The Tattooed Tree

Naked and trembling, Trevor stops to catch his breath. Already he feels the curse cast upon him. The tattoos on his stiffening torso become more pronounced, resembling wall-sized etchings.

His arms shoot upward, branching outward, simultaneously dividing into limbs of various density. Immobile, his legs fuse together, while his feet extend out all around him. His toes multiply, scattering and digging deep below the earth at the same time.

Moisture penetrates throughout his whole being, or whatever self-awareness is left. The last thought as he can describe it as such is that he wishes, out of all the tattoos he has, he had avoided the heart with Her name carved on it. He didn’t know she would take it to heart and act as if she owned him.

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Eye Sees You

Deep through the gnarled trees sits a shack with a broken door and half a roof that only a select few know even exists, and they never get a chance to talk about their experience. Every Halloween, a path appears to young trick-or-treaters, who follow the carved pumpkins lining the walkway up to the small porch decorated with homemade ghosts. The rundown shack is transformed into a cozy, brightly lit cottage. A smiling woman promptly greets them and invites them in. No one has ever solved the mysterious disappearances, although from years past there used to be a story behind them.

The story begins with an ailing woman believed to be practicing the black arts. A large cauldron hangs on a hook in the fireplace that dominates her small house. Whispers about her started when she would bring strangers into her home, but no one sees them leaving, or being out and about. But then again, no one has really befriended her to know the intimate details of her life.

Though what happens inside her private shelter is unknown, many have heard groans of agony that go on and on. Because the village comprises of people barely getting by on their own, they lack the energy to investigate the disturbing sounds. If they can see their kinsfolk, then all is well in their own world. The witch at the other side of town can do what she wants as long as she stays away from their business. In their thinking, better them (the strangers) than us.

One night, 10-year-old Caleb decides to sneak out to explore the cause of the whisperings about town and the whining that can’t be explained as the wind. Any warnings made to him by his parents and friends are not enough to keep him away from learning more about the woman they describe as a conjurer.

Creeping up to a murky looking window on the side of the so-called witch’s cottage, Caleb rubs the sleeve of his jacket on a lower corner of the window. His eyes widen when he sees the woman bent over someone down on the floor. From his vantage, he  only sees  a pair of legs encased in torn pants. An unholy wail penetrates through the thin walls. The woman seems to overpower the struggling person, whose helpless kicking eventually ceases, along with the lament. Suddenly, his surrounding is too quiet. Caleb feels the hair behind his neck prickle, as if someone is watching him. He turns around. Seeing nothing, he returns his gaze to the window. He yelps in surprise when his peering eye directly meets a dilated pupil. Fear overcomes him, as he tries to shake himself loose.

“I see you, boy.” The cackling is too close to his ear. Unable to move, he feels hands grab him.

“I seize you . . .” More cackling follows as he is carried inside the house.

“Help!” Caleb finds his voice, as the woman shuts the door and places him on a cot.

“So you want to know what goes on here, do you?” The woman’s face is a blur as Caleb’s eyes tear up from realizing his folly. Rotting smell around him makes his eyes water even more. He still cannot comprehend how he was detected.

“Eye saw you,” she says, as if reading his mind. “But Eye is getting old, so you came at the right time.” She laughs some more, as the boy’s last thoughts wonder what she means.

The next morning, Caleb’s house turns chaotic when his family notices his absence. Their efforts prove fruitless even when their friends and neighbors help search the neighborhood. The only place left to look is in the vicinity of “that woman’s house.” Feeling assured that their large number will protect them, they march to the witch’s little dwelling. As they approach the humble looking house, they hear someone chanting inside. Those facing the door start pounding on it, but the chanting continues, while the angry crowd is ignored.

The lack of response from inside makes someone in the group speak up, “Let’s just tear it down.” The crowd pounds harder until the door finally cracks open. When they barge in, Caleb’s mother weaves herself in and gasps, “Those are Caleb’s night clothes!” A child-sized shirt and matching pants are strewn on the floor, but the only person in sight is the homeowner, who continues to chant and smile at the crowd without any concerns.

“What have you done to my son?” Caleb’s mother shouts at the woman, but is hesitant to touch her as the woman doesn’t look right in the head.

Between Caleb’s clothes as evidence of his possibly being been there and the woman’s lack of communication, the frustrated crowd decides to be the judge and jury. They pull the woman outside and threaten to hang her if she doesn’t reveal Caleb’s whereabouts.

The woman only laughs and says cryptically, “He has a good eye. He makes a good watch.”  She continues to laugh as they place a noose around her and give her a final warning to talk or die. Her laugh turns to a gurgle as the rope tightens and someone kicks the chair from under her feet.

A stillness settles on the crowd as they realize what they’ve done. Amid the crying of Caleb’s family and friends, the crowd disperses to go back to their homes. Since that day, no one has ever spoken of the event and nobody has dared return to the woman’s place.

As years have passed, an eyeball wedged on a tree across from the old shack continues to behold the transformation that happens every Halloween. A single tear drop falls for every trick-or-treater trapped inside the hovel.

Mumble

“Ya got a big mouth on ya is yer problem, Eddie. How many people ya ate? Ya gotta pace yerself or we’ll get caught. I gotta do somethin’.” Royal, Eddie’s best friend glares at his shack mate, who is moaning at every chew.

Eyelids half closed, Eddie is too preoccupied savoring the last of his ill-gotten meat. There’s nothing like a good summer barbecued shoulder. Granted, it took him a few hours to wrestle it out of his prey who outweighed him by 65 pounds, but he triumphed, making him especially proud of his latest kill.

“I just looove tourist season,” Eddie mumbles, trying to keep in food from spilling out of his mouth.

With pressed lips, Royal saunters off to get his leather sewing kit. As he approaches his friend from behind, he says, “Sorry, buddy; this is fer yer own good.” Royal takes a swing at the back of Eddie’s head with a big sock filled with heavy rubber balls.

With Eddie stunned, he quickly proceeds to sew his friend’s mouth. As he almost finishes, Eddie’s lids flutter open. Eyes looking panicked, Eddie grunts, “Mmmph . . .”

“Oops, I forgot to ask if ya had any last words,” Royal mumbles, feeling a little guilty as he locks the stitches.

The Writer and the Swimmer

Tucked somewhere near Santa Cruz, but not well-known to locals or tourists, is an expanse of beach dotted with patches of shrubbery and occasional palm trees.  Perhaps because the generous acreage is private property, deeded to an obscure trust, few have ventured into the area. Jim Stanger was an exception to this rule.

A few degrees of connections were all it took for Jim to temporarily rent for the summer the California beachfront bungalow that sat by itself under the sun. With no roommates to deal with nor anyone else in the vicinity, he felt he could finally settle down and write his Great American Novel—a longtime ambition he is determined to realize during his summer break.

After a week of succumbing to the lull of the ocean sound whooshing against the sand, he begins each day drinking copious cups of coffee. For every gulp, he taps on his laptop keyboard, aiming to fill several pages per day of whatever inanity comes out. In time, he finds himself being able to string together a coherent story, easily starting from where he left off the prior day. Eventually, he starts to feel wrapped up in the dream world he’s created.

One day, as he finishes a rather involved passage, he glances up, looking out to the horizon to give his eyes a break. A fleshy bit of color swimming in the ocean catches his attention. He squints to better focus his eyes but whatever it is soon disappears from his sight line. For some reason, he feels spooked since he hasn’t mingled with a single soul for a month now. He’s stocked up for three months’ worth of food so he wouldn’t distract himself with runs to Trader Joe’s. He goes back to work again.

The next day, a different rhythmic sound from the ocean interrupts his usual engrossed state. Something about the pattern of the splashing is different from the regular lapping on the shores he’s become accustomed to. He looks out to the ocean and is rattled to see the same fleshy swimmer he saw yesterday, except today it seems a little closer.

In the following days, Jim gets progressively alarmed as he notices that the swimmer gets closer and is staying longer in his sight line. He starts to notice the ribs etched on its chest, although he can’t really tell whether the swimmer is swimming on its back or front. But, the closer it gets, he’s seeing features he’s never seen before on any person. He can’t tell if it’s human, even though the fleshy tone looks familiar.

One morning he wakes up sweating, partially because all the windows are closed and because he’s afraid of what’s been approaching the beach. He decides to pack up and go back to his hometown in Kansas City. His attention is shot; he can’t write anymore.

Weeks later, ensconced in the comfort of his armchair, Jim is watching the morning news and sees a piece about a sea lion festival very close to where he was staying in California. The few images he sees looks similar to what he thinks he saw.  He guffaws and suddenly feels like a buffoon for hightailing from such an innocuous creature. With lifted spirits, he decides to go hiking to the state park and come back later to write, feeling revived and inspired.

As Jim finishes his hike, he sees the beautiful view of the lake. From the corner of his eye, he sees a movement in the still lake. Swimming a few feet away is another fleshy looking creature. It’s just like California. But it looks nothing like a sea lion.

Photos by blogetta

The Consultant by Bentley Little (a book review)

Another engrossing Little novel. This is a satirical horror story about a consultant from HELL.

CompWare’s CEO, Austin Matthews, hires Regus Patoff of BFG Associates to help him make improvements to his game software company. The consultant is more than a little offbeat; he’s way off-center. His questions are overly personal and irrelevant. One of the activities he plans is for the managers is to go on a camping retreat. The trip turns out to be more of a scary episode than a team building exercise. One of their activities is to go “hunting.” But the only wildlife they spot out in the woods is a dog wearing a dog tag. Later, when dinner is served, guess what it is? Continue reading