want to go to church with him, and Sunday’s my day! Sleep, football, and beer. The other six days I already get up too early and bust my ass. That’s mine.”

    At first the man inside the house just heard a cold rasping, like the sound of a train’s wheels sliding across the track immediately after the brakes were fully applied. Slowly, he began to realize the figure was talking. “Hey man, clear your throat a little. I can barely understand you.”
The skeletal visage pinched inside itself and growled, and then spat a lump onto the faux wooden deck. The deck began to smoke and sizzle as the lump burned a hole through the material. “Not here for Johnny.”

    “Sure you are. You’re answering my craigslist ad, right? Came to scare my kid straight? Little prick finished my last pack just before leaving to his friend’s house, and I can’t see straight enough to find my keys and go into town for another pack. Have to wait until tomorrow to get more smokes.”

    “Not here for Johnny, we’re here for you. See, I’ve got a bet with goody-two-shoes -” the figure mockingly folded his hands and rolled his eyes as if he were looking to the sky and saying a prayer to somebody he resented “- about nature vs. nurture. I believe people are naturally evil, but that smug little prick – “the figure shook his gnarled claw of a hand in the same direction he sent his mock-prayer “- believes people are good on their own. Well, your kid gets to be a test case. You’ll be mine eventually anyway, so I got to come up here and pull you out of Johnny’s life. I don’t think anybody’ll give him a second look at the shitty orphanage they’ll send him to, so he’ll be left to himself to blossom into a bastard prick of the greatest potential.”

    The shadow moved a little to the side and the cowering eyes began to swarm into an army on the march. The homeowner finally noticed them only when the first line of otherworldly troops appeared in the light. As on cue, each troop brought its left arm up to shade its eyes for a second, but began growling and kept marching forward after lowering the arm again. Students of history would be reminded of the children working in coal mines during the Industrial revolution, but fans of sci-fi would think about vaguely-shapen globs of flesh-eating ooze. The first line of troops seemed to trip right at the man’s feet, but his eyes shot wide when the individual black forms seemed to leak into a single puddle of smoky tar at his feet. Slowly the tar puddle grew as the man stepped away, first in confusion, then in mild fear, and finally (when advancing tar splashed onto his feet) sheer terror. He opened his mouth to scream, but ended up choking and spitting up some of the tar that was taking over his body from the inside. As he repeatedly coughed up burning tar, the homeowner slowly sank into the puddle of goo. Grabbing for anything he could use to stop his descent, he began to resemble a prehistoric woolly mammoth panicking as it is sucked into a tar pit. Two more lines of troops added their size to the growing puddle, and then the shadow on the doorstep waved his hand. Even though front line of marchers couldn’t see the motion because the shadow was behind them, they all stopped on cue. They had cowered in the darkness before their marching order and then stood and walked proud and erect like elite soldiers during the attack, and now that the march was over their pride slowly faded from their stance as each shape slunk away from the light and began cowering again in the darkness. A skeletal arm reached out from under the scarlet cloak and grasped the doorknob, pulling it closed. A sound escaped from the bony throat. If anybody had been around to hear, they wouldn’t have been able to distinguish it between a chuckle and a growl. As the door closed and the light faded, the remaining soldiers changed from cowering in darkness to whimpering out of fear and love at the fringes of the scarlet cloak. “Well done, my children.”

    Eleven hours later, Johnny walked through the door. “Not even home”, he thought as he realized the house was empty. As young as he was, he didn’t notice the lingering aroma of sulfur mingling with the ever-present tobacco and cocaine smells.

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