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Gothic Beauty Magazine

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Willow Creek Chapter 11

The bright lights of the town’s General Store stood out in the murky mire that was that night. The remnants of the sleeting silver rain that had dominated the night earlier dripping steadily from the eaves of the houses that made the tiny town – set far apart. Andrew could see only three from here, but the hint of lights through the trees betrayed the presence of more, the un-manicured, deliberate wilderness doing little to conceal them. He left the lights on; aimed down the road towards the mist he had just come through. He left the car, the engine off- the key still in the ignition. He approached the glass market door, the owner peering curiously out at him from the window. As he opened the door, an alarm screamed out- a warning for the staff. It shut off after only a couple whoops- obviously automated.
Andrew made a bee line for the back of the store, where the hot food counter stood. The woman who stood there looked up at him- her eyes encircled with black, as ripe and juicy as blackberries in august. “Can I have a couple pizzas?” he asked, modifying his voice to sound as much like Sean as possible. “Yep.” She said, looking down at the register. After a few moments, when she didn’t move, Andrew tried again. “Can you get them for me?” at this, her head snapped up. “Oh… yes!” she laughed, rushing to put two pizzas from the big cooler into the oven. “Pepperoni’s great.” He said, when she didn’t ask what kind he wanted. “That’ll be five minutes.” She returned to her station at the register- looking down again, as if her shoes were far more interesting than any potential customers that might come in.
Andrew turned away, looking at the rest of the store. It was a party store, kind of- there were huge coolers full of booze at the back of the store, and a multitude of snack foods and plastic beer cups and the like were all available for sale. There were a few woman sitting on stools at the back, all lined up against a long, low counter. Their four inch heels and backless, too-short dresses suggested there may be more than party supplies on sale here. Up near the front, he found some aging fruit, apples and oranges, and an onion all in the same basket that hung, among many other empty baskets on a rack that stood, forlorn and dusty between two shining coolers full of soft drinks.
“If you can wait five minutes, the farmers coming in,” a friendly voice said. Andrew turned to find the owner of the store, smiling brightly, sitting behind the main register- his fingers twiddling away at his lapel. “Pizza’s going to be that long at least,” the woman suddenly piped up from the back of the store. “Alright,” Andrew said, keeping his voice low, his chin tucked down just a bit to accommodate. “Are you alright?” the owner asked, looking at him suddenly close- his eyebrows almost touching. Andrew blinked rapidly, surprised by the question. “Yes, I’m fine-why?,” he leaned against the pop cooler, trying to look like any old person waiting for a pizza- and to anyone from the street, or the woman at the other counter, he did. But the owner looked at him in a way that made him feel that he could see, through his façade, and to what he really was underneath.
The bell of the pizza oven saved him, and as he turned away, relieved, the door swung open. “Got a bit of everything for you today, Stan!” an old, grizzled man said- his hands the texture of well- worn leather. “I picked up the oranges, too!” The old man plunked a huge basket down in front of the rack, and began to fill the dusty baskets as fast as Andrew had ever seen a human move. Before the slow girl behind the hot food counter could even slide the second pizza into its box, let alone close it, he was gone- the door swinging shut behind his disappearing back. “That’s Gord for ya!” the owner laughed.
Andrew grinned, rushing to grab some of the fruit. He piled up a bunch of apples on the counter, 6 bananas, and ran around getting things like cereal, coffee, creamer, milk… he piled them all on the counter and while the owner ran them through, he paid the girl at the hot food counter. When he was done, he couldn’t carry it all on his own; so the owner helped him out to the car. It was the least he could do; what with the stores exorbitant prices, Andrew had just spent a hundred and fifty. The owner did not have any more suspicions, or if he did, he held his tongue; and a few minutes later, Andrew drove tensely back towards Anna, glancing regularly in the rear-view mirror.
The mist swirled invitingly at the corner, waiting for his return. As he drove through, the mist pressed itself in on the glass, so he couldn’t see even the hood of the car ahead. He held the car straight, or so he thought he did; it was impossible to tell, when surrounded by the mist. But it wouldn’t have mattered, anyways- and just as this thought flashed across Andrew’s mind, he was brought up short by a sudden, bright pair of eyes coming through the mist. He hit the break, and the car skidded to a stop. He stared, horrified, through the windshield. Standing on the hood, its head and shoulders almost the only thing visible, was a Coyote. Andrew sat very still, almost holding his breath. The wild dog stared at him, its silver eyes rimmed with black, its stare long, and solemn- as if it judged his very soul. Suddenly, with a clatter of nails on the metal hood, the coyote was gone; disappeared into the mist. And hopefully, thought Andrew as he got the car started again, for good.
He drove on for only a few moments before he broke out of the mist, coming to a stop right over the head and torso of the poor young woman, cutting the engine just before the hot pipes beneath the car touched her dead face. Andrew popped the door open, not bothering to take the keys from the ignition. He had found them on the seat, anyways, he reasoned; what difference did it make where he left them now? As his foot hit the ground, he heard an odd, rasping, grating noise; and, thinking the coyote had snuck up on him again, he whirled around to face it. All he found behind him was empty space; and then, a pitiful voice rasped out from under the car. “Help me.” The dead woman said, her badly broken jaw barely able to move. Andrew dropped to his stomach, meeting the dead woman’s eyes. What remained of her body trembled, and her breath came in short, rotting gasps. His eyes full of pity, Andrew reached out to touch her face. As his fingers touched her, she sighed- and with the sigh, she seemed to find peace. Her body relaxed, her eyes sliding shut. Andrew felt her soul rush past him, and rolling over onto his back, he watched as she, in the form of a ball of light, soared up amongst the stars.
He clambered to his feet, using the car for support. Then, quickly, he changed into his true form, and, using his long arms he got the groceries out of the back and took off through the forest to get back to Anna. The forest passed by quickly, for him; the trees faded away into the darkness, and soon enough the bright lights of the town street flew by. He went along quickly, hoping to avoid being seen. The empty street was reassuring, but who knew who could see him now? He scuttled down the sidewalk as quickly as he could- and, eventually, ahead of him, he could see Roger, standing there waiting for him. Roger spotted Andrew on the horizon, laden down with grocery bags, and ran up the steps to hold the door open for him. Andrew sprinted the last of the distance, running up and into the building- disappearing just as a man missing the left side of his face appeared in the door of the movie house. He was tall and thin- there was no meat on him, anywhere. He stopped in front of the doors, pulling a cigarette out of his jacket pocket. He lit it, clapping his hand over the empty cavity where his cheek should be to suck in the smoke. When he took it away, the smoke billowed out with nothing to hold it in. He took a deep breath, and took off in the other direction, soon disappearing amongst the neon light that was what made up most of the town street.
Andrew and Roger lay the groceries down on the floor of the building’s lobby, Andrew clicking his long fingers on the floor in anxiety, “I can’t carry it all up when I change.” he growled nervously, carefully placing the pizza boxes on the desk. “I have an idea,” Roger said, and he walked off to the left. Andrew changed down to the little boy’s form quickly, smashing himself down into the little body in an almost uncomfortable fashion. Roger came back, pulling a small red wagon behind him. “Perfect!” Andrew growled, smiling brightly. “Your voice,” Roger reminded him, and he handed Andrew the wagon’s handle. “Oh,” Andrew tucked his chin down, his voice changing back mid-word. Roger put all of the groceries into the wagon for him, and within a few minutes, Andrew was waving goodbye to him, and on his way up in the elevator.
Andrew counted the floors as they flashed by on the little dial above the door, ignoring the ball of light that still rolled around on the ceiling, trying to get Andrew’s attention. “Andrew,” it whispered, bouncing just a little. Andrew looked up at the orb, narrowing his eyes. He took a deep breath, and blew at the little orb as hard as he could. The orb zipped around as if distressed, and suddenly disappeared into the ceiling. The elevator door opened wide, and Andrew ran out onto the 9th floor, the wagon banging over the gap between the elevator floor and the hallway. “BE QUIET!” someone screamed from their apartment, making Andrew jump as he passed. He rushed down to 9H, giggling- a huge smile lighting up his face. He reached up high, turning the doorknob with difficulty, and pushed his way into the apartment, dragging the wagon. He turned back, pushing the door shut with the ends of his fingers.
“We have to leave.” Sean’s voice stopped him cold. Slowly, he turned towards the source of the voice, hidden in the living room at the end of the hallway. “I can’t, Sean.” He heard Anna say- as if she had said it a hundred times before. “I made a promise and I have to keep it.” “Why?” Andrew heard Sean’s feet cross the floor. For a brief moment, he saw the older man, making his way to the kitchen. “Because he’s a child!” she said, her voice rising with her stress. “Not YOUR child!” Sean shouted back, and Andrew heard him bang his fist on the counter. “That doesn’t matter to me!” she shouted back, rushing after him. “Andrew matters to me!” Sean turned on her, shouting into her face. “He’s just an undead little slime- and he’s controlling you!” Sean put his hand down on the sink, and there was a loud sizzling sound. He screamed, recoiling- and Anna realized that the temperature in the apartment was rising- and rising.
She turned, slowly, to the hallway- and saw Andrew standing there. Andrew’s eyes were completely black- his fists clenched at his sides. “Andrew,” she said, dropping to her knees beside the little demon. “Calm down, sweetie,” her voice came from far away, as Andrew glared at Sean. He hated him- simply, and from the bottom of his entire being, Andrew hated Sean. Sean raised his hands, as if to block the gaze of the little demon.
Suddenly, Sean’s whole body jerked, and he turned away- revealing a long rip in his shirt- a huge, aggressive claw mark bleeding down his back. “Andrew, please!” Anna screamed, grabbing the little demon, shaking him by the shoulders. His body flopped, his eyes fixed on Sean. The kettle on the stove began to whistle, the paint on the one painting in the apartment melting. The window in the living room began to crack, starting from the edges and making its way inwards. Sean slid down the counter, boils and blisters standing out on his skin. He coughed uncontrollably, and suddenly, a fly forced its way through his lips. His jaw was forced open, and a million flies flew out, buzzing all around the apartment. “Please, Andrew!” Anna was sobbing, crawling backwards, away from the demon. “Please, stop!” suddenly, Andrew heard her. He turned towards her, saw the tears streaming down her face. He reached out to reassure her, but she recoiled. He froze for a moment, and suddenly, with a loud SNAP, both he and Sean were gone- leaving Anna alone in the ruined apartment.