Garbage Disposal

Bloody Garbage Disposal

Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish!

“Bitch!” The words stumbled across his teeth like clumsy elephants, sliding over his lips and struggling through sour bourbon breath.

She assumed the usual position: fetal, head covered, waiting for the blows. They came as sharp kicks to her ribs. She felt relieved that Frank was wearing his sneakers instead his pointed cowboy boots. She focused on peaceful thoughts as he kicked: sunny meadows, beaches, sunsets. It was a technique she had learned as a child when her parents were drunk and angry. Focus on a pleasant memory and dissolve into it. She often imagined that these escape mechanisms were visible to onlookers as gleaming glass globes in orbit around her head – beautiful scenes of tranquility playing inside each one for the world to behold.

“And get that garbage disposal fixed by the time I get home!” he said, delivering one last kick to her buttocks.

She closed her eyes and listened. She heard the apartment door slam. Then blam, blam, blam, blam, blam came the sound of his feet on the stairs outside. Then the jingle of the keys, the roar of the engine and the chirp of the tires as he gunned the big buick away down the street. She stayed still for a few minutes and then began to sob. Emotions boiled up from all directions, mingling together like a mad concoction from some chemist of misery – rage, humiliation, desperation, anger, with river of deep and profound sadness flowing through everything. A pool of tears collected around her cheek and formed a salty puddle on the cold linoleum floor. She stayed there for about an hour and then slowly pulled herself up, gingerly pressing on her ribs, assessing the extent of the damage. She shuffled to the kitchen counter, grabbed a handful of paper towels and dabbed her tear-stained face. She looked out the kitchen window and saw an enormous black raven perched on a wire. It stretched, extended large black wings and arched its beak skyward.

I’d give my soul for that kind of freedom she thought and felt a wave of jealousy wash over her. The black beast folded its wings back against its body, cocked its head to one side, and looked straight at her. Did it wink one eye? One gleaming red eye? She stepped back, startled, and the bird took flight in a flurry of black feathers. A moment later, the door buzzer screeched.

“Who are you?” she said, staring at the man in the doorway. He had black hair, a pointed goatee and swarthy skin, and his coveralls were pitch black. Dark eyes gleamed from within deep sockets, framed by thick black eyebrows. He grinned, showing perfect white teeth and when he spoke, his voice seemed to resonate from everywhere, deep and warm with an accent that was vaguely latin, but with a hint of german or nordic sprinkled throughout.

“I’m Sam, from Johnson Plumbing.” He smiled and lifted his toolkit, revealing the company logo.

“But, um, I didn’t call yet, I don’t think…” she said, managing a nervous smile.

“Is this not apartment 237 at 3477 North 33rd?” The man pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket and unfolded it.

She nodded. “Yes this is…”

“And are you, uh, Ta-ra Mag-nu-son?”

“Yes, but I…” she leaned in and looked at the paper.

“Well, according to my notes, you called yesterday for a garbage disposal repair. If this is a bad time I could…” Sam said and took a step back.

“Okay, well, I just don’t recall.” she shifted her gaze to the sink. “Wait, since you’re here, I actually do need my disposal fixed.”

“Perfect!” Sam smiled and walked past Tara to the sink. She smelled a hint of smoke as he passed. Not cigarette smoke, but some other smoke. Something more acrid, more complex. Sulfur?

“How much will this be?” Tara asked.

“How about you let me have a look and assess the damage. Then I’ll give you an estimate. Sound good?” Sam smiled. Did he just wink?

Uh, okay, I guess.” Tara glanced back out the window, looking for the giant raven but he was gone. When she looked back, Sam was on his hands and knees beneath the sink. She noticed something funny about his shoes. They had the wrong shape. Were the toes too wide? Or perhaps the heels were too narrow. There was also something strange about the way his coveralls fit his buttocks. It was as if there wasn’t a gap where there should have been. Instead, she noticed a small ridge
protruding from between his buttocks, as if he had a deformed tailbone, or maybe…

“Okay, ma’am, the bad news is I think your old unit’s done for.” Sam stood up, adjusted his coveralls and wiped his brow. “The good news is, I have a special on my top replacement unit, the Dispose-All 5000. It’s 50% off this week. The boss wants to clear the inventory and this baby’s got all the bells and whistles. Mountains of horsepower too so it can destroy everything you can feed it. And I mean EVERYTHING!”

“How much?” Tara stared at Sam’s shoes. They really were oddly shaped. The toes were too wide and they went up in the back in a strange manner.

“As much as you can feed it!” Sam smiled.

“No, I mean, how much does it cost, you know, with labor.” Tara massaged her bruised rib.

“Oh, yeah, lemme see. About an hour’s work plus parts, let’s just say $50 bucks.”

Tara’s face lit up. “50 dollars? Wow, is this replacement some cheap piece of…”

“Oh, no way, ma’am. The Dispose-All 5000 is one serious hunk of hardware. I mean, there’s nothing it can’t handle. Nothing at all on this earth.” Sam grinned and stroked his goatee.

“Is there some kind of warranty?” Tara crossed her arms.

“Well, you can add one for just five dollars. And that’s a life time warranty. Forever.”

“Forever, huh?” Tara grinned. “Ok, how long will it take?”

“Forever’s a mighty long time, ma’am.” Sam said, gazing out the window.

“No, I mean how long for the repairs?” Tara said.

“I’d say I’ll be out of here in hour. Now if you’ll just sign your name here, then we’ll be all set.” Sam pulled a black clipboard with a form attached from his toolkit. “It’s just for the, uh, warranty and the labor. Nothing special. Standard stuff but I do need a signature before I can start.”

“Ok.” Tara started to scrawl her signature on the black line near the bottom of the form. She paused. At the bottom of the page she noticed some extremely small print. It looked like something in another language, but it was too tiny to really understand.

“What’s this, Spanish?” Tara pointed to the almost microscopic text.

“Oh, no, that’s the warranty. The unit’s made in Germany so the warranty’s in german. You know, precision manufacturing and that kind of thing. Nothin’s made in the good ole’ USA anymore, right?”

“Yeah, really, everything’s Chinese.” She finished her signature and handed the clipboard back to Sam who smiled and placed it back in his toolkit.

“Allright, I’ve got laundry to do so if you need me, just holler.” Tara said and walked down the hallway to the laundry room. She could hear Sam’s tools clanking as he began the repairs. Was he humming a tune? What was that song? Something from an old movie?

Tara had just finished loading the washer with clothes when she heard a knock on the doorway behind her. She turned to find Sam, toolkit in hand.

“All done, ma’am.” Said Sam.

“Really?” Tara wrinkled her brow. “But it’s only been…” she looked at her watch. What the hell? An hour had passed yet it seemed like just five minutes. She grabbed her cell phone to verify. There it was, an hour later.

“I just need to show you a few operating tips before I go, If you don’t mind.” said Sam as he turned and headed back toward the kitchen.

“Ok.” said Tara, following behind. Those shoes really look weird, she mused.

“There’s just few things you need to know about this unit.” said Sam. “The first rule is ALWAYS run the water whenever you use the D-5000. You must run the tap to operate the blades.” Sam reached out and turned on the faucet. The water swirled and gurgled down the drain.

“Now the second thing is the MOST important rule. NEVER get near the D-5000 when it’s running. That’s why the switch is across the room.” Sam pointed to a red switch across the kitchen on the opposite wall, next to where Tara stood.

“Turn it on and wait until the blades finish grinding. You’ll be able to tell by the sound. Then turn it off. DO NOT go near the unit while it’s in operation. Got it?” Sam raised his eyebrows and smiled.

“Yes, I think so.” said Tara.

“Good. It’s very important that you follow these rules because this unit is extremely powerful. Safety must be observed at all times.” Sam picked up his toolkit and walked towards the door.

“And if anything doesn’t work, call me right away. You have a lifetime warranty that covers any problems.” Sam paused at the doorway. He smiled and handed Tara his card.

“Ok.” Tara said and put the card in her pocket. “Thanks. Oh wait, I almost forgot, here’s the check.” Tara handed Sam a check made out to seventy-five dollars.

“Well, that’s mighty thoughtful of you ma’am. Thank you very much!” said Sam as he walked through the doorway.

Tara watched Sam walk away down the hall. She could hear him humming that strange tune again. What was that song? A song from the sixties? The Stones perhaps? When he was gone, she locked the door and returned to the sink. OK, let’s try this thing out she thought and pulled a large plate of left-over chicken breasts from the fridge. She carried the plate to the sink and set it on the counter. She picked the largest hunk of chicken and dropped it into the disposal drain hole and turned on the water. Then she walked across the room to the switch. She stared back at the sink and flipped the power on. Immediately, the lights dimmed and the metallic whine of large spinning metal blades filled the room. A loud grinding sound rattled the cupboards. It shifted pitch for a half-second as the blades engaged the chicken and then returned to a smooth metallic whirring hum. Tara flipped the switch off and walked over to the sink. The chicken breast was gone. Not a trace remained in the sink.

Tara grinned and stuffed the rest of the meat into the drain. She left the plates in the sink and walked back to the red switch. Flick, grind, and grind and grind, louder and louder and then whirr. Tara flipped the switch off and walked back to the sink. Everything was gone. Even the plates had been sucked into the disposal and destroyed.

“Wow!” Tara said out loud. A flood of exhilaration filled her soul as she rushed to her boyfriend’s room and gathered a mountain of football trophies in both arms. She was giddy with revenge, sweet and diabolical, payback for all the beatings and abuse she had endured. She hurried back to the kitchen and dumped the gilded statues into the sink, piling them high, well beyond the capacity of the small stainless steel basin. Grinning, she flipped the switch. Instantly, a flurry of black metal mechanical arms encircled the mass of trophies, lifting and spinning them in the air like a robotic juggler, feeding all to a central array of circular blades which spun just above the drain. The arms manipulated and twisted the items, systematically sending each piece into the whirling slicers and then down the black drain hole which expanded and contracted, like a giant camera aperture, to accommodate the chunks as they fell. The Dispose-All 5000 consumed all of Frank’s trophies in about 5 seconds.

Tara clapped her hands in delight and hurried out of the kitchen. She returned dragging Frank’s Laz-E-Boy recliner across the linoleum kitchen floor. She squatted down and heaved the chair up onto the counter top, balancing it across the sink. With a gleam in her eye, she danced across the room to the switch. Flick, whirrrrr, grind and voila! Frank’s prized recliner was gone. No more “get me beer!” with legs up and a bag of chips on his lap. No more sleeping through the last innings of the Yankees game, snoring like a buzzsaw in the living room.

Tara stared down into the drain. It looked so normal, so unassuming. Slowly, the black cloud of an idea began to boil around her head. A way out. An escape from the abuse. She grabbed her keys and left the apartment. Her brain crackled with excitement. This was it. She had a way to put everything behind her. To start over. To erase a life of abuse that had started with her drunken father and a string of bad-decision boyfriends and ended with Frank. She practically danced down the stairs and out the door.

She waltzed through the oppressive heat and humidity of the New York City heatwave. She hurried across the street, weaving around the crowds along 33rd and ducked into Sal’s corner market at the end of the block. She grabbed a bag of ice and a six-pack of Frank’s favorite beer.

Back at the apartment, Tara dumped the ice into the sink and arranged the beer cans in a neat circle. Then, she sat down at the table and waited.

The sun had disappeared about an hour earlier when she finally heard Frank’s footsteps on the stairs outside. Then came the jingling of the keys and the clumsy attempts to unlock the door. Finally, Frank stumbled into the kitchen.

“Haaaey!” He slurred. She could smell his breath. It reeked of bourbon and Budweiser. “Man ammm I huungarrree!” he said, brushing past Tara. He opened the pantry, grabbed a bag of chips and ripped it open, spilling handfuls onto the floor as he stuffed the crunchy morsels into his mouth. “Aaay, wha’s in the siiink?” Frank lurched across the kitchen. Tara watched closely. She had to time this just right.

“Haaaaey! My flavorite!” Frank leaned over the sink and Tara jumped from her chair and flicked the red switch on the other side of the room.

Nothing happened. No whirling blades, no metal arms. Just silence. Frank plunged his hand deep into the icy basin and dug out a cold beer. He popped the tab and opened it, click, hisss.

“Ooooh yeah! Ice cold baby!” Frank said. “Bitch, I thought I tole you tah fix that disposal!” He clenched his fists and lurched toward Tara.

“I did! I did!” she said, recoiling.

Frank raised his arm to stike and Tara covered her head. From beneath her arms she heard the door buzzer.

Frank stopped, mid swing. “Git the damn door!” he slurred.

Tara un-crouched and scurried across the room. She opened the door. It was Sam, the plumber.

“Sam, what, what are you doing…” Tara fumbled with her words, trying to compose herself.

“Ms. Tara, I hope I’m not bothering you, but after I left, I remembered that I forgot to install an important part of the system.” said Sam, glancing past Tara at Frank, who lurched drunkenly toward the door.

“You the asshole that didn’t fix my disposal?” Frank’s words sprayed from his numb lips as he pointed at Sam.

Sam stepped into the apartment, toolbox in hand. “Why yes sir, I was here earlier and…”

“Shithead! You didn’t fix SHIT! What kine of moron plummer can’t fix a disposaaall.” Frank tilted the beer can back and drained the remaining portion. He crushed the can and tossed it to the floor.

“Oh, I am so sorry, sir. I neglected to install a very important part. I assure you, I can have everything honky dory in 5 minutes.” said Sam, smiling.

“You are a shit plummer. You are as worthless as my shit bitch over there!” Frank pointed at Tara who was standing by the red dispose-all 5000 on/off switch.

Sam smiled and raised his hand above his head. He glanced at Tara and then snapped his fingers. “There, I fixed it. I just installed the kill switch.” said Sam.

Frank lurched across the kitchen, coming nose to nose with Sam. “What the hell are you talking about? You ain’t fixed shit, jack-ass!” Frank poked his index finger into Sam’s chest. “I wann a full refund of all my money, dickhead!”

Sam glanced at Tara. “Sir, why don’t you just go get another beer and let me show you how well your system works?”

Frank chuckled and staggered to the sink. “Okay, Mr. finger-snap plummer, I WILL get another one, but that doesn’t make you less of an ASSHOLE!” Frank thrust his hand deep into the chilled water of the sink.

Sam motioned to Tara who nodded and threw the switch. For a moment, nothing happened. Then, suddenly, the dispose-all roared into action. Metal cables tipped with black barbs shot up from beneath the icy water. One tore through Frank’s neck, one through his shoulder and another pierced his hand. Black blades emerged: whirling, synchronous metal meat grinders.

Frank screamed, pulling against the barbs as the cables tightened, drawing him closer to the spinning blades.

Sam smiled and walked over to Tara, her face was a mask of horror. She reached for the switch but Sam grabbed her wrist and shook his head.

Frank pulled back, straining against the cables, driving the barbs deeper into his flesh. Blood from the wounds dripped down, forming crimson puddles on the kitchen floor. He wimpered, one last pathetic plea, “help me!” before the cables pulled him into the blades.

Tara closed her eyes and clung to Sam. Blood and bone swirled into the air above the sink. It hung there for a moment, evolving like a cloud of gore. Then, with a loud swoosh, the blades devoured the fountain of red that was Frank, sucking it down the drain, leaving no trace of Frank behind. Even the blood on the floor was drawn up and into the disposal.

Sam flipped the switch to “off”. Tara released her embrace, trembling.

“Oh my god, oh my god!” her voice quavered.

Sam grinned. “No, not quite. Think a little lower, my dear Tara.”

Tara stepped back, horrified. “You mean?”

“Don’t worry.” Sam smiled. “I’m not here for you.” he said and pulled a handful of papers from his toolbox. “This is the contract you signed earlier.”

Tara gasped and put her hands to her mouth, “Oh no, oh god no!” she said, backing away.

“I told you, I’m not here for you. This is a release for Frank’s soul.” Sam smiled as he scanned the contract. “You’ve suffered enough in this world. I see no need to send you downstairs to my domain for more pain. Besides, your ex-boyfriend was wrong. I’m not an asshole, I’m just Satan. You know, the Devil. My job is to weed out the bad souls and get them off the market, so to speak. Plus, I can’t very well afford to behave like an asshole these days, what with all the social media scrutiny and everyone so damned connected. It would just destroy my brand. Of course, haters gonna hate, but I guess that’s a good thing given my line of work.”

Tara recoiled as Sam’s entire countenance transformed in that moment. His clothes dissolved, revealing black skin and matted ebony feathers. A long black tail curled from between his buttocks, twisting back and forth as he spoke. His shoes retracted, exposing black cloven hooves and his eyes glowed red like two embers in a dark fireplace. His grin revealed a forked tongue that darted between pointed white teeth – in stark contrast to his pitch black lips and mouth.

“Its not like in those stories you’ve read, either.” said Satan. “I only collect the souls that deserve eternal damnation. You know, the ones that are so bad they don’t get recycled. No second chances for them. Of course, I do provide a little guidance along the path. Some healthy temptations for those less disciplined individuals – a little hand-holding, if you will.” Satan said, smiling. “Take you, for instance. When push came to shove, you wanted to save captain douchebag. Even though he’d been stomping you senseless for the last two years. Your soul is without compromise. And then there’s ole’ Franky there.” He said, pointing to the sink. “I just whispered in his ear for one night while he slept and he was convinced that the broken garbage disposal was the most important item on his bucket list. I’ve always found that the simple minds are the most malleable. You know something? I don’t think an eternity of suffering is nearly enough for all those nice things he said about me. What do you think Tara?” said Sam.

Tara was petrified. She stared at Satan, unable to muster anything more than a half-shrug.

“Unfortunately, as you well know, all good things must inevitably end. So I wish you the best of luck, my dear. I am off to attend to more pressing engagements.” Sam raised his hand and snapped his fingers again. In a flurry of black feathers and sulfur, he was gone.

Tara stared at the spot where Satan had been. She began sobbing and slid down into a crouch on the kitchen floor. Slowly, the sobbing gave way to laughter. Uncontrollable, hysterical laughter. She felt a warm glow spread through her soul, as if her heart had become a miniature sun, spreading rays through her body, filling the room with a golden wash of warmth and hope. Tears of joy slid down her cheeks. She jumped to her feet, giggling, and ran into the bedroom. The imaginary glass globes returned, in orbit around her sunny head – filled with scenes of white beaches, green forests, sun drenched picnics and happy children. The thought orbs spun and glinted as she stuffed a suitcase with her favorite clothes and darted out the door.

She danced down the bustling sidewalk, humming the Devil’s tune she had heard earlier, oblivious to the crowds and the stifling New York heat. She skipped all the way to the transit depot and boarded the first bus she came upon, never once considering its destination. “Pleased to meet you!” she sang to the bus driver who smiled and closed the doors. As she twirled down the aisle, she whispered to herself: “I hope you guess my name!”

The Riverboy

They say he drowned there around fifty years ago, and they say sometimes he comes back to the surface in search of companionship. They say so because they’ve seen it, and they’d be willing to swear on the good book that it was true. And for the last fifty years, kids kept disappearing, gone for days, and suddenly turning up dead in the river, looking like they’d been dead for weeks. Every time one body turned up, another kid seemed to go missing.
That’s what they say, anyway. And they blame it all on the Riverboy.

When I was eight years old, I was unusually brave for someone who was terrified of everything. I was a regular oxymoron, the bold coward, the pathetic hero. So it was natural that I would be afraid of being drowned by the Riverboy, but intrigued by the legend surrounding him. Mom always told me to stay away from the river, but it was a good place to play. During the day, there seemed nothing wrong with it. It moved too fast for skipping stones and too slow for makeshift rafts to be any fun. There used to be a swinging rope, but some grown ups complained it was dangerous and the parents of victims sobbed at the sight of it, so they had it taken down.

I never swam in the river, anyway, so that didn’t bother me much.
Kevin Pearsley and I used to play there. Sometimes we tried fishing. We never caught anything. Other times a police officer would come by to make sure we were okay, and we were always fine. Usually he asked us to go home anyway, or go to the park across the street because it was safer.

But the river was so much fun. There was something about it that made us want to go there. Maybe it was the way the waters sang, whispering over the rocks. Maybe it was the way it rippled in shapes unlike any other body of water I had ever seen. It was like another language. It was like art.

Once I thought it spelled out my name. There, in the shapes and curves of the waves, I saw it; “Bridget.” I asked Kevin if he noticed, but he didn’t. He never really saw what I saw. It said his name once, too.

It was June. I overheard Mom tell Dad another body turned up. Gracie Maydale this time. She was older than me by two years, so I never really knew her. Mom talked about moving. They had listed the house months ago, but I guess nobody wanted to move here. Dad said it was just the economy, whatever that meant. I thought it was the Riverboy’s fault.

Three days following Gracie’s death, I realized Kevin hadn’t called or come by or anything. He didn’t live very far, so I walked to his house and knocked on his big red door. His parents didn’t answer it, so I walked home.
“Mom?” I asked. “Have you talked to Mrs. Pearsley lately?”
“Oh, honey,” my mom replied in the voice she always used when there was bad news. I had heard it twice before; once, when she told me my guinea pig “ran away,” and again when she told me one of my old relatives that I never really knew had died. But this was different. This wasn’t a pet or a distant relative. This was Kevin. This was my best friend.
She told me he went missing three days ago. The same night Gracie’s body was found. How come they found Gracie, but not Kevin? Where had he gone?

There was only one place missing kids in my town were ever found.
The river.
The Riverboy’s river.

I waited for my parents to fall asleep, and even though I was more frightened than I had ever been, I found the bravery to run to the river in the black of night.

The streetlamps were dim, but they were enough. I flew past them, my sandaled feet hitting cold pavement. The farther I ran, the harder it was to make my legs move, like little weights jumped on with each passing yard. But I didn’t stop for anything.
When I reached the river, I stopped at the edge on a dime. The waters roared around me.

“Kevin!” I shrieked, cupping my hands around my mouth. The rushing water still drowned my voice. “KEVIN!” I tried again. “KEVIN PEARSLEY! You aren’t funny! Come out! Kevin!”
I heard a voice.
My best friend’s voice.
Kevin.

“Bridget?” he said.

It was so quiet, I thought it was impossible that I had heard it over the water. Yet it reached my ears clear as day, as if I had thought it myself, right there in my own head.
And then I saw him. Tiny Kevin Pearsley, standing stock-still in the middle of a rushing river. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought he didn’t feel the water at all. And he was coming closer, hands outstretched, fighting the current effortlessly. His skin looked blue in the light of the moon, reflecting off the water.

“Kevin! What are you doing in there?”

“Bridget, it’s cold.”

“Where have you been for three days, you big dummy?” I cried.

“It’s cold,” he said again. His voice was monotone, and his eyes were dull, his face was expressionless. “It’s cold. Help me.”

He reached out his hand. I hesitated.

One more word, flat, emotionless. I didn’t even see his blue lips move. “Help.”

I reached down and grabbed his hands. It was like grabbing ice; he slipped, and he froze, and I shivered. I felt him come up out of the water, and for a moment I felt a sense of total victory. My heart rejoiced. I smiled.

But then I fell in. The water crashed around me, numbing my skin, filling my ears, my eyes, my lungs.

I watched Kevin float to the surface, drifting away from me, but as I sank deeper, I still felt icy hands gripping mine.

Kevin Pearsley’s body was found on the riverbank the next morning. Bridget Allan’s was gone.

I was Bridget Allan once.

I’m the Riverboy now. It was Kevin Pearsley before me. Gracie Maydale. Countless others. Like good children at the playground, we take turns. We share. We wait.

I’m still waiting.

RiverBoy

He’s waiting…

 

Little Miss Mad

Little Miss Mad

Short Story – The Floor Boy

FloorBoy2Phoebe Mason always had trouble sleeping. She was only a little girl, and, as was natural for little girls, she was prone to the nightmares that shook her from sleep in a 3 A.M. panic, leaving her defenseless in darkness, half-drowned in an ocean of sheets and sweat and tears. Even from infancy, she could scarcely get a wink without jolting upright and dropping open her mouth to scream for mommy.

To her father’s chagrin, she often demanded that her mother sleep with her so that she didn’t have to be alone. Every night for years, Phoebe’s mother spent the night with her, lulling her to sleep with sweet dreams in mind or soothing her when the nightmares shook her awake. But when Phoebe turned five, her father decided enough was enough.

“You’d think the kid would be able to make it through one night by now,” he had grumbled, walking past Phoebe’s bedroom, only to find her snuggled up with her mom.

Mrs. Mason was a patient woman, but her husband was right; it was time Phoebe learned to sleep on her own. As soon as Phoebe fell asleep that night, her mother slipped away, and the little girl was alone in the dark for the first time.

The Masons had moved into the house on Danby Drive only a few months before their daughter Phoebe was born. The house had not been lived in for years, and the last family before them had left suddenly. Mr. Mason had heard that they moved away because their young son went missing, but he thought it was unnecessary to mention it to his wife. Mrs. Mason, though patient and compassionate, had too many nervous tendencies, and to hear that a child went missing in this area would only worry her. Besides, it had been over a decade ago, and there were no such records since.

The first night Phoebe slept alone was the first night of anything unusual happening. She woke not from a nightmare but from the sound of something scratching from below. She did not jolt upright or gasp in terror. She didn’t even cry. She simply opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling, listening close to the scraping beneath her bed.

A muffled voice broke through the silence, and it wasn’t Phoebe’s.

“Hello?” it said. It sounded to Phoebe like a little boy.

“Hello?” Phoebe whispered back.

“Who are you?” it asked, after a pause.

“Who are you?” Phoebe retorted.

“Marcus,” said the voice cheerily.

“I’m Phoebe. Are you real?”

“I think so. I feel real. Are you real?”

“Yes! Of course I am! Where are you?”

“I’m in the floor,” said Marcus.

When Phoebe took too long to reply, he changed the topic: “Do you want to be best friends?”

“Okay,” said Phoebe, and thus began a most peculiar friendship between a little girl and the invisible boy that lives under her bed.

The next night, Phoebe insisted that she sleep alone, and this continued for several days. Mr. Mason was happier than he had ever been, particularly in the last five years, and Mrs. Mason, though she missed her bonding night times with her daughter, was relieved that the little girl was finally starting to develop a sense of independence. There were no concerns until both of the Mason parents woke in the middle of the night to the sound of their daughter’s violent laughter.

Mrs. Mason rushed into the bedroom to find Phoebe giggling to herself, hands covering her rosy cheeks in an attempt to stifle the noise.

“What’s so funny?” asked Mrs. Mason, trying and failing to feign happiness through her exhaustion.

“My friend is telling jokes,” Phoebe replied, still giggling a little.

Mrs. Mason glanced around for a phone or a walkie-talkie, finding nothing of the sort. “Your friend? What friend?”

“Marcus. He lives under my bed.”

A sudden look of understanding passed over Mrs. Mason’s face, and this time her smile was genuine. “Marcus?” she asked, and she bent over to peer under the bed. “Ah, very nice! Hello, Marcus!” her comment was directed at the dust bunnies, for she saw nothing unusual under the little girl’s bed.

“He’s not there, mommy,” Phoebe whined. “He’s all the way under the floor.”

“Ah, I see. So then what does he look like?”

Phoebe shrugged. Then she crossed her arms and pouted. “Mommy, go away. Marcus won’t talk with you around.”

“Of course not. But doesn’t Marcus know it’s bedtime?”

“…I guess.”

“Tell Marcus he should sleep, too. His mommy and daddy probably want him to go to bed as much as your mommy and daddy do.”

“But mom-my! Marcus doesn’t have a mommy and a daddy. He said they left him here a long time ago, so he doesn’t have to do what they want.”

“Well, then I’ll be his new mommy, and I want him to go to sleep. You sleep well now, all right, Phoebe, baby?”

Phoebe uncrossed her arms, placed them at her sides, and sighed deeply. “Okay, mommy.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Mrs. Mason left, shutting the door behind her, leaving Phoebe in the dark with her “imaginary friend.” A few moments of total silence passed, in which there was no scratching, no wind-blowing, no laughing, no jokes. In those moments, Phoebe was afraid that her mother had broken some spell by finding out about her friend, and now he must be gone forever. Or worse, Phoebe had ruined her own imagination by revealing it. She would have cried if Marcus hadn’t spoken up.

“Your mommy sounds nice,” he said. “She’s gonna be my mommy.”

He began scratching again, a quiet, persistent pattern of fingernails running against rough wood.

“She’s a nice mommy,” Phoebe concurred. “But I like talking to you better.”

“Someday you should help me up so she can be my mommy.” He scratched harder, the grainy sound of friction growing stronger.

Phoebe thought about this. “But I like it this way.”

“I don’t. I want her to be my mommy. Can you help me up?” Marcus was scratching madly now, hard and sharp against the wood, and the noise thundered through Phoebe’s ears until she could scarcely breathe.

Mrs. Mason couldn’t fall asleep that night. Instead, she lay completely and totally awake, scanning the ceiling, biting her fingernails. Something about that conversation had struck her oddly, and it was nagging at her.

At around 2:30 A.M., she could no longer contain herself, so she woke her husband by shaking his shoulder rather aggressively.

“What? What is it? What do you want?” asked Mr. Mason dazedly, still half-asleep.

“This house. Who lived here before us?”

“It was empty.”

“Come on, Jim. It’s an old house. Someone must’ve lived here.”

“Uh… I don’t know, twenty years ago some people lived here.”

“Why did they leave?”

“I didn’t want to tell you.”

“What is it? What happened here?”

“Their kid went missing. He was Phoebe’s age.”

Mrs. Mason had a sudden pounding of her heart, a sudden nagging feeling in her chest. Her head throbbed with every quickening step toward her daughter’s room. When she got there, she threw the door open and turned on the light only to find that the bed had been pushed against the wall crookedly, blankets strewn everywhere, and Phoebe was sitting on the floor clawing ravenously at the floorboards. There were tears in her eyes, and her fingernails bled, leaving crimson streaks on the wooden floors, but there was unbridled glee in her voice while she giggled to herself madly.

“What’s wrong, Phoebe? What’s going on?” Mrs. Mason repeated shrilly, trying to pull her daughter away from a slightly darkened spot on the floor. “You stop that! Stop this right now!”

But Phoebe was persistent, and the wood chipped away under her nails, creating little holes and crevasses in the floor. Only darkness lay beneath them, but it was an open darkness, like the space underneath a porch, filled with a vast and empty sort of black.

Mrs. Mason dragged Phoebe away but crawled closer to the spot. Gingerly, she dug her fingernails into the wood and pulled, scraping away at it. One of the boards was just faintly the wrong shape; its edges peeled in some places, leaving narrow gaps in others. It was wrong for the house, like it had never meant to be there. That was the one Phoebe had dug at, and eventually Mrs. Mason pulled the board loose. She instinctively brought her arm up to cover her face when she saw what lay below.

There lay the missing child.

There lay the body of a boy abandoned, ignored, forgotten.

A little corpse, a little mummified boy with empty, hollowed eyes, all blackened by time and rot, lying in the space below. He was covered in spider webs and dust and dead flies and everything that had ever made Mrs. Mason want to vomit. And he almost seemed alive, for his hands were facing upward, his fingernails were rubbed raw, and the petrified skin was embedded with wooden splinters that looked far too fresh.

Little Miss Mad

Little Miss Mad

Hellavator

There’s lots of stories in this ole’ skull of mine.  Quite frankly, too many to produce as media in my lifetime.  So I thought why not just write them down and share them.  So here goes.  Most of my recent writing has been in screenplay format, so going back to the old literature-what-is-the-character-thinking-feeling-etc format is a bit out of my comfort zone.  But hey, I’ve got stories and they got’s to come out so enjoy and bear with me while I get my short story chops back…Oh yeah, I forgot – I’m going to put links to more info throughout the stories and illustrations & perhaps animations (my own, of course) – isn’t it time that literature evolves with the information age?  Perhaps…I’m sure literature purists will wave their arms and accuse me of leading the witnesses…we shall see…let me know what you think…
JerrySkullDug
-SkullDug Jerry
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Hellavator

Elevator2

Frank stood motionless, eyes transfixed on the stainless steel doors.  Waiting.  He watched the numbers count down – 52, 51, 50.  He hated the word – E-L-E-V-A-T-O-R.  It was too symmetrical – same number of consonants as vowels – unnatural.  He had been trapped in an elevator for three hours when he was 7.  The old man he was trapped with spent the time doing unnatural things to him.  That was another word he hated – P-E-D-O-P-H-I-L-E.

He had managed to avoid this moment for nearly 40 years. He took the stairs, good for the heart – at first he would stop every 10 floors, but now he stopped every 5, burning legs, heaving chest.   Wasn’t exercise good for high cholesterol?  Dr. Smith said “you need more cardio, I don’t like these numbers”.  What was that medicine he had refused to take?

As he stared,  dread began to climb up his ankles, his legs, his buttocks and groin.  It slithered over his hips and wound it’s way around his spine.  Sweat trickled down his back. His neck and cheeks flushed.

Karma.  It was karma that had written this comedy of errors.  He had never cheated on his wife.  10 years of marriage, 2 beautiful children.  Straight arrow all the way.  But today he had broken his vows.  The new paralegal was just too willing, too persistent and too hot.  And now, there was Karma, grinning, laughing.  Karma had hired the crew to repaint the stairwells today – stretching that yellow tape across the doorways.  Karma had arranged his first trip in the metal box on a wire – the Otis death trap.  Karma was conducting this horrendous atonal symphony.

Dread was now holding Frank’s head in both hands, jamming it’s tongue down his throat like the paralegal had done 2 hours ago in his office.  He swallowed hard.  Dread was now swirling around in his stomach, making his head spin.  And then “ding! –  the elevator opened it’s jaws wide, an empty stainless steel and faux wood grain crypt.

“Grow up, be a man” he scolded himself.  He mustered every ounce of courage and stepped across the threshold.  He closed his eyes and the doors slid shut behind him.  He was alone in the box.  How many elevator accidents were there every year?

“There, you’re in.  Was that so horrible?”  He opened his eyes and watched the numbers count down. 48, 47, 46, 45, 44, and then BAM! It happened.  First there was a loud pop and then the sound of the cable whipping around in the elevator shaft.  The lights flickered and then went out – plunging the universe into darkness.  Emergency power clacked on and an eerie red light flickered to life – bathing the interior with a hellish glow.  Metal groaned, the floor shuddered and then another “BANG” and the elevator went into free fall.

“I’ll come clean if I survive this” he pleaded in his head.  “I’ll tell her the whole story and we’ll get past it all.  Just let me survive this – please!”  The floor dropped and a sickening weightlessness filled his chest.  A flurry of images swirled in his head – his mother, smiling, sending him alone to the corner grocery, the firm breasts of the paralegal, the horrid grin of the elevator pedophile – thick, dirty fingers unzipping his fly.

His heart pounded in his throat, a lightening bolt of pain radiated through his shoulder and down his arm.  He felt sick.  His stomach spasmed and he vomited.  It hung in the air for few seconds, victim to the same free fall and slowly draped itself across the walls.  The fall seemed to last forever.  How can four stories be such a long trip?

He remembered that someone somewhere said “if you jump just before impact, you will survive“.  He had to time this just right.  He watched the numbers dwindle – 40, 39, 38.  He crouched, ready to spring.  Down, down, the elevator plunged – 30, 29, 28, 27.  Faster and faster, the smell of hot metal and burning paint flooded the chamber. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4.

The pain in his arm intensified and he felt an unbearable weight upon his chest.  He couldn’t breath, he couldn’t move, his arm was on fire, his chest collapsing.  Through a haze he saw the numbers – 3,2,1.  The lights flickered and he tried to jump but his legs buckled.  Suddenly…

…everything stopped.  There was no crash, no twisted metal, no wrenching impact.  The lights flickered and everything was still.  The pain in his arm was gone.  His chest felt light.  His breathing was regular and he had stopped sweating.  He blinked and wiped his eyes.  He was OK.  He had survived.  “Ha!  Karma my ass! I am alive!”  He began to laugh.  He slumped down against the back wall and laughed like a giddy schoolgirl.  The lights flickered again and “ding” the doors opened.

Corridor2

He looked up and smiled.  Through the yawning doors he could see a dark corridor.  It was constructed from quarried stone blocks, each about 2 feet by 3 feet.  They were scarred and stained by centuries of wear.  Torches flickered a faint orange glow, intimidated by the darkness of the corridor.  White objects littered the stone block floor of the corridor.  He squinted and his smile disintegrated.  Is this the sub basement?  The smell of rotted meat and sulfur wafted into the elevator.  He closed his eyes and opened them again.

A dark figure was now standing before him.  Thick gloves covered meaty hands and he was dressed in a heavy coat and loose pants of a stiff fabric that appeared to be coated in soot.  A long, dark object dangled from his left hand and trailed along the floor.  His face was a mystery.  It was as if the area where his face should have been was bending the light around it – an ocular dead spot.  Must be an effect of the fall he thought.

Frank blinked again and rubbed his eyes.  “Hey –  you with the fire department?”  He straightened up and brushed dust from his sport coat.  “Man am I glad to see you!”

Silence.  The figure did not move.

“Boy, I’ve always hated those damn things.  I think I might need some medical assistance – that was quite a fall.”

The figure remained motionless and mute.

“Hell – o!  I said I think I might need some kind of medical check up…”

With a lightening flick of his wrist, the figure whipped the rusted chain through the darkness.  It struck Frank just below his jaw and wound around his neck 3 times.

He tried to scream, but his trachea was crushed by the chain.  He dropped to his knees and grabbed the links that continued to tighten, mangling his airway.  He sputtered and the warm thrill of blood painted his lips.

The figure jerked his arm and dropped his captive prone.  Slowly, the dark stranger began to drag Frank into the darkness of the corridor.

Frank tried to scream, but managed only a gurgle.  His writhing arms and legs disturbed the bits of bone and dried flesh strewn about on the floor.

He watched behind him as the elevator doors slowly closed, devouring all hope.  Above the door, illuminated numbers flickered for a moment – an upside down 4, a backwards 3 and an 11. He heard the breath of his captor rasping – or was it a low, whispered laugh.

elevatorNumbers

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Copyright SkullDugFilms – 2013

 

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Other SkullDug approved stories and poems:

http://www.burialday.com/short-fiction/kelpie

http://www.burialday.com/short-fiction/worm-house#more-630

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/horrorindex.html