Red mother story

Red Mother/Chapter 3: The Family Dog

I knew, or at least greatly suspected, that there was much more to Charlie Bowers than just a man with a burning desire to stuff his entire family, including himself, into the body of a dead dog. If he was an associate of the woman on the tape, and I was fairly certain that he was, then I had a pretty good idea of what might have driven him into the belly of a beast.

 I was going need Jeff again. And I think it was at that point, when the neatly pressed corners of my little mind began to lift up a bit, that I realized that Jeff had always and only been a means to an end: this new, darker enterprise required my full awareness of self, no shadow left unturned. With my realization—clarification—concerning my sometime-paramour, I found manipulating him to be a breeze. My focus was turning my actions automatic, and using Jeff was just a button I needed to push. Whatever barriers he might present to my getting back into the Bower’s house I knew I could overcome, as my heart had finally joined the fight—a particular part of my person that, in its absence, almost always blew a good ruse (as a journalist, lying needs to be an especially polished tool).

I’d like to say that my enthusiasm for the mystery surrounding the “mother” came from a need to see evil fully exposed, but it wasn’t. Not even close. I wanted fame, pure and simple. Unfortunately, my ‘fully realized’ self was still too fragile to confront that dirty little truth.

I’d pulled a few breaking-and-entering gigs, back in the day, as news can be harder to come by than simply waving a microphone in front of someone’s face, so I knew getting into the house wouldn’t be too difficult; but the duplicate house-keys Jeff gave me made the whole thing so much easier.

There was a moment, just before I’d turned the key that unlocked the backdoor of the house, when I knew that my next move cemented my course—there was no turning back after this.

Jeff had told me that the case was being treated as a simple, albeit extremely bizarre, murder-suicide, committed by a deeply disturbed young mind. In short, the clock wasn’t exactly ticking on this case, so I would have all the time I needed to look into things as thoroughly as I saw fit. If I had to, I was prepared to spend the entire night.

I opened the door and walked into the house.

The one thing I’d left out from my home invasion considerations, which became painfully apparent the second I crept into an absolutely icy darkness, was the fear. Much had changed since the last time I’d been to the residence. Without all the moving parts of a crime-scene to obscure the sights, the house was now in full view. I know it’s an odd thing to say, but the place actually seemed more honest at night, as if the darkness somehow stripped the rooms of their middleclass camouflage, allowing some measure of hidden horror to be felt if not directly observed…And I couldn’t resist the urge to grip the handle of the gun in my pocket.

 I don’t think the horror of it all would have struck anyone else as profoundly (even if they did know about the whole ‘stuffed dog’ thing), as they wouldn’t have the Rosetta Stone (that horrible video tape) for translating the apparent ordinariness of the two story Colonial into the horror-hatchery I suspected it to be. That awful woman had her hands in this place, and I knew that murder and suicide were nothing but the red waves she left in her wake.

While the rooms were all a little roughed-up from the police trampling over everything, they still managed to look, objectively, disarming and middleclass. But now that I was in the house—alone—I was more certain than ever that the entire Bowers clan was a shady bunch, and most likely deserved considerably worse than a nice warm place inside of a dead dog’s snug belly.  I can’t say what it was exactly that made me form that conclusion, but I could definitely feel the residue of something vaguely terrible wandering around, and it was most likely pretty pissed-off that the Bowers were late for whatever crazy s#%t previously went on in the house after it got good and dark.

 I didn’t want to linger too long without something to focus on—my anxiety and fear were growing with every unoccupied second, filling the emptiness with all manner of monster and madman—so I engaged my first objective: look for hidden compartments. But after a methodical search of both floors I turned up precisely nothing. I was striking-out fast. My second plan was to investigate the cellar, which I thought was far too obvious a place to bury dirty secrets, but I was running out of house to comb.

When I made for the door that opened to the basement stairs, the air went from cold to humid, like I’d just stepped into a greenhouse. I began to drip with sweat the very instant my hand wrapped around the door-handle. Sheer panic hit me like a fist to the gut as my fingers pressed down on the handle, poising themselves for the turn. And then I knew, with absolute certainty, that if I turned that handle…I was a dead woman. As you can probably guess, I ran as fast as I could for the exit. But just before I closed the door on my way out, I swear to God that I heard, from somewhere deep in the basement, what sounded like a small number of people, maybe no more than five or six…trying to imitate the howl of a large dog.

By the time I got back to my house I had already convinced myself that I hadn’t heard anything, especially not the combined voices of a dead family howling from the bowels of an equally dead dog.  But regardless of whatever I did or didn’t hear, I knew what I had to do next: watch the second tape. If the Bowers really were exposed to the influence of that demonic woman, then there might be clues to what they were up to in the video (because there sure as hell weren’t any clues in the house).

The following evening, I awoke to the sounds of claws tapping across hardwood floors, just outside my bedroom door. They were, I imagined, just like the sounds a gigantic dog might make if it were skulking around my house. I was a committed day-sleeper, at this point, and I was just getting up for coffee and infomercials, so I was fully awake. My gun was already in my hand. But like anyone else, I eventually came to the realization—rationalization—that the sounds were just leftovers from a nightmare, and I replaced my gun back inside the nightstand.

After I’d prepared a carafe of coffee for the night’s entertainment, I turned on the VCR, put in the tape, and pressed ‘play.’ I took a seat on the couch as the static washed across the TV screen, hoping my nerves were ready for what was coming. I knew damn well that they weren’t. Then, after darkness soaked through the static, I heard her voice—pure sugar and sinister.

“Be careful, my dear…A trail of shadows can never lead you anywhere but further into the dark.”

Her words just hung there, like smoke on a calm night. Nothing immediately followed the words and darkness, just the occasional crackle of an open microphone. It was as if that horrible creature actually knew I was watching the video for clues! My heart began to play to a familiar and frantic rhythm, and my coffee-less hand went to the arm of the couch for support. But my questing limb discovered something wet before it found something solid—there was slime all over the arm of the sofa. My fear quickly shifted from the TV screen to my extremely well-lit house.

And then it dawned on me: Perhaps the liquid wasn’t something that I spilled on the couch, but rather…the drool of a great big English Mastiff, the kind you might stuff your entire family into…

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Red mother story

Red Mother/ Chapter 2: At the Heart of it All

I’ll admit it—I’m a drunk. Been one for a while now. And that fact long preceded the videos, by the way. But it’s a sure bet that watching those freaking things didn’t help my condition at all. So when I tell you that the days following my first viewing of the tape I was black-out drunk and barely able to move from my bed, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. I just couldn’t stop asking myself the same question, over and over again: How could any human being be so black-hearted and despicable? I Had no idea that I’d get an answer to that particular question. Anyway, I would have snowballed into a complete mess if not for the nightmares…

The first dream came about a week after I’d watched the video. In it, I saw the woman again. However, the sum total of her face failed to come completely together before my eyes, allowing her to maintain a fairly faceless presence.  She stood under a rain of burning flower pedals, smiling. At the foot of my bed. She just stared at me, within me, like she was looking for something. Her eyes weren’t like anything I’d ever seen before, inside or outside of a nightmare. They were beyond eyes, like things that weren’t just organs within a larger biological system, but complete and independent creatures, with desires that tripped beyond the skin.

Of course, I couldn’t move or speak, so I just looked up at her, praying she’d vanish. She didn’t. She moved closer, crawling animal-like onto the bottom of my bed. I could feel my legs burning as her red hair fell across them. As she drew even closer, her smile began to burn my face, and I could feel my hair beginning to smolder. Soon, smoke from my burning body began to fill the bedroom. She loomed just above my face, her nuclear smile melting away my skin. That’s when I felt her hand on my chest. It was so wonderfully cold. I wanted to scrunch my entire body into her palm. Then her hand pushed through my breast bone, releasing into my body what I can only describe as the overflow of cold autumn creeks. I felt my heart slip softly into her grip. I wanted her to hold it forever. Then she poured her volcanic gaze into my eyes, and said, “What heart isn’t afloat in darkness, my dear? Every one of them throbbing and thrilling deep within the shadows under the skin.”

After she concluded her sentence, she began tugging, albeit very gently, at my heart. I almost wanted to give it to her. But after I started to feel my breath abandon me, taking my life along for the ride, I begged her with my eyes to stop. She only pulled harder. Soon I began to hear the wet sounds of tiny strands of flesh, snapping and popping from somewhere inside my chest cavity. While she continued to pull at my heart, the smoke that had filled the room began to dissolve, and the morning sun began to trickle through the windows. With one final yank from her icy hand, my heart came out of my chest. My breath was almost gone. She held my bleeding heart up to the light of dawn, watching it slowly cease its desperate beating. Then she placed the dead organ directly in front of my face, and whispered, “Tell me, Genevieve, what heart ever benefitted from being shown to the light, hmm?”

Minutes after the nightmare ended, I broke-up with the bottle and made close friends with my coffee mugs.

I don’t know how long I drifted through the nights that followed, each one filled with pointless, mindless doldrums—anything that would get me through to the next sunrise. I assumed the dream’s intensity was a reciprocal of the horror I’d experienced while watching the video, as the video, like the dream, was beyond my typical range of experience. But I wasn’t taking any chances: I’d be sleeping with the sun and waiting-out the nights atop a guard tower of caffeine.

At some point, within the endless procession of fog and fear, I received a phone call from a newspaper about an assignment. Apparently, some young man had taken it upon himself to transplant the organs of his entire family into the corpse of the family dog; the man died shortly after he tried to add his own stuffing to the mix.

It was raining when I got to the crime scene, which I found appropriate for mood and for my pounding skull, as sunlight is no friend to migraines. I flashed my press credentials to the cop standing next to the yellow tape, and he waved me through to the crunch of reporters that packed themselves along the edges of a fat detective who was giving out a press statement.

Before I could write down a word of what the guy was saying, I felt someone tug at my jacket.  It was Detective Jeffery Brewer, a cop I’d been dating, on and off, for about a year. He was a nice enough guy, and I really hoped that my interest in him wasn’t the singular product of all insider-dirt he’d dish out whenever we got together. (It probably was, so I guess I’m just an awful person.)

“Where the hell you been, Veeve? I’ve been calling and calling. I was beginning to expect a report from your neighbors, complaining about the smell of a rotting meat,” Jeff said, as he led me into a house that looked about as suburban as suburban gets.

“Aww… ‘Rotting meat,’ That’s about the sweetest thing anyone’s ever called me, Jeff.” Our conversation was cut-off by the usual din of a crime scene, which I was glad for, as I had yet to perfect an excuse for my prolonged absence.

The inside of the house was unspectacular, and filled with busy police photographers, all of them snapping-off shots at different intervals, which, naturally, played complete hell with my headache. The initial banality of the house abruptly ended when Jeff whisked me into the cellar. It was like a nightmare lifted from a lunatic’s broken brain, and then built to scale within waking reality, no detail left out for its minuteness.

The basement was a pit of slaughter, a dark room filled with deflated corpses and strewn entrails. The entire family had been crudely unpacked of all of their internal organs, which were then repacked into the over-stuffed corpse of an English Mastiff. The dead murderer’s naked legs were still dangling from without the dog’s bloated bowels, where the man had crawled inside the dead creature, apparently in the hopes of, literally, spilling his guts.  

 “Veeve, do your thing. I mean, I can’t let you stay down here all day. And remember, you don’t release any of this stuff till I tell you it’s time, or no more guided tours of Crimeland, got it?” Jeff said, snapping me out of my stunned stillness.

I didn’t want to look any more dumbfounded than I already had, so I ignored his question and immediately got down to business, asking, “Did the sicko leave any kind of a note behind?”

“Yeah, it’s already sealed up inside an evidence bag, though. But, knowing you’d want to read it, I copied the letter into my notebook. Just wait till you read it…” Just as I took up Jeff’s notebook, I happened to glance down at an image the killer had scrawled, in blood, upon the floor: a smiling woman standing beneath a downpour of what looked very much like burning flower pedals. My gut tightened, and my heart felt like it was going to break out of my chest. My eyes, for a lack of other places to look, fell across the words written in the notebook.

The note:

As I sit here, a cold void tumbles through the city, piling up along the gutters, and growing heavy upon the tree branches and rooftops. She has left us. We were never her children. We were nothing but her dogs.

We are all nothing but dogs.  

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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.