“I need you to bring back a body.”
Bone decided to drive off the end of the pier, but his foot had already slipped from the accelerator to the brake, a betrayal so automatic that the opportunity was missed before he could seize it.
Wind leaned against the hearse, rocking it on its springs as he sat and considered his orders. He considered corpses and the function of the vehicle he drove. He considered the drifting nature of his movements since the accident and slid out of the hearse before the spiral became inescapable, a long man wearing a black raincoat and fresh facial scars.
Dawn was a red rim of anger on the horizon as the storm gathered its strength and the wind tried to rip the door from his grip. Waves detonated against the rocks with loud explosions of white foam, the ocean matching the swirling fury of the storm clouds overhead.
“I need you to bring back a body.” Marching orders. He looked away from the hearse, remembering the last time he had seen such a car, freshly waxed and gleaming in the October sun. This one was dirt-streaked and hunched against November. He thought it more appropriate to its function. The Atlantic beckoned to him, and he touched the change in his pocket, thinking about coins for the ferryman.
“Some sonofabitch is standing out on North Pier,” old Vic said from the window inside the cramped Dock Office. His big-knuckled, arthritic hands were holding a bulky pair of binoculars he had owned since his time in Vietnam, and he adjusted the focus to see better.
“Yep,” the dock boss said from his perch at the rickety metal desk. The white paint was mostly gone and salt air had rusted the legs, but it held his ledger, dock schedule and overstuffed ticket book—he was a demon for writing tickets—and worked “well enough” as he liked to say about anything that didn’t need change. “Bastid asked to charter a boat out to the Isle.”
Vic turned away from the window with its view of fishing boats bobbing at anchor in the small bay. “Ain’t no one fool enough to run ‘im out there,” he said.
The dock boss leaned over and spit a mass of phlegm and tobacco juice into the Folger’s can he kept on the floor for just that purpose.
“Could be I mentioned that, and could be that’s why he’s standin’ over there on North Pier waitin’ on the Isle boat herself.”
Vic returned to looking out the window at the slim, black figure waiting alone. “Well I’ll be. Is that his hearse parked out there?”
The front door banged open just then and two fishermen bundled inside. “Gonna get big weather today,” a bearded fisherman in a thick sweater said as he headed over to the coffee pot and poured dubious-looking sludge into a Styrofoam cup.
“What you looking at?” the other newcomer asked, nicknamed Babyface for the obvious reason.
“Fella wants to charter a boat out to the Isle.”
Babyface and his partner exchanged looks.
“Isle folk are awfully jealous about their waters,” the bearded man said.
“Ain’t no one fool enough to run him out there,” Babyface said.
“If another body repeats that phrase, I believe I will shoot him,” the dock boss said, spitting a wad that rocked the Folger’s can. The bearded fisherman glanced in the can and gave the dock boss a nod of respect before taking a sip of coffee.
“Jesus Christ, this is awful,” he said, frowning at his cup.
“Second pot,” Vic said, and the other man nodded. The dock boss was in the habit of using coffee grounds at least twice to save money.
“Say,” Vic said as Babyface held out a hand for the binoculars. “What’d he want out there?”
The dock boss shrugged. “Didn’t rightly say, but he showed me a badge. A Federal badge no less.”
“FBI, DEA?” the bearded man asked as he put on a new pot of coffee. The dock boss ignored him.
“So you get a man with a Federal badge, which means he’s carryin’ a Federal gun, and he shows up drivin’ a hearse. Ain’t too hard to jump to a certain conclusion,” the dock boss said, not entirely sure what that conclusion was but enjoying the expressions on the faces of the two younger men.
“If Old Jenny gets her teeth into him, this Federal man might be finding himself in the back of that hearse on the return trip, badge or no badge,” Vic said.
“Yep,” the dock boss said.
“Yep,” the bearded man said.
Babyface surrendered the binoculars and echoed the common wisdom. Hell, everybody knew to avoid that stretch of the Atlantic. Boats that didn’t had a habit of not returning to port.
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
Art by Richard Bawden (Royal Watercolor Society)
Tub had been waiting for an hour in the falling snow. He paced the sidewalk to keep warm and stuck his head out over the curb whenever he saw lights approaching. One driver stopped for him, but before Tub could wave the man on he saw the rifle on Tub’s back and hit the gas. The tires spun on the ice.
The fall of snow thickened. Tub stood below the overhang of a building. Across the road the clouds whitened just above the rooftops, and the streetlights went out. He shifted the rifle strap to his other shoulder. The whiteness seeped up the sky.
A truck slid around the corner, horn blaring, rear end sashaying. Tub moved to the sidewalk and held up his hand. The truck jumped the curb and kept coming, half on the street and half on the sidewalk. It wasn’t slowing down at all. Tub stood for a moment, still holding up his hand, then jumped back. His rifle slipped off his shoulder and clattered on the ice; a sandwich fell out of his pocket. He ran for the steps of the building. Another sandwich and a package of cookies tumbled onto the new snow. He made the steps and looked back.
The truck had stopped several feet beyond where Tub had been standing. He picked up his sandwiches and his cookies and slung the rifle and went to the driver’s window. The driver was bent against the steering wheel, slapping his knees and drumming his feet on the floorboards. He looked like a cartoon of a person laughing, except that his eyes watched the man on the seat beside him.
“You ought to see yourself,” said the driver. “He looks just like a beach ball with a hat on, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he, Frank?”
The man beside him smiled and looked off.
“You almost ran me down,” said Tub. “You could’ve killed me.”
“Come on, Tub,” said the man beside the driver. “Be mellow, Kenny was just messing around.” He opened the door and slid over to the middle of the seat.
Tub took the bolt out of his rifle and climbed in beside him. “I waited an hour,” he said. “If you meant ten o’clock, why didn’t you say ten o’clock?”
“Tub, you haven’t done anything but complain since we got here,”
said the man in the middle. “If you want to piss and moan all day you might as well go home and bitch at your kids. Take your pick.” When Tub didn’t say anything, he turned to the driver. “O.K., Kenny, let’s hit the road.”
Some juvenile delinquents had heaved a brick through the windshield on the driver’s side, so the cold and snow tunneled right into the cab. The heater didn’t work. They covered themselves with a couple of blankets Kenny had brought along and pulled down the muffs on their caps. Tub tried to keep his hands warm by rubbing them under the blanket, but Frank made him stop.
There’s nothing! You hear nothing. It’s the wind. It’s your dream. You know how you dream. Go back to sleep. I want to love you, stop crying, let go of me, let me sleep for sweet Jesus’s sake I’m somebody too not just your Mommy don’t make me hate you.
In this new place Mommy has brought us to. Where nobody will know us Mommy says.
In this new place in the night when the rabbits’ cries wake us. In the night my bed pushed against a wall and through the wall I can hear the rabbits crying in the cellar in their cages begging to be freed. In the night there is the wind. In this new place at the edge of a river Mommy says is an Indian name — Cuy-a-hoga. In the night when we hear Mommy’s voice muffled and laughing. Mommy’s voice like she is speaking on a phone. Mommy’s voice like she is speaking, laughing to herself. Or singing.
Calvin says it might not be Mommy’s voice. It’s a ghost-voice of the house Mommy brought us to, now Mommy is a widow.
I ask Calvin is it Daddy? Is it Daddy wanting to come back
Calvin looks at me like he’d like to hit me. For saying some wrong dumb thing like I am always doing. Then he laughs.
“Daddy ain’t coming back, dummy. Daddy is dead.”
Daddy is dead. Dead Daddy. Daddy-dead. Daddydeaddead. Deaaaaaddaddy
If you say it enough times faster and faster you start giggling. Calvin shows me.
In this new place a thousand miles Mommy says from the old place where we have come to make a new start. Already Mommy has a job, in sales she says. Not much but only temporary. Some nights she has to work, Calvin can watch me. Calvin is ten: old enough to watch his little sister Mommy says. Now that Daddy is gone.
Now that Daddy is gone we never speak of him. Calvin and me, never when Mommy might hear.
At first I was worried: how would Daddy know where we were, if he wanted to come back to us?
Calvin flailed his fists like windmills he’d like to hit me with. Told and told and told you Daddy is D-E-A-D.
Mommy said, “Where Randy Malvern has gone is his own choice. He has gone to dwell with his own cruel kin.” I asked where, and Mommy said scornfully, “He has gone to Hell to be with his own cruel kin”
Except for the rabbits in the cellar, nobody knows me here.
In their ugly rusted old cages in the cellar where Mommy says we must not go. There is nothing in the cellar Mommy says. Stay out of that filthy place. But in the night through the wall I can hear the rabbits’ cries. It starts as whimpering at first like the cooing and fretting of pigeons then it gets louder. If I put my pillow over my head still I hear them. I am meant to hear them. My heart beats hard so that it hurts. In their cages the rabbits are pleading Help us! Let us out/We don’t want to die.
What would you do if, after seeking shelter from a flash flood, you found a young girl padlocked in a room in the basement of creepy old house in Colombia? … Let her out?
The Damned—an IFC Midnight film is streaming on Netflix. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ It’s other name is a better name I think, since the house used to be a hotel called Gallows Hill, although, why a name like that would draw guests to stay overnight is beyond me.
It has a few subtitles here and there, for clarification’s sake, but the film is in English. I’m about a half of the way through and so far I really like it. I suppose it could go either way—but usually, if I like a movie by half-way in, it turns out to be a worthwhile watch for me. The film has a nice atmosphere. It won an award in 2015 and was nominated for another. Here are some links…
At Premios Macondo (2015)-Festival Award Winner for Best Make Up Artist: Olga Turrini Bernardoni; and at Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival (2013)-Maria Nominee for Best Motion Picture.
The Damned, also known as Gallows Hill, is a 2013 American horror film directed by Víctor García. The film stars Peter Facinelli, Sophia Myles, Nathalia Ramos, and Carolina Guerra. The film features a family and group of friends stranded in a storm and looking to seek refuge in a house with an ancient evil presence. The film was produced by Peter Block, Andrea Chung, and David Higgins, and is a joint Colombian and American production. The film had its world premiere at the Sitges Film Festival on October 17, 2014 (nominated Best Picture) and was released on video on demand on July 25, 2014, before a limited release by IFC Midnight on August 29, 2014.
More Here (Spoilers!):
The Pan Book of Horror Stories was a British paperback series of short horror story anthologies published by Pan Books Ltd. The series ran to thirty volumes, the first published in 1959. The series was initially collected and edited by Herbert Van Thal. On Van Thal’s death Clarence Paget edited the series, from volume twenty-six until its demise with volume thirty in 1989. The early editions of the Pan Book of Horror Stories were notable for their lurid cover art and Van Thal’s introduction of stories by new authors alongside classics of the genre. Read more: Wikipedia/Pan Book of Horror…