Part 5: Carnivals and Killers, Uncategorized

(The Family Man) Chapter 1: Who Goes There

The door in the alleyway was hardly visible beneath the heaping shadows of the city, and seemed incapable of leading to anything but the lowliest of accommodations. Once beyond the door, I encountered a species of darkness that I had come to expect from the forgotten corners of the city, having some portion of its construction owing to an elder blackness that, should it choose, could stand firmly against even the brightest light. However, these shadows were not to be trusted, as they answered only to the lords of Nighthead.

The tunnel was winding, and remarked upon the basest kind of usage, sporting litter and dampness just as a chameleon would put on the colors of its surroundings, tempting one to put aside curiosity and to accept illusion. And only after I had traveled further than any accidental or casual observer would have, the hallways began to offer up small hints as to its ultimate destination, along with the possible identity of those who were conducted down the darkly rambling course. Granted, normal eyes would never have seen past the alien dark, and even with the assistance of artificial light, trespassers would have been confronted only by the masks that ancient darkness can put on, tricking all but the most attentive of inquiries. But I spoke some small portion of the shadow’s murky lexicon, and so the darkness admitted a sliver of my vision into the primordial places hidden away behind solidified shadow.

There were ‘batteries’ filled with darkness at every turn—objects that had set for miniature eternities beyond even the weakest touch of light, filling-up with the pitch that defied the stars. Everything here had been infused with the oldest shades. The stone of the floor had been inlaid with grave-dust, and pressed into the walls were forgotten toys recovered from crumbling attics and cellars, alienesque bones that had lived longer under the earth than mankind had walked upon it, and some of the oldest funerary idols ever offered to the groaning bowels of the world: things that magnified the common darkness into otherworldly bastions for the “Walking Dark,” the true high priests of the Order of Nox.

When I reached the end of the tunnel, I encountered a man sitting within a large seat hewn from a great protrusion of onyx, which projected from a gigantic, open mouth that had been carved into the distant wall. The man was nearly part of the enshrouded atmosphere, and I could feel his eyes open upon me from every pore of gloom that haunted the deeper recesses of the chamber we occupied. His voice was the sound of nightfall and of the spaces hidden beneath beds and of forgotten openings into the earth.

“Stand there,” he said, gesturing to a small platform to his left. I said nothing, but only did as I was instructed. When I assumed a place upon the dais, the man rose from his seat and pulled a lever that seemed to simply appear from the wall. Within seconds I was descending deeper into the earth. How long I traveled or how deeply I descended I cannot say precisely, save only that I was lowered to a depth where the caverns beneath Lastrygone would have seemed like the shallows that flit about the rim of the deepest sea.

At some point during my descent, the walls around me disappeared, giving way to a vastness that, like the titan ghost of some long-dead prehistoric sky, opened dark and primal, offering black heavens to the dead and damned. There was also movement all around me, and I was reminded of sharks gliding casually around their intended prey, waiting. And regardless of how much I strained, even my eyes failed to pluck shapes from the surging void. I was hesitant to summon my sisters, despite their pleading, as I had been invited to this place, and a show of arms would be poorly received, I reasoned.

After the platform settled atop something solid, making a sound that was immediately reflected within great emptiness that unfolded all around me, I was unsure how to proceed, as there was but oblivion and silence to greet me.

It wasn’t long before cold words floated up to me from below.

“I shouldn’t be impressed that you chose to come, being who and what you are, and yet I am impressed, none the less.” The voice seemed inhuman, but not for a different arrangement of vocal mechanisms, but rather the odd modulations affected to the speaker’s tone by way of, what seemed, an intervening mechanical filter. I could feel something drawing closer to me from somewhere below, and I could hear the careful and repeated contact of metal meeting stone.

“No. You certainly shouldn’t be impressed, but if you choose to be there is nothing I can do about it. And I thank you for meeting with me. Few others would take such a risk,” I said, seeking to match the speaker’s level of insinuated menace. I could still hear the sounds of a metallic stride catching in the wide silence around me, suggesting something rather large was approaching. I muted my instincts to kill, and I could feel the silent and searing reproach of my family.

“I’d guess we both know, to some extent, who it is that we are dealing with, which is good, I suppose. And as far as your reason for coming to us is concerned—yes, we do know something about the entity you mentioned, the Shepherd of Wolves.” His words were now drifting down to me, as he was speaking from a height well above me. “Let us sit and talk, now.” As he reached the end of his sentence, the darkness shifted into intelligible shapes and discernable distances, but not through the ordinary medium of light, but by means of some alien wavelength of darkness, which did not expand on what could be seen, but only revealed what my mind was allowed to know.

The darkness showed me my host—a gigantic and apparently mechanized thing that stood well over eight feet tall. Tumbling from its back were great lengths of black cable, which fell across the ground and slithered down a great stone stairwell that unraveled into oblivion. All told, the thing looked something like a vintage deep-diving suit, replete with the round, iron helmet. The creature noticed my curiosity at its appearance and offered me a small justification for its attire. “The dark, even at this depth, is far too bright for the likes of me, and so I must channel the stuff of purest pitch through the mechanical apparatus that you are now admiring. But now let us discuss the matter at hand, shall we?”

I hadn’t at that point adequately absorbed my surroundings within the underground world, and as I seated myself at the small table that had been put out for our meeting, I realized that we were situated atop a great, black skyscraper, of sorts, and apparently carved from the dullest anthracite. It was but a single structure within a never-ending crowd of the things, each one made from darkness as much as it was from stone. This was a city that surrounded us, and one that was made to the specific comforts of living shadows.

I was at last in the darkly fabled City of Unduur.

Weird Book entries

Weird Book, Chapter 26: The Geross and the Nero Family

While most of the established literature regarding the Great Darkness’s effects focus on cultural, religious, and social changes, little information has been gathered regarding how another important facet of society has been altered: crime.  In specific, little data exists pertaining to how various organized crime groups—such as mafias, drug cartels, or syndicates—have been altered as a function of the events of 1999.

In a particularly strange account, recorded in the interrogation room of a police office in Agrigento, Sicily 2003, a member of the notorious Napoleone crime family, Salvatore Idoni, describes a confrontation with rival family, the Furios.  According to him, shortly after the Darkness, the Furio family underwent an abrupt change in leadership, one that seemed to drastically alter the nature of the two family’s conflict.  The following is a transcribed and translated account of that interview:

Investigator Selmo: It looks like you’re in a bit of tight spot, huh Salvatore?  After last night’s fiasco, I think you’re gonna want to start talking.  Why don’t you give us something on the Napoleones and the Furios, huh?  Give us something actionable, y’know what I mean? Then maybe we can help you out, maybe keep you away from certain people who might suspect your current whereabouts, hmm?

Salvatore: …Doesn’t matter anymore…. You ain’t gonna be able to protect me…

Investigator Selmo: Well, we’ll see about that.  Start spilling.

Salvatore: Just a short time after the Darkness, we heard that Giovanni disappeared—

Investigator Selmo: Giovanni Furio?  The head of the Furio Family?

Salvatore: Yeah, who else?!  (Chuckling) You telling me you guys didn’t even know that Gio’s gone!?

(Silence fills the room)

Salvatore: Anyways, that’s when things started to change.  These new guys started to muscle-in on our territory.

Investigator Selmo: Names, Sal, give me names.

Salvatore: (Chuckling again) Sure thing boss! It was those two new families that joined the Furios. The ones no one ever heard of before—the Dragonetti and Demovincci families. But I’ll tell you what, ain’t nothing you and your boys are gonna do to stop them.  They ain’t normal.

Investigator Selmo: Not normal?

Salvatore:  Yeah, not normal, as in not freakin’ human!  They killed my men like they was nothing, ripped them apart and left them to rot.  Wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it for myself, a few months ago.  They wear these weird vials around their neck, ya see?  And when they take a swig from one of them…well, ya’ better get used to dodging body parts is all I gotta say.

Investigator Selmo: You expect me to believe that?

Salvatore: I don’t care what you believe.  The truth is that I’m already dead.  We either join the Furios, or we get buried, or worse.  That’s just how it is now.  But go ahead, check it out for yourself. I’d be happy to introduce you to them.

(The Investigator let’s out a long sigh)

Investigator Selmo: So tell us what happened last night?  What happened at the Napoleone vineyard?  What happened to the men there? And where is Don Angelo Napoleone?

Salvatore: (a long pause) Ain’t nothing you’re gonna believe…Don’t know if I believe it myself…

(Another long pause fills the room)

Salvatore: Our numbers were dwindling.  I mean, half of us were either already dead, or defected to the other side.  The few of us that were left all went to the Vineyard, where we were protecting Angelo.  We figured we had the numbers for one big, last stand.  Angelo ain’t never been one to back down, y’know?

Investigator Selmo: Keep going.

Salvatore: It was about 10 at night when it happened.  I heard the guards near the forest line start firing…and then I heard screaming…I never knew men could make sounds like that.  Anyway, I went outside to check on things and… I swear to God, I ain’t never seen anything like it.  Out there in the woods I could see this giant…thing!  It looked like a wrinkled old man, but he didn’t have any freakin’ eyes!  He was wearing one of them weird burial shrouds, too!  Looked like something you’d see in one of those history channel documentaries, or at some old-fashioned funeral.  And I can’t be sure…but I think…I think I even saw a pair of giant, grey wings!

Investigator Selmo: You’re saying you, and the rest of the Napoleone family, were accosted by a giant, winged geriatric, is that right Sal?  That’s the story you wanna tell?  Tell me, did he beat you all to death with his walker? (Laughing) Maybe he drowned your friends, and Mr. Napoleone, in his giant bedpan.  Are you seriously going to stick with this story!?  C’mon!

Salvatore: (a nervous chuckle) I know how it sounds, but that’s the god’s honest truth.  In fact, Mr. Napoleone and the boys had the same reaction when I told them.  But that all changed when the door burst open….

Investigator Selmo: Well, don’t keep me waiting, Sal!  I’m dying to hear how this bull-crap story ends!

Salvatore: It was the same elderly guy I saw in the woods, but now he was smaller, about eight feet tall.  My memory’s a bit foggy, but I remember that he was just dripping with dust.  I mean, he was covered in tons of the stuff!  After that, things are a bit spotty.  I remember…I remember my friends screaming when that old man just walked through their bullets.  And when he touched them… It’s like they just started to wither into loose skin and bones! It’s like he freakin’ aged them or something!  Hell, some of them literally exploded into piles of dust!

Investigator Selmo: (long sigh) And how exactly did you manage to escape, Sal?  A magic carpet?

Salvatore: Even easier, I slipped out the back door.  After all of the commotion died down, I went around the house to see if everything was clear.  It wasn’t.  Out in front of the house were some of the Demovincci and Dragonetti.  I could tell because of the vials around there necks.  They were helping the old man into this huge…machine.  It looked like a gigantic Iron Lung, except that it had weird inscriptions carved all over it. After that, I just ran for the woods.  About an hour later, you idiots picked me up.

Investigator Selmo: I’m going to ask you this once, Sal.  Where’s your boss?!  Where is Angelo!?

Salvatore: (loud laughter) You guys really are thick, aren’t you?! You’ve already got’em!

Investigator Selmo: All we have is a bunch of dust-piles, and an old man who doesn’t seem to know who, or where, he is!

Salvatore:  that’s just it, Einstein. That old man IS Angelo!

Two weeks later, Salvatore Idoni, who was only 32 years of age, was found unconscious in an alley way in east Agrigento.  Upon being admitted to the hospital, he was found to be suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer disease.

Investigator Selmo was last reported entering a well-known Furio hang-out, presumably to question some of its members.  All that was ever found of him was his name tag, and a pile of dust.

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Red mother story, Uncategorized

Red Mother (New Story and companion peice to the Family Man story)

Chapter one: Seeing Red

My Name is Genevieve Castellano (people generally call me Vee Vee), and I’m the only person, as far as I can tell, who knows the real story behind the “Red Family,” and I have absolutely no desire, what-so-ever to spread these facts. People would go bat-crap crazy if they knew… After the first time I saw the videos I had to see a therapist to help clean-off the filth that clogged-up my brain, and should we actually possess one—my soul. I’m still hit by periodic attacks of panic, whenever the world seems “dark and fake, like a cellar filled with smiling manikins.” (I can’t get that freaking woman’s words out of my head.)

I found the first video under the porch of their house, hidden in a container made from animal bones. (Yes, I checked.) I have no idea why they put it there. At the time, I actually thought the video would help breath some life into my flagging career as a journalist, and my part-time passion as a writer. So I snuck the box out of the crime scene inside my coat. When I arrived home, I poured myself a great big glass of Pinot Grigio and began imagining how my name would be mispronounced on the news (Italian names can be tricky, you know?), and how often it’d be spoken in connection with the proper nouns attached to the great reveal of the Red Family. A minute after viewing the tape I was on the floor, crying and retching. Those people couldn’t be human. They just couldn’t be. I can still remember the first time I watched the thing, drink in hand, excitement vibrating small drops of wine over the lip of the glass. Then I pushed “play.”

The 1st Video

The first scene opened with a small bit narration atop the photo of a corpse—its eyes apparently burned out of its head. The sugar-mixed-with-venom voice that ran over the picture belonged to a woman.

“What we see is either what we fear, what we want, what we hate, or what we don’t care a thing about. Eyes need to be fed a balanced diet, to be sure. Eyes that subsist only upon dispassion will produce the dullest of minds, merely walking butter knives. Feed the eyes only what they want, and the mind will grow fat and languid: slugs. If you feed the eyes nothing but terror, the mind will become subject to that king of cowards—fear. And a diet of purest hatred only produces poorly contained fires, burning just beneath thin skin, waiting to erupt. But a diet of these visual elements, in the right proportions, of course, can create the most sublime monster.”

Then the pictures slowly and silently fade into a video of a corpse of man and a woman, both of them wickedly mangled. Then the woman-narrator begins again. Just her words twirling atop corpses.

“This is Danny’s mommy. She’s quite dead, obviously. And, oh my goodness, did the little thing lament his fallen hero. But, you see, mothers are only idols, and idols are merely things, and things can be replaced. Danny wanted a mother, and so that’s what I became for him. I killed the man that murdered Danny’s mother. I let the boy watch me do it.

He loved me for it.”

The scene of corpses is exchanged for the sight of a small, blonde boy. He’s no more than four or five years old. The camera is looking up at him as he stands, rod-rigid, at the top of a hill, a leaden sky looms above. The wicked woman continues:

“Danny is now only a collection of burning thoughts, each one lapping at the desiccated flesh of a dead world. He is loss and vengeance, and he is fire. He is the dark elemental of the very way in which he died and was gloriously reborn. He has become a thing of burning eyes and blackening stares.

But ultimately—Danny is mine.”

The next scene has the little boy sitting in what looks like a wrecked mausoleum, which is lit by only a few candles, and he’s being interviewed by the voice of the woman.

Woman: Where are you, Danny?

Danny: Some place cold and…wonderful.

Woman: Who are you?

Danny: Why, I’m your son, mother.

Woman: What do you want most of all, my son?

Danny: To gaze upon the world with eyes of purest fire. To melt the ice.

Woman: Why, Danny?

Danny: Because we’re all frozen inside. We all have souls of ice, now. But we were once an ocean, and since we’ve been frozen into different shapes, we all forgot what we truly are. But we’ll be whole again, mother. I promise. I need to melt the world back to normal, to give everything back to the sea. I just have to.

Woman: How will you do all of this?

Danny: With this…

The boy’s right hand has been out of frame during the preceding portions of the ‘interview,’ but now it pops-up into frame, holding a strange, shiny lighter, likely something custom-made. His miniature finger moves across the tiny wheels at the top of the device, and with nothing less than the speed and grace of a killer insect. The small flame shivers into view. The camera closes-in on the trembling fire, its focus moving slowly from the flame in the foreground to the boy’s precocious grin in the background. That god-awful, terrible grin…

The camera shuts-off and there’s a moment of static. After a minute or so, the image of a naked woman covered completely in smoking ashes melts into focus. At her feet lies the smoldering corpses of dozens of people. The ashes seem like shadows made from drifting rose pedals, sweetly and softly blowing across her face. Only her eyes are clearly visible. I’ve never seen eyes quite like hers: bottomless with some kind of green, and never positioned in a way that betrays the slightest awkwardness. I must have paused that tape at a million different spots, hoping to defy her knowing gaze with an ungainly transition between her movements, but in every frame I trapped those eyes—they maintained a poise and lethality, and always filled with something…inhuman.

Her body is strangely young and perfect for a woman whose eyes betray such wisdom, and she moves like a movie in reverse, where her every action outlines the past. A naked man enters the scene from somewhere behind the camera. His body is covered in burn-scars. The woman embraces him, wraps her arms around his shoulders, and then clasps her left hand gently over the back of his neck. She slowly turns him towards the camera. It’s Danny, all grown up. His grin left a bruise on my memory, so there’s no way I wouldn’t have recognized him. The view begins to move towards Danny’s right eye, pushing everything else aside, becoming a huge, glistening world. The scene changes into clips of various things, all of them burning: trees, buildings, planes, monks, crowds, cats. And then there’s a quick montage of images: Danny’s secret life—what was done to him, sped up. Hell doesn’t make a fire hot enough to punish these monsters! That’s when I realized who Danny actually is: The Salamander. He’s the arsonist who almost burned down the entire City of Old Bridge, and killed hundreds in the process. A security camera once captured his image, and even after that horribly burned face of his has been plastered across the world and back, followed by rewards that grow almost as fast as his fires, he’s never been caught. No one’s even come close to him.

Finally, the woman-of-ashes steps forward, away from The Salamander, who’s now bowing his head, as if praying. She’s speaking directly to the viewer. In this case, me. Her voice is the same as the narrator’s, and yet, apart from her eyes, she appears younger than Danny. The woman seems to be holding my eyes with her own as she speaks.

“The world is a blind hand, molding from chance and rote, reproducing the same people, over and over. But what if you could be un-made, to become un-human, fulfilling the promise of dreams you can barely remember?

My hand is not blind…and it’s only waiting to touch you.”

The scene is plunged into static, and the show ends.
I remember the VCR clicking loudly as it reached the conclusion of the tape, causing the video to be automatically rewound. And I can clearly recall sitting in my darkened living room, wine drenching me, blood dripping from my lacerated hand, pieces of the wineglass still sticking out from my palm and fingers.

Uncategorized

Marvin (and the end of the world)

Very little is known about this killer.  In his brief encounters with the Family Man, he seemed to display a form of Dissociative Identity Disorder (multiple personality).  Specifically, the killer seemed to possess two distinct personality types: a more passive, almost feeble, personality, and a violent, hyper-aggressive one.  The latter (according to the former) was the living embodiment of the apocalypse, the end of the world given flesh and will.  In order to suppress this apocalyptic persona, Marvin (the docile personality) kept many of the openings of his body sewn up, or covered, for as long as time would permit, hoping that it would keep the Armageddon contained within him from leaking out into the world. After Marvin’s corpse was found, and his true identity subsequently revealed, personal journals found in his home revealed that he referred to these closures as “seals.”  Apparently, Marvin believed that the sutures and staples he closed-up his body with were none other than the biblical seals of the apocalypse, and that their breaking would kick-start the end of the world. 

Due to the perceived threat of causing global annihilation, Marvin was especially careful not to cut or harm himself, lest the end times be prematurely released upon the world.  However, upon injury, or an unconscious removal of one of his seals, his alternate personality became manifest, and horrible bouts of violence would ensue.  While Marvin’s killings didn’t reflect any kind of specific modus operandi (his victims were often killed quickly, and in a multitude of ways), he did hold the unique status of being considered a “serial spree killer.”  Because Marvin’s murderous impulses only manifested upon the “release” of his alternate personality, and because his apocalyptic counterpart sought to destroy the world, his killings reflected a mindless chaos, one that was indicative of someone trying to cause as much death as possible within a constrained amount of time.  Throughout Marvin’s life these bouts of extreme violence happened more and more, giving way to punctuated bursts of spree-like killings that transpired serially across the country.

While very little is known regarding Marvin’s personal life, his interactions with the Family Man have revealed an unexpected link between the two men—they seem to share the same mother.  While the particulars of this relationship still elude the Family Man, Marvin’s emotional attachment to his mother, and her subsequent abandonment, seems to have fueled a certain amount of disdain for his larger, bone wielding “brother.”  Specifically, Marvin blames the Family Man for his mother’s departure, claiming that she chose him above all the others.  However, what this means still remains a mystery.

While many of the killers in the Shepherd’s game are unapologetically murderous, Marvin may be the easiest to sympathize with.  After all, despite his uncontrollable shift into an apocalyptic monster, Marvin’s only true aspiration in life was to save the world from an untimely end.

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Marvin: the man who would save us all from the end of the world, with stitches and duct tape.

 

 

Part 4: Of Legends and Shadows, Uncategorized

BIG NEWS!!!

Hi everybody!
I just wanted to let everyone know that on 02/20/2016 we will be starting to post my new series, “Red Mother.” Rest assured that this story is not a substitute for the big guy, but a companion piece to the Family Man storyline, and will deal more directly with the Family Man’s mother. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I will be unable to write both stories side by side, and so I would like to see if everyone would be comfortable with a rotating posting schedule, where The Family Man and Red Mother take turns. The new story will tackle a lot of the Family Man’s backstory and break new ground with regards to insights into Donald’s mother. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just let the new story speak for itself when it posts this coming Saturday. I’d also greatly appreciate it if as many people as possible could sound off in the comments section after they’ve read the first post of “Red Mother” when it appears on the 20th, so that I know whether or not to continue with the storyline. Ultimately, I’m writing for you guys, so if you don’t like the new storyline, so be it: I’ll junk it, and we’ll stick with just the big guy. But I hope everyone gives it a fair shake, and I do hope you like the new material as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’d also like to thank everyone for making the first year of the Family Man such a success! Without you guys, the fans, I’d still be writing stories and drawing pictures no one would ever read or see.

Weird Book entries

The Weird Book, Chapter 16: The Dark Hats

“Dark Hat” is a slang term used to describe members of the religion known as “Domus Tenebris et in Umbra,” which translates from the Latin as, “Shadows in the House of Darkness.” The religion is said to have predated the Great Darkness of 1999, however only very small bands of extremely reclusive groups are known to have practiced it, or some form of it. The religion did not enjoy any formal representation until 2003, when the numbers of its followers became significant enough to warrant official recognition. In 2006, the resources of the group were revealed significant enough to purchase sufficient land and materials to erect an entire city, now known as “Nighthead.” While many other Darkness-related religions and orders are known to have contributed to this effort, it was the “House of Nox” that facilitated the majority of the resources required to raise the city.
Much of the order is seated within Nighthead, with only a few, and much smaller, orders found in other, neighboring municipalities. The core beliefs of this religion are largely shrouded in mystery, with its most conspicuous views apparently consisting of an aversion to sunlight, and the donning of dark, light-blocking clothing. Beyond these few superficial details, the majority of the group’s beliefs are unknown, which has caused for much, sometimes quite negative, speculation as to the group’s nature and ultimate purpose.
The city, and perhaps the origin of the religion itself, surrounds one of the largest Darkness artifacts currently known, the Great Pyramid of Nox. The artifact is many times the size of any other known pyramid, and is hewn from many layers of black, lusterless stone. Virtually nothing (official) is known about the innards of the structure, as the moment it was discovered it was purchased from the landowners whose lands it rambled across. The buyer was later revealed as Winston Marcato, one of the founding members of the “Order of a New Darkness,” a sub-group in the larger religion that was unified under the aforementioned Latin designation.
One of the most persistent rumors concerning the Dark Hats and their city, concerns another, darker city that is said to dwell just beneath Nighthead: Unduur. This subterranean city is said to be the home of extra-galactic beings who dwell in the “First Darkness,” the darkness that existed before “its contamination by the torches of the universe, the stars.”
While most people have come to avoid the Dark Hats, one reporter, Cliff Laurens, attempted to gather more information on the elusive group.  Below is a brief report of his investigation:
“No one likes the Dark Hats, and I mean no one.  Not only does their presence frighten the locals, but their persistence after the conclusion of the Great Darkness was considered, by many, to be…well, in bad taste.  So, like any good journalist, I sought to kick up some controversy, and get a bit more familiar with our hat-loving friends.  It was, perhaps, the single worst decision I ever made.
For the most part, I did what most reporters do: I skulked around, shadowed persons of interest, and snapped off some pictures when no one was looking.  It was a routine snoop job, really.  I even broke into one of the Dark Hats’ ‘churches’, and that’s when my curiosity shifted from journalistic to morbid.  Usually, I’m not one to be easily spooked, but when I crossed the threshold of that cold chapel, and saw the inhuman statues that were sculpted from coal, I started to wonder if there wasn’t something to all the rumors.  But it wasn’t just the monstrous statues that gave me the creeps, but the weird darkness that was so thick it seemed to drip and ooze from the corners of the place.  There were no light switches to be found anywhere, not even a lamp. My first thought was that it was a courtesy paid to the darkness, and my next was that no light would be strong enough to clear away all that gloom.
I don’t know how to describe it, but it felt like I was in some kind of greenhouse, where a species of exotic darkness was being grown in the place of flowers.  I left that place, terrified, feeling not only the gaze of strange, stone statues, but the weird darkness that seemed like it was being…cultivated.”

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Part 4: Of Legends and Shadows, Uncategorized

Chapter 13: O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?

My past has always been like a dimly recalled dream, but, to be perfectly honest, I’ve preferred it that way. The few things that I can recall are like small glints of deep blue light reflecting off of something secret, and wicked. And while I’m certainly not the expert on secrets that Tom Hush is, I suspect that the allure of such things is not too entirely different than what the raw power of darkness proffers, or rather, what the power of darkness can supply once combined with certain fertile agents of a creative mind: infinite potential. I suppose it’s a rather philosophical observation, and so perhaps a bit too ostentatious for practical consideration, but I always find that anywhere the unknown abounds there also persists the potential for absolutely anything, which, of course, is likely the real reason that nature abhors a void. Shadows and secrets are just unlocked boxes of eternity, wherein the mind is free to gamble well beyond the scope of rational powers and purposes (there is a reason why our eyes slide behind their darkening lids when the time has come for us to dream). It’s freedom from the sterile trajectory of a conventional march through time that makes my secrets so special to me, as I have no solid starting point, and without that I can have no fixed center: I am without clear definition. Obviously, secrets are a bit more constrained by cause and consequence than is darkness, but even the smallest, fenced-in backyard of infinity presents quite of bit of grass for the mowing. And, as far as I’m concerned, what better foundation to stand upon within this frozen graveyard than the molten of a half-remembered past?

I have to admit that I was rather ashamed by my reaction to the revelations of my past, as I should have no interest in the specific facts of my upbringing. I would be altogether better off to concern myself with maintaining the fluidity of my presence in the world, so as not to allow it to congeal like paint stiffening atop the aborted dreams laid out upon an artist’s canvas. Discovering my past is just another step towards becoming a corpse, just another localized reflection of death. However, and not to excuse my foolishness, the role my mother plays in all of this seems rather important, as it appears that my actions may have been somehow pre-scripted by her, and that, perhaps, she intended more from me than I had been made aware. The signpost to understanding my mother’s machinations was clearly pointing in a single, apocalyptic direction: Marvin the man-monster.

After a few days of hiding within the bullet-riddled hotel (no one ever looks in the water tank), and fighting my artistic instinct to make failed dreams from some of the deserving canvases I knew were close by, I finally departed the glittering monument to man’s greed. As I stole away through a channel of forgotten darkness, the echoes of painful light still rang within my ears and burned beneath my seared skin. And the antlered god’s half-finished meal of dark secrets was still lying upon the floor of my mind, where it had fallen from his ample jaws, spoiling.

I didn’t want to make it obvious that I was baiting him, so I confined my wanderings to only those streets betokening solidified dreams caught in the melting amber of twilight, where, as one who has had tasted some small flavor of my dreams, Marvin could reasonably expect to find me.

I decided to walk a stretch of street that seemed impossibly narrow, and must have been capable of admitting only the slimmest cars and thinnest crowds. But for all that, the thoroughfare seemed oddly comforting, like warm blankets pulled thick and close on a cold winter’s night. And as I gazed skyward, the incubating night seemed pinched by the closely crowding rooftops and resembled a star-flecked creek, pouring infinitely overhead.

There were others walking the street as well, barely perceptible beneath the ripening darkness, conducting themselves like cold draughts of wind, drifting aloofly between alleyway and gutter, slaves to their darkest selves. Nighthead has always been a darling of the dark, and shelters more shadows than sunset, and I was almost overwhelmed by my own swelling curiosity to know even one of the passersby’s stories.

It was sometime after midnight when I detected a familiar whisper, wandering lonely and soft across a thickly trash-lined alleyway.

“Hello,” came the little whisper, almost lost to the thickets of rustling wind and the rush of shadows.

“Hello, Marvin. I’m very pleased to see you again. I was hoping we might suspend our obligations to the game, if only for a moment, so that we might chat.”

“Actually, he’s of no mind to hurt you, and we’re very happy to see you, too. We’d love to chat, but I’m afraid that were both very, very hurt. And since There’s no longer chance that he could win the contest, he just wanted me to find you and wish you luck, as it seems likely that you and he share some history, or at least a relative. He knows what you saw in that dream from so many nights back.”

“Who hurt you, Marvin?” I asked, finding myself strangely concerned for the poor man-monster’s wellbeing. after my whispered question evaporated, a thick, bloody finger issued forth from between the bars of a nearby sewer grate, conducting my view to somewhere above and behind me.

“He did.”

As I stretched my vision up into the night, I detected someone standing amid the metal cables of a radio tower that loomed high above the street, waiting like a patient spider gazing at an approaching fly.

It was Jack Lantern, “The Son of Halloween.”

I absolutely needed to speak with Marvin, and the only way that I could achieve my goal was to keep him alive, which meant fending off the world’s most notorious, living serial killer. With a single effort I tore away the sewer grate, and then slipped into the rank darkness below. Marvin was indeed sorely wounded, which impressed me much, as Jack Lantern was not one to fail at killing.

“Run, Marvin! I will find you once I’ve deflected your attacker.” My words made assertions that I felt hard-pressed to evidence. In my forbidden quest for a lost past, I had stupidly slipped myself into the path of proven death. Although I had recently defeated a god (if only a relatively minor one, and only his weakened vessel, at that), Jack Lantern was something far more challenging: he was the state of the art, the pinnacle of modern murdercraft. Clearly, I knew that winning the shepherd’s game would have me facing-off with the famous killer, at some point (I knew of no other killer, or combination of killers, that could hope to defeat the scourge of Autumn City), but I had hoped to have more time to prepare, and heal (despite the recuperative powers of the killing dream I shared with the secret-eater, I was still left with copious injuries that had yet to heal).

I quickly spun around in the sewer, my sisters glittering with deadly promises, when a fragrant wind blew past me, carrying the scent of fall. As I stared into the spaces the wind had come from, the filthy scene of the sewer became filled with the ever-dying trees of the September Woods, whose leaves forever burned orange, red and yellow against the bleeding sky. I watched a single, crimson leaf cartwheel across the surface of the murky water, leaving tiny, expanding rings wherever it tumbled. I could hear something pushing through piles of fallen leaves, drawing closer and closer.

Suddenly, Marvin’s mad whispers were filling my mind, as he had seized me from behind and pulled my ear to his bloodied lips. “She’s the mother of many, Donald. But you’re her favorite child, by far. She came to us all, searching, but in the end there was only you. I hate you for taking her away from us! But now, after I’ve seen something of your dreams, I understand why she left. She chose you! She chose you over all the rest of us!” As he disappeared into the darkness I heard him hiss, “Curse you, but good luck…brother!”

My last memory was of exploding light and the sound of leaves blowing across darkened fields. When I awoke, my sisters were still in my hand, apparently exhausted from the effort of conducting my unconscious body away from my would-be killer.

Sometime later, I limped through miles of sewer tunnel until I saw the glowing lights of a displaced Halloween—where Marvin’s carved head swung from a piece of red yarn that had been tied around a steam pipe, its bloody hollows lit by the light of several black candles that had been placed within his skull. The words, “Happy Halloween” were written in colored chalk upon a chunk of concrete that had been laid upon the headless body, and a bag of dirty candy had been stuffed into Marvin the monster’s dead, knotted hand.
I gazed into triangular holes that had once been partially stitched-up eyes, and offered one last whisper to the whisperer.
“Goodnight, brother.”