Fallen One (10)

Stefan Keller – Pixabay

Jared staggered out of Spaulding’s house, his mind spinning and flopping in uncontrollably. The detective stood in the screen door, his head pressing against the mesh, watching as Jared made his way down the steps and to the edge of the street where his motorcycle waited for him.

Spaulding felt his fears renewed and stronger than they had been in years. But now, those fears were going to be shared by someone else. Someone other than that boy’s grandma and him. He watched as Jared picked up his helmet and slipped it over his head, turning back to the house as he did.

They stared at each other, lingering in silent understanding, trapped together in a common horror, neither knowing what to say or do.

Jared sat on the motorcycle as the door closed, Spaulding’s face moving to the adjacent window, the curtains pulled away for him to watch. Jared sat on the bike, his boots on the ground, the kickstand free. He raised it with his heel, his confused, agitated mind trying to figure out how everything had suddenly turned upside down. What began as an escape from his humdrum going-nowhere-life had morphed into an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Putting the bike in gear, he was soon out of sight of Spaulding’s house and its aging neighborhood and sat at the intersection with the highway. The stop sign was slightly bent, its paint faded, and two small bullet holes punctured the right edge.

He looked to the west, with all of its promises of things new and exciting. It was most appealing. The road was empty, wide open, and beckoning him to put his life behind him, including his latest revelations. He gave the bike a little gas, its body lunging against the resistance of his brakes. He looked west again, knowing there was nothing standing in his way, nothing tangible, that is.

The fight between engine and brakes was not the only struggle; his mind, helplessly caught in a replay loop of horror, tried to break free. An open road, fresh air, and Pacific beaches would only give momentary distractions, but in the meantime, his thoughts were bloody and frightening and impossible. A demon. He took a long breath and made up his mind. He would go back and hopefully find Landel. As he pulled out on the highway, he hoped Landel was still there and could help him figure out his next course of action.

When he arrived, Jared climbed off his bike, placed his helmet on the seat, and began a thorough search of the barn and surrounding area. Finding nothing, his search took him beyond the open field and barn into the surrounding woods as he traipsed through the tangled branches and low lying brush, calling out Landel’s name. But after twenty minutes, he returned, scratched up to his bike without having found any sign of him. “Great,” Jared muttered as he got back on the Triumph and started the engine. One last look behind him yielded him nothing but the sight of the barn door slowly swaying in the breeze. Easing up to the pavement, a sense of déjà vu overtook him, his eyes shooting to the right and the west as it did. Squeezing his eyes shut, he shook his head and pulled out, heading east, back to his hometown, to his past, his grandmother, and the truth.

Farms and pastures and the smell of cows blew past him in a flurry, largely unnoticed. His mind blotted out most distractions, thinking instead about Spaulding and his grandmother’s wild assertions of demons, his focus on the road waning. It was as if he were riding on autopilot, the vibration from the road and the whistling of air in his ears all that was keeping him tethered to the present. Not the safest way to ride a motorcycle.

Within the hour, Jared found himself back on little Pacific Avenue, the Rambler wagon still shaded by the old Chestnut tree, a gray squirrel clinging to the side of one of the oaks. There was no seeing inside this time. The drawn curtains prevented that. Venturing into the yard, the squirrel scampered away as he took refuge from the sun under the oak. His heart was pounding, anxiety building a barrier to the front door. The porch was only a few feet away, but it might as well have been a few miles the way he was feeling.

The neighborhood was quiet, closer to death if you were to ask Jared. In the time since his arrival back at his grandmother’s, not a car had driven by, not a soul had been seen. In fact, the only life he had seen was the now-vanished squirrel hiding somewhere high up under cover of oak leaves. Glancing around, Jared noted that nearly all the front yards were fenced and gated. From the sound of things, several of the fences kept back an assault by whiny miniature whelps, yapping and barking at each other. Jared imagined that they all had their noses pressed against the fencing, watching with great interest his reluctance to walk up to the front door.

Pushing himself away from the tree, Jared started toward the porch and the woman whom he had ignored for several years when a dark, horrific sound somewhere around the side of the house stopped him. Turning toward it, he stepped quietly on the grass, careful to avoid fallen branches and leaves. A hedge of Holly rounded the corner of the house to his left. It grew largely unchecked, bushy in its appearance and blocking his view. The frightening sound happened again, and the Holly shook, sending Jared back for cover behind the oak. He watched timidly as the hedge continued to shake, ducking as a frightening screeching noise began. It sounded as if giant fingernails dragged their way across a chalkboard, the neighborhood dogs joining in with their howls.

A crashing sound interrupted it all, and the sound of screaming inside the house sent Jared running toward the house, across the lawn, and up onto the porch. He grabbed the doorknob and tried to turn it, but it was locked. He called out to his grandmother as the screaming continued, smashing his shoulder against the door several times before finally busting the jam and falling into the foyer. Clamoring to his feet, Jared spun around, running to the kitchen and then to the back bedroom, before thumping sounds and more screaming pointed him to the upstairs.

Running to the stairs, he gripped the newel post and vaulted himself upward, his grandmother’s screaming and crying getting louder with every frantic step. When he got to the landing, he found three doors, two on the left and one on the right. He tried the right one first, opening into a bathroom. He was sweating profusely, his hands shaking. Her screaming had stopped, replaced by whimpering and crying. The second door opened into a spare bedroom. “I’m coming!” Jared screamed as he stepped back into the hallway and ran toward the last door.

The door was locked, and he frantically started throwing his shoulder into the door as a great roar caused him to step back, his whole body shaking. “Oh, my God,” he said, launching himself to the door, smashing through it. He struggled to keep his balance while something huge flashed to his left, jumping through the panes of glass out of the window. He ran to the window, only to see the unbelievable as some kind of animal, monstrous in size, ran off and out of sight. Anxiously, he turned around, following the whimpering and finding his grandmother on the other side of the bed, curled up in the corner of the room. Her dress was shredded, blood covering it, her face, and her hands. Her blood.

He pulled a sheet from a freshly dumped pile of clean laundry and wrapped it around her ravaged arm, fumbling with his fun as he called for help.

This story of Fallen One is a first draft. I encourage anyone to provide comments, make suggestions, and point out problems.

What Spaulding shared with Jared was unimaginable. He wanted to flee but found that he was unable to. The more that he learned, the more he had to know it all. And with that, he decides to go and talk with his grandmother whom he hadn’t seen in years.

Comments welcome.

Have a great day.

Rollin

Fallen One (09)

Stefan Keller – Pixabay

Detective Spaulding pushed back in his chair, his hands raised to his face, covering his eyes. He remained like that for several moments, pushing against the floor with his feet, rocking. “I knew this was coming,” he said, weeping in his voice. “It all had to come back one of these days.” He pressed against his eyes, wiping them as he did. When he dropped his hands, a different face emerged, one filled with anguish and fear.

“Tell me about my grandmother, Detective Spaulding.”

His head began to wobble, fresh tears appearing. “Detective Spaulding,” he spat, the dribble cascading down his chin. “Not anymore,” he languished. “Not after that case.” He pushed himself up, leaning forward on his knees. “Oh God, I need a drink. Where did my glass go?”

Jared sat back, a wisp of disgust on his face as he watched Spaulding search for and finally find his glass and fill it. The first swallow came hard and heavy. The others followed in hand clutching sips as Spaulding leaned back again, the rocking resumed. His face changed yet again, eyes blinking, as he recalled the memory that was never far away.

“It was on a Saturday,” he began, eyes now wide. “Saturday afternoon when I pulled up at your grandmother’s. The call came from one of the neighbors reporting they heard a terrible ruckus.” He chuckled, the liquor sloshing as he did. “That’s the exact word they said.” He began to fade.

“Go on.”

“I climbed the steps to the porch, looking around as I did. The curtains were closed, and I couldn’t tell if any lights were on. There was only one car in the driveway, which turned out to be hers. I put my ear to the door for a second, listening. Hearing nothing, I knocked and announced myself.” He inched his glass higher and kept it in a holding pattern as fear shoved the edges of his eyes wider apart.

“Then I heard something, barely above a whisper, at least from where I was standing outside. I wasn’t certain what was being said, but it was a woman; that much was certain. And I did hear one word. Help.” The glass broke its holding pattern and rose steadily to his lips, tilting, the golden liquid entering his thin, pale lips.

“I called out and tried the doorknob. It was unlocked, and so I slipped inside, my gun in hand. Once inside, her whimpering could be easily heard. I swept through the house, ending up in her bedroom in the back corner.” He pressed the glass to his cheek. “The door was partly open when I got there. I could see her plain as day in the far corner, sitting on the floor. She was covered in blood and crying.”

Now it was Jared who leaned forward, his mouth open. The exchange of air in his lungs was laborious and loud, at least as breathing could be. He sounded like an overheated dog panting.

“Kicking the door in, I was stunned by what I found,” Spaulding said, pointing in the air, “I saw your mother, her body in a crumpled and bloody heap.” The tears flowed freely now, his voice interrupted by nearly continuous sniffling and occasional throat clearing. He didn’t look at Jared, who by now had turned to stone and yet tremored where he sat, tears trickling down his rocky cheeks.

“As the door swung open, it stopped abruptly. I rounded the edge, clearing the room of threats with my gun leveled, and found what had blocked the door.” He sipped again, a glistening drop clinging to his lip as he pulled the glass away. “Your grandfather was laying there, his clothes shredded and bloodied, a pool of blood surrounding him.” Spaulding looked up at the spinning ceiling fan and took a deep breath. “I, uh—I don’t know if I should tell you too many of the details. It’s really—”

“I want to hear it all,” Jared said, the stone breaking away under his swelling emotions.

“You can’t imagine the blood,” he stammered, leaning forward, reaching for the bottle. His fingers shook as they approached, painting the label with his fingertips before taking the final push and grabbing it. The neck of the bottle repeatedly tapped against the edge of the glass, the liquor convulsing its way out. “It was everywhere.” His finger swept the room, and his eyes followed. “Limbs had been separated from bodies, strewn about the floor. One of your mother’s arms rested in your grandmother’s lap, and she held its hand.”

Jared got up and stepped away, turning his back on Spaulding. He was beginning to doubt his resolve to hear the whole truth.

“You want a drink?”

Jared waved his hand while Spaulding put the bottle back on the table. “You’re grandmother was, oh, I don’t know, calm? At least calmer than I would have been if I had seen my husband and daughter slaughtered like that.”

Jared turned his head part way.

“She was covered in both of their blood. She had no injuries. We found no evidence of another person being in that room, and yet—”

Jared turned around and walked back. “And yet what?”

The two men locked eyes. “I never once believed that your grandmother was responsible for the murders.”

“Then why?” Jared was shocked to hear the detective’s confession.

Spaulding’s tone darkened, his words starting to slur. He pointed at Jared, holding the glass in the same hand, the surface of liquor tossing and turning as he moved his hand. “Well, for one, everyone thought she was crazy.” He let loose a mirthless chuckle. “When they took your mother’s arm away, she started throwing a fit. And when they tried to calm her down, she started ranting about some demon killing her daughter and husband. She kept screaming it over and over again. And just when you thought she would never stop, she did. She smiled, her eyes kind of bugged out, and she started laughing. She began to describe this demon in the vaguest of terms—tall—strong—wicked—piercing eyes, that sort of thing.”

A demon. No wonder they thought she was crazy. “But you obviously didn’t think she was crazy.”

“Now, I didn’t exactly say that,” Spaulding said. “I just don’t think she was responsible.” He slammed the glass down the table and jumped to his feet, taking a moment to get his balance. “How anyone could look at the evidence and point the finger at her?” He waved both hands. “She weighs what, 90 pounds at the most? A 90-pound old woman tore off arms and a head, shredding their chests, abdomens, and legs down to the bone?” Now his head started turning. “There was no way in hell.”

“Then, why was she accused?”

The mirthless chuckle returned, with eyes that matched. “The truth was that there was no way of explaining what happened. Your grandmother, already acting crazy, was an easy target. Just lock her up and bury what really happened. It was deemed best for the town.” He fell down in his chair, the frame groaning in response. “But I couldn’t go along with it. So—here I am.” He grinned.

“Early retirement.”

“Kicked out and told to keep my mouth shut.”

Jared shoved his hands deep in his pockets, stretching his back as he did. As the shock began to subside, he began to tumble it all around in his mind. “A demon,” he said, his eyes glimmering in wonder.

“That’s what she said,” Spaulding said. “Say, by the way, what brought you by my place anyhow? It wasn’t Landel by chance, was it?”

This story of Fallen One, is a first draft. I encourage anyone to provide comments, make suggestions, and point out problems.

Jared continued talking with Detective Spaulding, and what he found out about the murders and his grandmother would change everything.

Comments welcome.

Have a great day.

Rollin